How to Say No to a Job Offer Without Snubbing the Employer

By Roxanne Abercrombie

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If you’re anything like most people, you feel awkward about rejecting a job offer. After all, you’ve gone to the effort of applying and sitting the formal interview, and you obviously demonstrated enough passion and interest in the role for the employer to extend the offer. It’s understandable that coming back with an ‘actually…no’ response is uncomfortable.

It might be the case that you’ve had a better offer. Perhaps you didn’t warm to the employer or to the work environment during your interview. Maybe you heard some bad reviews which put you off entirely. Or perhaps you’ve just had a change of heart and no longer want to find a new job. Whatever the reason, you’re still in the uneasy position of having to dish out rejection.

So, how can you turn down a job offer without inadvertently putting down the employer in the process?


Be sure.

Before all else, be certain that you don’t want the job. Messing the employer around is much worse than gracefully declining an offer. In the words of a cheesy but surprisingly apt Celine Dion ballad: “Be sure before you close that door.”


Be prompt.

Don’t be a time-waster. If you know it’s a ‘no’, have the courtesy to inform the employer as soon as you’ve reached a decision. That way, they can react quickly and extend an offer to another potential hire before it’s too late. It’s the decent thing to do.


Be personal.

Nobody likes an awkward conversation, but sometimes it has to be done. You’ve spoken to the employer face to face and they think highly enough of you to want you on board. Either pick up the phone and be direct or send a personalised email which you haven’t copied and pasted straight from a sample on the internet.


Be brief.

Turn down a job offer in the same way you’d rip a plaster from a wound: do it quickly and don’t dither. Ultimately, stretching the process out longer than strictly necessary only makes it more painful. So, give a single specific reason for your decision, and keep it brief.

Don’t, for example, say: “Unfortunately I’ve decided not to accept the job offer because I don’t feel I match your company culture and am not sure that the role is right for me at this time. I also think that I still have things to accomplish in my current job so now wouldn’t be the right time to leave. Although the opportunity is fantastic I’m concerned that it won’t take me to where I want to be in the long run and…” Yada, yada, yada. You’re making it much harder than it needs to be.

Instead, sum it in a single sentence. Say something more succinct like: “Unfortunately, I have decided not to accept the job offer as I do not feel that it is aligned with my skillset and long-term goals.” That’s it. There’s no need to say more or keep piling on reasons. In fact, the more you go on, the more you add insult to injury.


Be honest…within reason.

Make sure that the brief reason you provide is an honest one, involving no feeble sounding fibs or apologetic excuses. A lie is always easy to sniff out and there’s nothing to be apologetic about – you’ve done nothing wrong. Obviously, if the reason you’re rejecting the offer is because you absolutely hated the employer’s guts and could never work for them, it’s best not to say so. If it’s because you’ve accepted another offer, however, just be open and say so. Honesty is always the best policy.


Be appreciative.

The employer has spent their time on you and they’ve shown a good deal of appreciation in extending you the offer. Show them genuine appreciation in return with a response that expresses gratitude – without being falsely sweet.

Try something along the lines of: “Thank you so much for offering me the Web Developer role within your company. I appreciate the time and effort you spent throughout the recruitment process and would like to express my gratitude for your offer.” Only after expressing your thanks should you then move on to the ‘no thanks’ part of the conversation.


Be complimentary.

If you’ve ever had to deal with rejection, you’ll know that a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down. You don’t have to lace your response with false flattery, but you should include some positives to counterbalance the negatives. It’s as simple as saying something like: “I enjoyed meeting the team and learning more about the company – it was a great experience.” Remember, keep it short, sweet and soothing.


Be warm.

Just because you don’t want that job, it doesn’t mean that you might not want a future, more attractive role with the company. You can never say never, and as such you can’t afford to burn your bridges. It’s always a good idea to express openness to future prospects and an interest in keeping in touch. So, close the conversation without closing your options.

For example, “Once again, thank you for the offer. It was great to find out more about the Regional Manager role and even though this particular vacancy wasn’t for me, I’d be open to discuss any similar retail jobs in the future.”


So, turning down a job offer doesn’t have to be the awkward nightmare that people often envision. Alright, it’s never going to be as enjoyable as accepting a job offer, but those moments of discomfort turning down the wrong job will lead to incalculable career satisfaction settling in the right one.


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