How to: Tactfully Turn Down a Job Offer

By Career Savvy

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The start of 2014 saw a positive shift in the job market, with more companies finally being able to increase the number of their vacancies. As a result, you’re now more likely to find yourself being offered more than one position at the same time. Although this isn’t the worst situation to find yourself in, it still puts you in an awkward and uncomfortable position. So what’s the best way to handle a job offer that you actually don’t want to accept?

Demonstrate Your Appreciation.

Time will have been spent assessing your application and conducting your interview, therefore it’s important to show that you respect the effort that has gone into selecting you for this position. Start by thanking the hiring manager for the opportunity and their time. Make sure this is sincere – think about what you would like to hear if you were in their shoes. Bear in mind that this may not be the only time you face this hiring manager or apply for a job at this company. By being sincere and respectful you can ensure you don’t shoot yourself in the foot when it comes to any future opportunities.

Consider Your Approach.

Without a doubt the most professional and courteous way to decline a job offer is over the phone. Actually taking the time to contact the relevant person and talk through your reasons for turning down their offer will certainly present you in a more favourable light. Furthermore, this may be a difficult decision and an uncomfortable situation to be in, but putting off your response to the company will not do you any favours. Make sure you let the company know promptly as this will enable them to contact any other applicants that just missed out as soon as possible. By contacting them right away you are decreasing the chances of receiving an overly unpleasant reaction.

Be Honest, But Not Too Honest.

It’s polite to inform the hiring manager why you are not accepting their offer and it’s important to do so in a gracious manner. Therefore be specific about your reasons but avoid being brutally honest and critiquing the company, their interview process or the offer. If you genuinely connected with the hiring manager and/or any members of the team, be sure to tell them that you enjoyed meeting them and any other positives about your experience. Once again this will help you if you ever cross paths with the company or its employees in the future. If you are declining the offer because you have been offered a better opportunity elsewhere, then you may want to briefly explain why the other role is better suited to your needs. This may encourage the company to reassess their offer in order to provide you with an even better opportunity. However, if the offer is simply awful to the point where you would rather stay in your current job or be unemployed, stating ‘I’m afraid it just doesn’t fit with my career goals at the moment’ will suffice.

So if you are offered more than one job or one that you suddenly realise is unsuitable, follow the steps above to ensure you handle the decline of an offer tactfully. No doubt you feel awkward and perhaps even guilty but just remember that if they hadn’t chosen you for the job, it’s unlikely that they would have felt bad for not hiring you. Therefore it’s perfectly reasonable for you to judge a company on whether it’s the right choice for you and as long as you act professionally, it will just be a step along the way to achieving your dream job.

Have you ever declined a job offer? How did you approach the company and how did they react? Would you do it differently in the future?

If you do want to accept an offer, before you do check out our article on ‘Contemplating Your Job Contract’. Furthermore, our regular feature ‘How To’ in our monthly magazine offers similar advice on a variety of topical subjects. 


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