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Rejecting a Job Offer? How to Do It Right

Rejecting a Job Offer? How to Do It Right
Credit: woaiss/Shutterstock

You aced the interview, and the hiring manager said they'd be in touch. Sure enough, you receive the good news — you got the job!

Normally, this is exactly what a job seeker wants to hear. But in some cases, getting a job offer can mean too much of a good thing. Perhaps you've been on several interviews and received two offers at once, or your current company gave you an unexpected raise or promotion that changed your mind about leaving. Either way, you're stuck in the awkward situation of having to reject the company that has just agreed to bring you on board.

While being able to turn down a job offer is a good position to be in, it's also a difficult one. Saying no to a company that chose you over its other candidates may mean forcing the hiring manager to start the search over again. It's in your best interest to handle the situation delicately so as not to burn any bridges.

"You've put effort and energy into the process — and so have the nice folks offering you the job," said Joyce Maroney, director of The Workforce Institute at Kronos Incorporated. "Unfortunately, this opportunity isn't the perfect fit for you at this time. In the future, though, you may want to re-engage with this organization or hiring manager. To that end, you need to ensure that your positive reputation with this firm is preserved."

Here are a few tips to help you reject a job offer politely and professionally. [10 Reasons You Shouldn't Quit Your Job]

Don't leave the company hanging. Mulling over two offers? Don't take your time making a choice. Just as you would appreciate a swift response from a potential employer, the hiring manager who offered you the job wants to know quickly if you're going to accept, so he or she knows how to proceed. Maroney recommended notifying the company of your decision as soon as possible, so the team can reach out to the next-best candidate before it's too late.

Be concise, but sincere. Most people don't like to be the bearers of bad news. To soften the blow of rejecting a job offer, you may be tempted to write a long, drawn-out explanation as to why you can't accept the position. Richard Maltz, senior corporate account manager at human capital management company Instant Technology, advised against this, and suggested instead keeping your message sincere, short and to the point.

"The most polite way to turn down an offer is to simply thank the interviewers for taking the time to interview and consider you for the role," Maltz told Business News Daily. "Let them know you enjoyed learning about the responsibilities but after careful consideration you have decided to accept another offer that more closely aligns with your interests."

Express (valid) concerns about the company. Ultimately, the reason you turn down a job offer is because another path will benefit you more. If there were certain factors or concerns about the company or job itself that influenced your decision, it may be a good idea to bring them up.

"The key to effectively turning down a job offer is all about communication style," said Travis Furlow, head of client services at recruitment and talent management company Alexander Mann Solutions. "[Sharing] your concerns ... while still remaining engaged in learning about the opportunity ... makes the decision of 'no' less surprising to the employer."

However, don't express personal issues with an interviewer or team member in order to justify your choice, Maroney said. Badmouthing someone at the company, whether to the hiring manager or to people in your network, will likely get back to the organization and ruin your chances of a continued professional relationship.

Stay in touch. Even though you're turning down the job now, staying connected could prove to be mutually beneficial. Reach out to the hiring manager occasionally, just as you would with other members of your network. 

"You never know when new opportunities will arise," Maroney said.

Nicole Fallon

Nicole received her Bachelor's degree in Media, Culture and Communication from New York University. She began freelancing for Business News Daily in 2010 and joined the team as a staff writer three years later. Nicole served as the site's managing editor until January 2018, and now leads Purch's B2B copy and production team. Reach her by email, or follow her on Twitter.