How to (politely) decline a job offer

February 8, 2022 - 16 min read


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How to politely decline a job offer

3 email examples to turning down a job offer

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

Your next move is out there

I was just catching up with a friend this past weekend. Like so many others, she’s on the hunt for a new role.

And she’s fortunate to already have a stable job, but she wants to position herself better with an eye toward her career. 

Recently she was offered a new job with her current company. Yet she’s still interviewing for two other internal positions while also interviewing externally. By the end of this month, she’ll likely have turned down even more job offers. After all, she’s holding out for the best opportunity for her career trajectory. 

With 10.9 million open jobs and only 6.5 million unemployed persons in the US, it’s a candidate’s market. Employers everywhere are grasping for the best talent — all while looking to retain and grow their existing employees. 

In this war for talent, it’s not uncommon for candidates to receive multiple job offers. And there are lots of reasons why employees are leaving their jobs in today’s market. From flexibility and hybrid work to purpose and opportunity, candidates have options. 

It’s both a dance and a game, an art and a science. And for job seekers, landing the offers best-suited to their potential is going to mean turning down others. 

But declining a job offer isn’t always easy. 

You might have just invested weeks in a grueling interview process. Ultimately, you decided another offer presents more opportunities. Or you might really enjoy the company and its culture but the position isn’t the right fit. Or you might be interviewing rigorously but your current company countered your negotiation with a salary adjustment that you can’t refuse. Or, if you’re like my friend, you might have multiple job offers on the table at once. 

There are lots of reasons why declining a job offer might be in your best interest. 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, 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. Would your pay or salary significantly increase? How would accepting (or rejecting) impact your mental health and well-being? What about workplace flexibility, remote, or hybrid work options? Do you see yourself growing within the organization? How well do your values align with the company values

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 often not a lot of 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 resume and phone screens 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 that networking door open when you decline an offer. It’s a good idea to offer to stay connected on LinkedIn. 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 okay to share that information with the recruiter.

But you may be relocating to a new area to care for a sick family member and need to find a new job. In personal and private career and life decisions, you're under no obligation to share with a potential employer. At the end of the day, it’s up to you. 

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 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. But people are busy. An 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 help 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. There are two key components to ensure are communicated clearly to the offering company. 

You want to maintain a relationship. 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.

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. 

You’d like to be considered for future opportunities. Declining a job offer doesn’t always come with a completely shut door. 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 likely they’d like to hire someone who wants to grow within the organization. It’s likely that they’d like any new hire to add value in meaningful ways.

Make sure you reiterate your interest in future opportunities. 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. It's likely any potential employer would be lucky to have you on their team.

Alignment with your values, aspirations, and practical needs is crucial for succes in any role, and 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 February 8, 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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