You applied or was offered to consider a vacancy, you were interviewed, reverse interviewed the company and completed a test task (if any), then you got a job offer — and now you want to turn it down.
Well, strange enough, but, yes, it can happen (sh*t happens).
Strange because you’ve already walked through all the nine circles of hell and only now you understand that the company is not right for you. Usually, signals about the mismatch appear much earlier, and ideally, you should inform the recruiter about them shortly, so your rejection will not catch them off guard. But only because an “aha” moment strikes now, doesn’t mean you need to waste your life working for the wrong company - it will be wimpy, anyway.
Do you need to feel guilty about all this tangle? Definitely, no. Just like it’s routine for employers to reject candidates, it’s completely normal for you to reject an employer. Interviewing for a job does not signal that you will certainly accept it, no more than an employer interviewing you is an implicit promise to hire you.
But what you really need is to decline a job offer gracefully, with tact and diplomacy, you can’t just pick up and leave. Making an Irish exit is impolite and will earn you a Black Mark on the market and do harm to you karma :).
So, how do you do it? Do you have to give a reason? What if you might want to work with that employer in the future? How do you avoid burning any bridges?
Here’s everything you need to know about rejecting a job offer ecologically.
1. Don’t Delay
Well, declining a job offer is hard to do because you worked hard to get it and there is still a moment of hesitation whether the choice is right, and you will not regret about it later, but as soon as you’ve made the decision, let the company know. They need to close the position one way or another, so do not hold the process for them, procrastinating your reply. To mitigate risks chances are they hold some candidate(s) who will be delighted to accept their offer once you’ve rejected it. And even if not - they need to initiate the search again.
If you ignore this principle, then do not blame recruiters for “radio silence” after the job interview next time.
2. Take a Two-Fold Approach: Call and Email.
You absolutely need to take a two-fold approach: draft an email but before you send it, call the person who interviewed you and let them know your decision by phone, even if you’re tempted to take the easy way out and decline a job offer in writing only. Calling not just emailing will help you not to burn those bridges and save the relationship, as on the call they will hear your warm-hearted tone of the voice. Also, you can allow yourself being wordier then in email and let them feel this decision was hard to make. This demonstrates professionalism and shows that you care how much effort they put in to select you.
And merely the call is also not enough because anyway, they will request an official job offer rejection to show it to the client or for statistics. So, call and email!
3. Show Your Appreciation
Probably, it is hard for you to reject a job offer, but you know who it’s even harder on? The recruiter. They were excited about you and closing the vacancy, and probably future bonuses, and now are turned down. In the best case, they feel that rush of anxiety and disappointment, chagrin, disillusion.
So, first and foremost, it’s important to thank the recruiter and/or hiring manager for the offer and time. Yes, interviewing potential candidates is part of their job, but this person likely spent several hours reading your resume, analyzed your social media profiles, and sitting down with you for interviews, answering tons of your questions, arranging further interviews and selling you to the client. He or she also may have ventured to talk you up to other members of the team. So, a heartfelt thank-you for that time and effort will go a long way.
Ideally, pick something specific to thank them for, highlight things you liked about the role, company, or team to make the point that you’re not just sending a bog-standard email to every company that interviewed you. For example, if you asked a lot of questions relating to the role and they answered all of those candidly and in detail, you could mention that.
4. Keep it Simple and to the Point
Communicate the news appropriately. Beating around the bush won’t help anyone in this situation, so be direct and honest about explaining the decision you’ve made and the fact that you won’t be proceeding. Don’t fall over backwards complimenting about the company, culture or the people — it’s a rejection after all. Also, do not vent about everything you find wrong. Say what needs to be said as respectfully as you can and avoid being overly emotional. Keep this messaging concise and compelling.
5. Give Reasoning
Yes, you heard right, and it is not about excusing or something. At the stage of a job offer, a company and a candidate already have some kind of relationship and to simply say “no” is not OK. Think how would you feel if you were in their shoes, and the recruiter was the one to turn you down by writing the standard, “We decided not to continue a dialogue with you,” or “We have selected another candidate,” without reasoning. It equals breaking up with a girlfriend/boyfriend without a word. You are left alone to wonder what and when went wrong in the process. Especially if everything seemed right and you didn’t see signs of a break up earlier.
Probably, your reasoning may trigger the company to address your objections — they may suddenly increase the salary offer or let you work remotely if the location is the issue. However, if you stay firm and comfortable with your decision, say something like, “Thank you for your offer. But I’ve already made up my mind and will stick to the initial decision, though I really appreciate you trying to make it work.”
6. Offer to Stay in Touch
It is a small world, you know. And the hi-tech market is like a village there. So if you really like the company, but you can’t accept their job offer right now (sometimes, the right companies offer the wrong jobs), consider offering to stay in touch when finishing off your email and phone call. Keep it open-ended and positive, in such a way, you will also build your professional network. Don’t overlook the importance of a nice sign-off: You never know who you might work with in the future, so finish by leaving the door open.
Job offer rejection email sample
Here’s how an example of a rejection email can be structured and worded. Hope it will serve you as a basis and help to tweak, personalise and adjust for your context.
Thank you very much for offering me the role of [Job Title] with [Company]./Thank you very much for offering me the opportunity to work at [Company] as [Job Title]. Though it was a difficult decision to make, [I have accepted a position with another company.]
I sincerely appreciate you taking the time to interview me and share information on the opportunity and your company. I truly enjoyed our conversations as well as meeting with the team.
Again, thank you for your time and consideration. I wish you all the best in finding someone suitable for the position.
Hope our paths cross again in the future.
Sincerely/Kind regards/Best wishes,
Thank you very much for taking the time to meet with me over the last few weeks and selecting for the [Job Title]. I was really impressed with [Company] and the work, you are guys, are doing there, which made my decision a difficult one. And I felt really flattered to receive your offer, but I have decided to decline it.
Even though it didn’t work out this time, I would love to find a way to be a part of your team down the road.
I would like to wish you and your company the very best, and I thank you again for your time and consideration.
Kind regards/Best wishes,
Examples of reasoning for different scenarios
1. You didn’t agree on the numbers
After all, I think we’re too far apart on salary. I’d need not less than $[X] to leave my current position, and I know that’s outside your range/budget.
I decided to decline your offer as the salary does not meet my financial requirements and can’t cover my current living expenses.
2. Relocation is the issue
I’ve given a lot of thought to relocating to [place], but have decided this isn’t the right time for me to move.
After much thought, I’ve decided that now is not the best time to leave my current position.
4. The job isn’t the right fit
Only after talking with a team I had realized how much admin work that position requires, and now I’m looking for a role more focused on programming work.
After much deliberation/reflection/a lot of thought, I’ve decided to decline your offer and focus on a few other roles that I think align more with my long-term career goals.
5. Multiple job offers
The reason is that I have been offered a different role at a more senior level, and with a greater opportunity to develop management skills.
I’ve received a compensation package I can’t turn down.
I’ve chosen another company as I think it’s a better fit for my background/career goals
If you would like to stay in touch, add at the end of your emails something like:
I would also love to stay in touch via LinkedIn and have already started following the company and you on Facebook. If there’s anything else I can send along to you, please let me know.
Although declining a job offer is difficult, after all, you’re rejecting it because it’s better for you not to accept it. And if you approach this task with tact and respect, and craft a well-structured thoughtful response, it will enable you to move on to the right job and keep your professional network and image.