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How to (politely) decline a job offer

August 29, 2022 - 14 min read

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How to politely decline a job offer

3 email examples for gracefully turning down a job offer

How to turn down a job offer when the timing isn't right

Your next move is out there

Labor shortages, the post-pandemic “Great Resignation,” and an impending recession are just a few things that make today’s job market uniquely challenging. 

Yet even in the face of a potential economic turndown, there are a record 11.3 million open jobs in 2022 — that’s 1.9 jobs for every individual looking for one. 

These factors make it a great time to be a candidate. However, they can also create some awkward situations — when you have multiple opportunities on the table, learning how to decline a job offer is an important skill. 

Maybe you just invested weeks in a grueling interview process, and though you enjoy the company and its culture, the potential job isn’t the right fit. Or you might be interviewing rigorously but your current company offered a salary adjustment that you can’t refuse.

Careers are long, however, and life is unpredictable — in the short- and long- term. Always keep a relationship mindset rather than a transactional one. When declining an offer, job seekers should keep these considerations in mind.

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How to politely decline a job offer

So, you’ve found yourself in a position where you need to turn down a job. Let’s walk through some steps to keep top of mind when politely — and professionally — declining a job offer. 

1. Make sure you want to decline the offer

The first (and probably most important) step: make sure you want to say no. Changing jobs is a big life event — and the decision isn’t always an easy one.

Consider all factors of what it means to say no to the job offer, for example:

When I recently evaluated a career change, I wrote out all the pros, cons, and things I needed in my life — both personal and professional. It helped to see an evaluation on paper to be able to decide on whether or not a role was the right fit for me.

You might consider working one-on-one with a coach. A coach can help guide you through your decision-making process and challenge your thinking in ways you might not have imagined. 

With personalized coaching, you can decide with confidence. After all, a new career brings on a whole new set of challenges and opportunities.

Be certain you want to say no before you decline. There’s rarely wiggle room if you change your mind. 

2. Show appreciation and gratitude 

Interviewing is a hefty, time-consuming process. It’s likely many folks invested a lot of time throughout your interview process. Recruiting takes a lot of work — from reviewing cover letters to interview panels to vetting sample projects. The offering company is excited about you and eager (and hopeful) for you to join the team.

Lead your declination with a sign of appreciation and gratitude. Make sure you thank the recruiting team and the hiring team for their time and thoughtfulness.

It’s never a bad idea to reiterate what you’ve learned from the process. By sharing your gratitude and learnings, you’re signaling to the company that you really took this opportunity seriously. 

3. Keep the networking door open 

Some of the best advice I’ve ever received from a mentor was this: “You’ll never know when your paths will cross in the future.” 

Sometimes, timing is everything. For example, you could interview at your dream company for a role that you’re not super excited about. Or you be keeping your eye out for a different position in another region or location. 

Keep the networking door open when you decline a job offer. It’s a good idea to offer to stay connected on LinkedIn, for example. You can also reiterate your interest in the company but say the position just wasn’t the right fit. It’s not too bold to say you’d be interested in future roles (if that’s the case) that may be more aligned with XYZ. 

Whatever the case, look at the opportunity as a webbed network of future opportunities. Just because you’re saying no to a position now doesn’t mean you have to walk away from the company altogether. 

4. Explain your decision 

A simple “I’m declining this opportunity” won’t suffice. Especially if you’re interested in keeping that networking door open, it’s important to explain your decision. This is particularly true if everything is aligned except for the actual role — new roles may come up.

You can be transparent but you also don’t need to share details. For example, let’s say you’re declining a role because you’ve received another offer with a better compensation package, flexibility, and growth opportunities.

It’s good to share that information with a potential employer — but if you have private reasons for saying no, you can leave that out of your explanation.

In some ways, companies may not even know their job offers aren’t stacking up to others in the market without this tangible feedback. It’s important that companies understand the logical reasoning behind their declinations. By gathering this data, they can actually take the feedback to adjust their own hiring practices. 

3 email examples for gracefully turning down a job offer

If you’ve made up your mind about declining an offer, the next step is to tell them your decision. For many people, this might include a combination of email and a phone call or the offer of a deeper conversation.

That said, many people are busy. A simple email lets the hiring manager know immediately that they need to keep the position open and move other candidates forward.

Depending on the scenario, your declination email will look different. Here are 3 job offer rejection letter templates to help craft your email. 

If the offer doesn’t help you achieve your career goals 

Hi <Name of person who made the offer>, 

Thank you for the generous offer to work as a <position> for <company>. I’ve enjoyed learning more about the role, the organization, and the company culture.

After careful consideration, I have come to a difficult decision. Unfortunately, I have to decline this opportunity, although it is interesting. My career goals and aspirations are <insert>. I’ve accepted another position that aligns more with my professional career goals.  

I sincerely appreciate the offer and want to express my gratitude for the chance to meet your team. But after careful consideration, I know this opportunity isn’t the right fit for my career trajectory. 

I wish you all the best in finding the right candidate for the role. Please do keep in touch if another position opens up with <insert career goals> in mind. 

Best wishes,

<Your name> 

If you’re interested in the company — but not the role

Hi <Name of the person who made the offer>, 

Thank you for the opportunity to work as a <position> for <company>. I’ve enjoyed learning more about the role, the organization, and the company culture.

After careful consideration, I have come to a difficult decision. Unfortunately, I have to decline this opportunity at this time. I’m incredibly interested in <company name> but the position itself doesn’t seem like it’s the right fit for my career goals. 

I’m hoping to steer my career in the direction of <insert details>. While I’d love to work for <company name>, I’d love to be considered in the future for a role that better aligns with my career aspirations. 

I sincerely appreciate the offer and want to express my gratitude for the chance to meet your team. I wish you all the best in finding the right candidate for the position. 

Best regards,

<Your name> 

If you’ve accepted a better offer 

Hi <Name of the person who made the offer>, 

Thank you for the opportunity to work as a <position> for <company>. I’ve enjoyed learning more about the role, the organization, and the company culture.

After careful consideration, I have come to a difficult decision. Unfortunately, I have to decline this opportunity at this time. I’ve received a better offer that I can’t refuse. While I’m extremely interested in <company name>, I’ve accepted another offer with <insert reasons like pay, flexibility, career advancement>. 

I sincerely appreciate the offer and want to express my gratitude for the chance to meet your team. I wish you all the best in finding the right candidate for the position. 

Best wishes,

<Your name> 

How to turn down a job offer when the timing isn’t right

As mentioned earlier, timing is everything.

When we show up to work, we show up as whole people. Personal lives can be messy. Job searching is a daunting and messy process. And making a big career change can sometimes not be the right decision for you. 

First, engage your support system to get career advice and gather feedback. For some, it might be a mentor or teammate. For others, you might be working with a personal and professional development coach. 

Once you’ve determined the timing just isn’t right, that’s okay.  

First, make sure you’re transparent about the relationship you’d like to maintain. Hopefully, at this stage in the job search process, you’ve built a strong relationship with either the recruiting team or hiring manager (or both).

Express your gratitude and appreciation for their investment in the relationship. State that you’d love to continue to maintain the relationship. Connect with the person(s) on LinkedIn.

Make sure you check in every so often with the recruiter and/or hiring manager to see how things are going. Express interest in the company and the team — and reiterate that with the right position and the right timing, you’d be ready to make the leap. 

Declining a job offer doesn’t always mean the door is completely shut. It’s a tricky dance. But in your declination email, reiterate your transferable skills, core values, and overall career goals.

Consider the perspective of the offering organization. It’s almost guaranteed they’d like to employ a person who will want to stay with the company for a significant period of time. 

It’s also likely they’d like to hire someone who wants to grow within the organization. They want any new hire to add value in meaningful ways.

Make sure you reiterate your interest in future opportunities so you remain top of mind for the company. But tie it back to what the mutual wants. You can also work with your coach or mentor for the best career advice specific to your situation.

Your next move is out there 

Your career path is yours. And the hiring process — and job interview — is no easy feat to overcome. 

You should feel proud of yourself for receiving a job opportunity, even if it's not the right fit for you. Any potential employer would be lucky to have you on their team.

Alignment with your values, aspirations, and practical needs is crucial for success in any role. The good news is that you learn more about what you’re looking for as you go through a job search process.

When you're evaluating a job opportunity, consider the role of a coach or other objective guidance. With personalized support from BetterUp, you can feel confident in your decision.

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Published August 29, 2022

Madeline Miles

Madeline is a writer, communicator, and storyteller who is passionate about using words to help drive positive change. She holds a bachelor's in English Creative Writing and Communication Studies and lives in Denver, Colorado. In her spare time, she's usually somewhere outside (preferably in the mountains) — and enjoys poetry and fiction.

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