How To Decline a Job Offer
  • By Check-a-Salary
  • Posted Thursday 30 th January 2020

How To Decline a Job Offer

It’s funny isn’t it; the majority of stuff written about jobs relates to how to get a job – how to write a good job application, how to answer interview questions, basically how to put yourself in the best position to secure the job you want.

It’s not often we talk about how to decline a job offer.  The truth is that there is an art to declining job offers, just as there is an art to getting that job offer in the first place.

Why are you declining the job offer?  Perhaps you applied for numerous positions to give yourself the best chance in the market and more than one company has offered you a position?  Great position to be in!  Maybe your circumstances have changed since you first commenced the application and interview process, and the specifics of the job are no longer suitable – be that commuting time, salary, hours, etc. Or perhaps you’ve got cold feet and the thought of moving to a new company just seems too daunting.

Whatever the reason, you need to be gracious and polite when you decline the job offer.

1. Be Professional

  • Once you have decided, for whatever reason, not to accept the job offer, you should let the company know as soon as possible. This is not only professional but also basic good manners.  The company has taken the time to read your CV and / or application form, as well as taking time to meet with you for an interview, or even for multiple interviews and testing.  This all costs the company time and money and by declining the job offer quickly, it gives the company the opportunity to bring back in other candidates who had made the shortlist with you, before they are snapped up by employers elsewhere. 
  • It’s also worth bearing in mind that although you are no longer interested in this job, it’s a small world out there, particularly within each given industry, and you don’t want to tarnish your reputation – even though you don’t want to work at this company, you still want them to have the best possible impression of you.
  • Remember also that not all jobs work out – what if you find yourself back in the job market, within the same industry, in a year’s time? If you have remained on professional terms with the company you are declining, then that door may well still be open for you and you might not have to look too much further for your next job.
  • If you are attending interviews which have been set up through a Recruiter, then it is imperative that you communicate quickly and professionally with them too. Placing candidates in jobs is how Recruiters earn a living, and they will have invested huge amounts of time and energy in getting you the interview/s, negotiating a salary package and generally working as the main communicator between yourself and the employer.  This is hard work. Don’t sully your reputation by omitting to tell the Recruiter that you are declining the job offer – remember, you might need them too one day and Recruiters will remember the reliable candidates and those who have messed them around or acted unprofessionally.

2. Be Appreciative

  • It’s amazing how many people simply forget to say thank you. Don’t be one of them! Say thank you - thank you for your time, thank you for the opportunity, or maybe a specific thank you, such as thank you for arranging the interviews to suit my schedule.  Don’t go over the top but be genuinely grateful for the opportunity you have been given.

3. Be Straightforward

  • Rather than coming up with some elaborate story as a reason why you are declining the job offer, try to keep it simple and where possible, be honest.
  • Make it clear that you have carefully considered the job offer and then explain the reason why you have decided to decline it.
  • If there is a clear reason why you are declining the offer, then state it – for example, you are no longer in a position to work Full Time.
  • However, if there are a variety of reasons why you are declining the offer, then it’s best to cite only one of them. If there are 4 or 5 reasons why the job is no good for you, the question will be asked why on earth you applied for this job in the first place and you will ultimately look like a time waster.
  • Genuine, acceptable reasons to decline a job offer are things like commuting time, the culture of the company, the perceived lack of opportunity to progress your career (if that’s something you discussed at the interview stage) and lack of flexibility.
  • The most common reason to decline a job offer though won’t come as a surprise to anyone - salary. If salary is the main reason you are declining the job offer, this is a trickier one to manage.  You need to be careful not to come across as greedy, so be clear and state that the salary / salary package isn’t quite what you had been hoping for, but counter that statement by saying something positive about the company, to soften the effect.  You never know – the employer may be able to improve their salary offer, but don’t count on that happening.
  • Most importantly, don’t start praising another (rival) company where you have accepted an alternative job offer. This helps no one and means your name won’t be remembered in the best light!  Obviously you can state that you have accepted an offer of employment at another company and you might wish to state the reason – closer to home, smaller, a bigger team, etc. but don’t say things like, the culture there seemed much better, the people were friendlier or they have a pool table in the staff lunch room (yes, I’ve had that given to me as a reason to accept a competitor’s job offer before!).

4. End on a High

  • Whether you are declining the job offer by telephone (in which case, be sure to confirm it in writing via letter or email) or in writing, be sure to end in a positive and upbeat manner. If you have dealt with one specific person throughout the process, you can thank them personally for their time and efforts and / or you could wish the company success in the future.
  • Sometimes it’s appropriate to call the person you have been dealing with (Recruiter, HR, Line Manager, etc) to let them know that you will be declining the job offer and that you will be confirming this in an email. Calling gives them maximum notice that they will need to re-start the recruitment process, as was mentioned earlier, thus displaying your complete professionalism.  It’s also quite a nice touch if you have developed a rapport with someone.  Sometimes though, a phone call isn’t a feasible option – perhaps you dealt with many people through the process and you don’t know who the most appropriate person to speak to might be.  In this instance, an email or letter on its own, is most acceptable.
  • Whatever you do, don’t take too long and find that you have the employer or Recruiter chasing you to find out whether you are taking the job offer or not. That is never a good note to end on!

Whatever your reasons for declining a job offer, or whatever circumstances might have changed in your life, make sure you are secure in your decision – after all , you have spent a lot of time and energy getting to this point. 

Discuss your options with a trusted confidante and don’t be rushed into making the wrong decision. 

Whilst you need to be prompt in your response to the job offer, make sure you give it due consideration and carefully weigh up all the pros and cons – if you do, you can be confident that you have made the right decision and you can then decline the job offer in a polite, professional and straightforward manner. 


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