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Declining a Job Offer – Advice to Do it Right

Even in a job market that isn’t as robust as we’d like, there will be occasions when candidates decline job offers.  It may be a matter of culture, commute, the company or getting a better opportunity elsewhere.  Regardless, how you conduct yourself when saying “no thank you” is as important as how you presented yourself during the hiring process.

Why Be Careful When Saying No?
“Don’t burn a bridge” should be the basis of your thought process when thinking about how you’ll decline a job offer.  The job search is filled with highs and lows – good news followed by something unexpected.  Maybe your first choice job falls through during the final stages.  You never know when you may need to go back to the offer you originally declined.  It’s a small world – the person who offered you the job could end up being your boss at a different company someday, or maybe you’ll interact at an industry-related event.  Whatever the opportunity for you to cross paths again, you don’t want a black mark against you because you behaved unprofessionally when turning down the position.  If you care about your reputation and integrity, then keep these suggestions in mind when turning down a job offer.

Say No While Keeping the Door Open
Stay in good standing with the company you decline an offer with.  Be careful when you explain your reasons for not taking the position.  Perhaps you thought the position may be boring or the company’s product offering wasn’t as robust as the competition.  Consider keeping those comments to yourself as they could take you out of contention in the future or simply come across as off-putting.  Keeping your reasons broad will better your chances of keeping the door open.  Try focusing on one or two general reasons why you are not accepting the offer.  If, for example, the commute is part of the reason, try: “I really enjoyed meeting you and I appreciate the time you spent with me. This role and the organization could be a great match for me in a lot of ways, while I’m very comfortable with the commute to your office, the job I’m taking is five minutes from my house…”

If it’s the job skills you will be gaining, consider this: “It was a difficult decision for me. Your company seems like a great place to work and while I could see myself working there, I feel the offer I’m accepting will develop my skills in a direction best suited for my needs right now…”

Framing your answers like this will keep you from offending the hiring manager, or coming across as insulting, insensitive or callous.

Be Honest
Lying in business dealings is risky and in poor form.  You may or may not get caught, but if you lead your life with integrity and honesty, carry that through to how you decline a job offer.  It’s better to omit something than to lie. If you’re declining the job because it’s the wrong environment or the company is disorganized, you don’t have to make up a reason. Instead, remember that less is more.  Try something like, “I was very impressed with the interview process and enjoyed all the people I met with.  I decided to go in a different direction and I’m accepting an offer that is a slightly better fit for where I am in my career...”  The company may be disappointed in your decision, however, your honesty and respectfulness will leave a positive, lasting impression.

Personal Communication is Best
Nowadays, not enough value is placed on personal communication. A live phone conversation will allow the hiring manager to hear your voice, ask questions, and avoid misunderstandings that so often occur over email or through texting. A phone call provides another opportunity to build the relationship since you never know when you’ll interact with this person again. If you decline the offer over email, via text or in a voicemail message, you risk coming across as cowardly.  Remember, the company invested time and resources into learning about you and teaching you about their company – it’s common courtesy to give them your live, undivided time when declining their offer. The company thought so highly of you that they offered you a job, leave them feeling the same way as you decline the offer with respect and grace.

It’s Personal
Many people take pride in the company they work for and the jobs they perform.  Those feelings straddle the line between personal and professional.  When you receive a job offer, someone may be inviting you to join a place that is very important to them.  A place they want to see grow and succeed.  If you turn down the job offer in a disrespectful manner, you risk offending them on not only a professional level, but a personal level as well.  If, for example, you were to say that you don’t like the culture or the team, the hiring manager could take it personally, burning that bridge.  Be respectful, complimentary and grateful for the offer.  Leave them feeling positive about you as well as their organization.

If you find yourself in the fortunate position to choose from a variety of job offers, don’t forget to give care and attention to the offers you decline.  You will feel good about the way you handled yourself and the situation, and the hiring managers will be impressed with your professionalism and respect.

Photo Credit: Allthingsd