“How to turn down a job offer” may seem like a strange topic to discuss given our current job market.  However, to succeed like an executive means there will be times when you will get more than one job offer at the same time, even in today’s economy.  In that case, it’s important to know how to turn down a job offer gracefully.

It’s not as simple as writing a short note to say you cannot take the job.  You should take a longer term view.  Every job offer is an opportunity to build a relationship with the hiring manager even if you don’t plan to take the offer.   You never want to burn a bridge just because you are turning down an offer.  Instead you want to leave the hiring manager a great impression of you and a desire to want to hire you again in the future in not just his current company but potentially in the next company he or she works for.

Here are 5 tips on how to turn down a job offer
  1. Let them know what you like about the opportunity – there must be something you liked, otherwise, you wouldn’t have applied.  It’s always good for building relationships to start positive.
  2. Provide reasons why you cannot take the offer – It’s important to share at least one reason why you are not taking the offer.  For example, “it’s not the best fit given my current goals and explain.” Focus the reason on you and not on them.  This way, you are not saying what’s wrong about the offer, but more that it’s not right for you right now.
  3. Never point fingers or find fault – Even if you are turning the offer down because of a red flag you see in the hiring manager’s working style or nature of the job, you never want to come out sounding like you are passing judgement on them or the job opening when you turn down an offer.  Nobody ever wants to hear criticism even if they ask for it directly.  You should always be diplomatic when you communicate, otherwise, you do risk burning a bridge permanently
  4. Proactively communicate you want to keep the relationship – say it when you turn down the offer and also connect with them on Linkedin.  Obviously only do this if you geuninely liked them and want to keep in touch.
  5. Keep in touch –  Now with Linkedin, you can keep a tab on where this hiring manager goes next.  Next time you look for work, look out for where he or she is.  They could very well be at another company and could refer you into a job opportunity there.
I have been fortunate in my career to have had multiple job offers at once.  So I want to share an actual example of an email I wrote in case it helps you.  It’s not always appropriate to turn down an offer by email.  It’s usually better live by phone, but in this case Sarah is super busy and email was the best choice.  It’s not exactly turning down an offer, but it was headed that way and I didn’t want to waste their time since I knew I was not going to take it even if they made it happen.  I already had another offer in hand and I had 3 more days to respond when I interviewed for this opportunity below.  I have changed the names of the people involved to keep it anonymous.
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Hi Sarah,
You have a great reputation and it was nice to finally meet you in person.  I enjoyed our conversation and your questions.  I also really appreciate you arranging for me to meet with Paul today given my constrained time table.
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I thought about what we discussed and I would like to propose the following:  assuming you think my skills can be an asset on your team, I would like to not force it this time, given the short time table, but connect in 4 or 5 months to give ourselves more time to discuss where I may fit.
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I’d rather not waste your time right now as it seems it would be hard to make this all work by Monday.   As I mentioned, given my daughter is only 3 months old, my number 1 priority is to start part time and still have time for family.  As such, I plan to take the contract with Scott for 6 months given it meets my current priorities.  If it’s okay with you, I would like to reconnect in 4-5 months and talk about potential opportunities to work with you and your team then.   
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Thank you for your time and consideration.  I hope we can keep in touch.
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Your comments:
Did the example and these tips help?  I look forward to your comments below.  Thanks.

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I am always in your corner.

Lei

One Thought on “How to Turn Down a Job Offer – 5 Tips and An Example

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