When job hunting, you may eventually receive a job offer that you’d rather not accept. While there are numerous reasons for declining a job, which we’ll get into below, it’s important to know how to decline a job offer professionally.
You should never leave a potential employer hanging by neglecting to communicate the fact that you decided not to accept their offer. You also should never decline an offer rudely or without expressing your appreciation.
Read on to find out why you might decide to decline a job offer and how to do it professionally so that you maintain a positive impression with the company or organization.
Why Would Anyone Decline a Job Offer?
If you are currently looking for a job, you might be thinking, “I’d love to get a job offer right now! Why would I decline one?” Especially if you’ve been unemployed for a while or are among the many people who have lost their job due to the pandemic.
There are actually plenty of reasons why someone may decline a job offer, including:
You Received a Better Job Offer Elsewhere
In many cases, you will be interviewing for several jobs around the same time. And if you are a qualified candidate for these positions, you may receive multiple job offers.
While you might wish you could say “yes” to every single offer, you’re only one person. You’re going to have to decline at least one of these offers. If you’ve accepted another job elsewhere, you must politely turn down the others by sending them a job offer rejection letter.
The following points may help you to determine which offer to accept and which offer to decline.
You Realized That the Job Description Isn’t What You’re Looking For
This is why it’s important to always read job descriptions thoroughly and ask questions during the interview process and when the employer offers you the job.
If upon completing these steps you realize that this job isn’t the right fit for you, it’s time to politely decline.
Maybe you feel that this potential job won’t fully utilize your skill set, and you worry you’ll find yourself bored on a daily basis. Maybe you find that this potential job will have you working alone most of the time, and you’re an extroverted person who likes working in teams. Perhaps the new job just doesn’t align with your career goals.
Either way, if your gut tells you to decline, move on and continue your job search until you receive a better offer.
The Job in Question Isn’t Offering You Enough Money
This point is simple: if the salary won’t cut it, especially if there’s a well-suited job offer that pays more, your best bet is to say “no.”
But be sure to look beyond the salary itself. What other benefits does each position offer? It’s possible that when you do the math, the benefits and other work perks at one job might outweigh your wage at the other.
The Job’s Benefits Package Doesn’t Suit You
On that note, be sure to take a close look at the benefits package before you accept a job offer. Do the health insurance and retirement savings plans meet your needs? If not, either negotiate a counteroffer or decline the job offer.
You Don’t Feel That You’re a Good Fit
Pay attention to how you feel about your future boss, coworkers, and company culture when you show up for your interview.
For example: if your boss is condescending, is extremely late for your interview, or shows signs of disinterest in you, that’s a red flag. Or, perhaps you find that your future coworkers’ crass humor offends you, or that the company seems disorganized and directionless.
If it feels wrong, it likely is – so take a pass on this offer.
You Aren’t Able to Meet the Daily Job Requirements
Upon close examination of the job description, you may find that some of the job’s duties involve skills you don’t have. Many employers offer on-the-job training, so ask your potential employer about this before declining their offer!
However, if you find that you’ll be expected to perform tasks that you’re not able to do and that there is no opportunity for you to learn how to do them (or perhaps you’re not interested in learning that set of skills), you may want to pass on this offer.
There’s a Lack of Opportunity for Advancement
If you’re looking for upward mobility, be sure to ask about it in your interview (professionally, of course).
Sometimes, you may receive an offer for a dead-end job, where there’s no possibility of receiving a promotion or higher salary, no matter how high-quality your work is.
Unless you’re planning to leave the company eventually to find a higher-tier position, you might want to decline this offer.
There’s a Lack of Work-Life Balance
Does the job description involve 60-hour workweeks, or very little vacation and sick time?
Unless this type of work-life balance suits you, you may want to think again before accepting this offer.
Consider your other obligations and needs: children, your partner, and self-care time such as leisure, vacation, and time with friends.
Don’t accept an offer that’s going to make you feel exhausted and miserable after only a few months.
The Commute Is Too Long
Perhaps you interviewed for a job, only to discover that the office you’d be asked to commute to every day is an hour away by car. Unless this employer offers flexible options such as work-from-home days, consider your needs before accepting.
Driving two hours per day might feel fine on the first day, but how will you feel when you’ve been driving ten hours per week (and spending hundreds on gas) month after month?
If the thought of this alone makes you feel exhausted, consider declining the offer.
How to Decline a Job Offer Professionally
If the offer you’ve received meets one or more of the above points, or if you simply feel that this job isn’t for you, you must decline the job offer.
It’s important to do this politely and professionally to make sure that you stay on good terms with this employer. You want to maintain the connection you’ve made and don’t want to burn any bridges. You never know when your paths might cross with the company or hiring manager again, and you don’t want to sabotage any future opportunities with them.
Try to Negotiate First
If it’s a matter of pay or benefits, negotiate a counter-offer.
Once you decline the job offer, you may never receive another offer from this company again. So if you’re getting ready to decline over a matter of compensation, try negotiating a counter offer first.
This will involve writing to your potential employer to say something like:
“I would love to accept your job offer, but based on my research, the market value of my skills is higher than what you’re willing to offer me. I still want to accept this job and would like to talk this over with you.”
Draft a Rejection Letter
If, however, the pay is good, but you don’t like the company culture, commute, work-life balance, or the like, you will need to write a rejection letter, formally declining the offer. Use these tips and the sample letter below to do so in the right way.
1. Address your letter to the interviewer
Addressing the person who interviewed you is a respectful gesture. As such, you should address the rejection letter directly to them, including their first and last name as well as their preferred title.
You should also include your contact details in the header of your rejection letter, just as you would on your resume or cover letter.
2. Express your appreciation for the job offer
Always be sure to show gratitude to the potential employer while writing your rejection letter. After all, they took the time to consider your application and to interview you.
Start your rejection letter by saying something like:
“Thank you so much for taking the time to interview me for the position of [position name] at [company/organization name]. I greatly appreciated it, and I enjoyed meeting you and your employees. I’d like to express my gratitude to you for your positive assessment of me and your generous offer to bring me on as part of your team.”
3. Be clear that you are turning down the job offer
Next, you should clearly decline the offer. Don’t bury this in your letter or use vague wording that could be misinterpreted:
“I appreciate the opportunity; however, I must regretfully decline your offer.”
4. Briefly explain why
Then, consider why you’re rejecting the offer and include any appropriate details of your decision by including a brief reason in a professional way. Keep it short and to the point.
If you didn’t like the boss or the company culture, please don’t say so in your rejection letter – keep it positive. In this case, it’s okay to say something like:
“I’ve decided that another opportunity (or my current job) is overall a better fit for me”.
If it’s a matter of salary or benefits, and your counter offer negotiation didn’t work, then let them know by saying something like:
“The compensation package didn’t suit my needs”.
In a case where you decided to accept another job, it’s okay to be honest and say so. Simply say:
“After careful consideration, I’ve accepted a job with another company which I feel is a better fit for me”.
5. Finish your letter with gratitude
Again, state your gratitude to the potential employer at the end of your letter. You may finish your letter with a statement such as:
“Once again, thank you for your consideration. I wish your company continued success in the future.”
Then, sign the letter and send it.
Turning down a job offer isn’t something that happens often. We usually jump at any new job opportunity that comes our way, because job searching can be a long and stressful process.
Knowing how to decline a job offer in a professional way can help make the process less intimidating, without ruining your reputation or future prospects.
You deserve to be happy at work, so do what’s right for you. Even if that means rejecting a job offer.
Amanda Kay, an Employment Specialist and founder of My Life, I Guess, strives to keep the "person" in personal finance by writing about money, mistakes, and making a living. She focuses on what it’s like being in debt, living paycheck to paycheck, and surviving unemployment while also offering advice and support for others in similar situations - including a FREE library of career & job search resources.