How to (politely) decline a job offer

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How to Reject a Job Offer Politely

It’s very easy to get excited when a company wants to hire you. However, if you think the job offer isn’t a good fit for you, it’s best not to accept it. In this article, we discuss how to reject a job offer politely and review some examples that you can tailor based on your situation.

Although the compensation and potential security of a new position can be appealing, there may be some instances when you need to decline the offer. Here are a few reasons why you might consider passing on a job:

Salary reasons

If the company or position is attractive but the offered salary is not what you expected, you may address this issue in your letter. If all the efforts to negotiate a reasonable salary fail to produce the results you desire, send a letter expressing your gratitude and reaffirming your enthusiasm about the job, stating that you have to reject the offer due to the level of the salary. You may also provide evidence for what you believe to be the national average salary for your position and your personal worth to the company.

Schedule conflicts

Meanwhile, if the job offer doesn’t provide enough flexibility for your current needs, you can use that reason in your rejection letter. When you inform the company about your decision to decline the job, state your current needs and the level of flexibility you desire. The company may get back to you with a job offer with increased flexibility.

No specific reason

It’s possible that your reason could cause the company to try to look for ways to address your objections. In some cases, they would allow you to work remotely if the location is the problem. However, if the company offers something that will not change your decision, it’s okay to just say, ‘Thank you very much for your offer, but I don’t think it’s exactly what I am looking for at this moment. I really appreciate your time and effort to make it work.’

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

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.

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

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.

Email example if you’ve decided to stay at your current job

Thank you again for offering me the software development role on your team. I appreciate you all taking the time to interview me and answer my questions about the job and the company. After a lot of consideration, I’ve decided that this isn’t a good time for me to leave my current position. I hope we can stay in touch and that I might have the pleasure of working with you in the future.

  • Respond promptly once you’ve made your decision to let the employer continue their search as quickly as possible. The tendency to procrastinate difficult communications is human, but this isn’t the time to give in.
  • Offer referrals if you have them, especially in the case that you really think the company is awesome. You might say something like: “That being said, I have a few connections I think would be great for the role and would be happy to send their information along to you.”
  • Keep your email short and sweet. There’s no need to justify your decision at length or heap excessive praise on the company. Just rip off the Band-Aid fast and hit send.
  • Consider a phone call if it feels appropriate in your situation. Instead of breaking the news via email, use that email to set up a quick call at the hiring manager’s convenience and have the conversation live—particularly if you already had or have developed a rapport with the hiring manager.

Turning down a job offer—no matter how sure you are that you don’t want it—never feels great. But sometimes it’s worth waiting it out for the right job, and not just one that happens to be available. Take a deep breath and don’t forget that you’re dealing with this because you’re great and people want to hire you.

Adrian Granzella Larssen, Richard Moy,
and Regina Borsellino contributed writing, reporting, and/or advice to this article.

The Muse is a values-based careers site that helps people navigate every aspect of their careers and search for jobs at companies whose people, benefits, and values align with their unique professional needs. The Muse offers expert advice, job opportunities, a peek behind the scenes at companies hiring now, and career coaching services. The current team of writers and editors behind The Muse’s advice section includes Regina Borsellino, Brooke Katz, Rebeca Piccardo, Devin Tomb, and Stav Ziv—and over the years has included many other talented staffers! You can also find The Muse on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, TikTok, and Flipboard.