Decline a Job Offer - The Right Way!

By Trudy Steinfeld

Over the last few weeks I have been asked by students and alumni that are fortunate enough to have several job offers, how to decline the offer or offers they do not want to accept. In fact, one of my own daughters recently had several offers for funded PhD work and was confronted with a similar issue. Sometimes you are so clear on what job you want that saying no seems fairly straightforward, but in other instances you might have doubts or feel that job might be something you would be more interested in when you are ready to make another career move. In fact, if done correctly, declining an offer today can help set up a future successful job search. No matter the situation, knowing how to decline an offer gracefully is an important skill that says much about your professional character.

When thinking about offers, and the process of declining them, keep in mind the following advice:

  1. Once you have received an offer, acknowledge it verbally and through email. Texting is never the way to go. 
  2. Remember in acknowledging the offer to thank the recruiter and, as appropriate, any other company organization official for their time and consideration.
  3. Make sure to confirm by what date, and in what way, you are expected to act on the extended offer.
  4. While you are going through the decision making process, be sure to keep in contact and communicate via email or through telephone conversations with all of your potential employers as appropriate. An open line of communications will allow you to negotiate any aspect of the offer more effectively.
  5. Once you have decided which offer to accept, inform the employer you have chosen and confirm all arrangements have been finalized in accordance with the employer’s policies and protocols. Don’t put this on social media sites until you have let the employers who have also offered you employment know of your decision.
  6. Inform the employer(s) whose job you have not selected of your selection and although you may be tempted to only do this through email, also make a phone call to the recruiter you have been working with. This will demonstrate your maturity, professionalism, and acknowledgement of how much time and energy was invested in you and the recruiting process.
  7. The recruiter is bound to be disappointed, but by having this discussion you can share some of your reasons for accepting another position. This can give them valuable insights and will also bring closure to the process. It is important that you be positive, humble, and appreciative of the offer. Do not voice any negativity about the organization.
  8. Make sure you convey that you enjoyed meeting everyone and would very much like to stay in touch. If you are interested in the company, volunteering that you can see yourself working there in the future.
  9. If you hadn’t done so already, send the recruiter and other individuals you met in the process a LinkedIn invitation and take the time to personalize it. I know of several firms that are actually inviting candidates who decline their offers to connect on LinkedIn so they can connect on future employment opportunities.
  10. Your goal should always be to make every employer you turned down feel good about you as a candidate and about the employer’s role in recruiting and selecting you.

In this age of social media, text messages, and instant emails, it might seem acceptable to turn down a job offer in a perfunctory manner. In some circles it might even be considered acceptable to not even bother to decline an offer in which you have no further interest. But if you take the time to communicate in a professional manner, you will gain the respect of the employer whose offer you rejected. This respect will serve you well should you interact with the company and its representatives in the future or should you be interested in job opportunities with the organization in the future.

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