It’s Not You, It’s Me: How to Professionally Reject a Job Offer

Posted by Elizabeth McLeod On Nov 3, 2014 7:56:00 AM

It's Not You, It's Me_ How to Professionally Reject a Job Offer

So, you landed the job…or maybe you landed more than one.  Congratulations!  Remember, this is a happy problem.  Having to reject a job offer means that (hopefully) you are accepting another offer, or you are in the position to wait for something that is more in line with your career goals.

Though it may be tempting to avoid the awkwardness and just ignore an offer, it is important to never burn bridges, and to reject all offers with class.

There are five crucial steps to ensure that you reject an offer in the most professional and sincere way possible.

Step One: Avoid Surprises Before The Offer.

As Marjie Terry explains “All along you’re giving the impression that you’d love the opportunity to work at their company and then, when the offer comes through, you sing a different tune,” she says.  “This can be very awkward.”

Having clear expectations throughout your interview process won't save you from having to reject what the organization may believe to be a great offer.  However, these expectations will help your rejection be less of a surprise and a "softer" let down to the company.

Take some time to really think about what you’re looking for in a new job. Miriam Salpeter, author of 100 Conversations for Career Success suggests, “Gauge your needs as early as possible.  This helps alleviate some potentially uncomfortable situations.”

Step Two: Be Prompt.

Don’t rush yourself into a decision, but be sure to let the employer know as soon as you are certain you want to reject the offer.  They are going to need to hire someone else for the position, and it is courteous if you do not hold up the process. 

Step Three: Thank Them.

Before you go about rejecting, it is important to let the employer know that you are truly grateful.  Be sure to never criticize the organization or the offer.  Show your appreciation for their time, and express gratitude.

Step Four: Be Honest, But Be Polite.

When you reject the offer, be clear about why you are turning it down.  If it’s about the salary, say so.  If you’ve found a better cultural fit or had a change of heart, be honest.   You do not need to go into just how much more you will be making elsewhere, or exactly why “so-and-so” is a better cultural fit.  However, employers often appreciate an honest response because it helps them be more effective hirers in the future. 

“There are many reasons why a job candidate might have to turn down a job offer–but it can usually be boiled down to three key areas: the money, the work itself, or the people at the company,” says Andy Teach, a corporate veteran and author of From Graduation to Corporation: The Practical Guide to Climbing the Corporate Ladder One Rung at a Time.

No matter how much detail you are or are not comfortable with sharing, do not lie.  While you may not want to go into every reason about why you are not accepting the offer, there is no need to make up an untruthful explanation. 

Step Five: Thank Them Again.

The world is a small place, and you never know when your career goals may change, or when a new opportunity will be presented.  It’s best to leave a potential employer on good terms, even if they aren’t the right fit for you at this very moment.  You never know if they will be the right fit in the future.  Wish them success, and reiterate your appreciation.

Often times, in addition to an initial phone call, a written offer rejection is appropriate.  A short thank you note shows your appreciation for the time and interest they showed in you as a candidate.

Following these five steps throughout the rejection process will ensure that you come across as both professional and sincere.

TAGS: Interview Tips, Job Search

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