How to Decline a Job Offer

Job offers are like buses - you wait and you wait and then two or even three come along at once. This is great in that you get to take the pick of the bunch - at least until you remember you're going to have to tell the others that you can't accept their offer that is. Saying no needn't be daunting though - so stop breaking hearts and learn how to let an employer down gently with our guide to rejecting job offers.

The irony

Although employers aren't exactly known for their skills in apologising, as a candidate turning down a job, you're supposed to be an expert at it. Whilst you might not feel like massaging anyone else's ego at this point, you do have to accept that an employer has probably given up some considerable time to making a decision on a job offer - and to be fair, they picked you! 

For that reason, you really want to make a good effort at this - which goes double when you consider that your paths may cross again in the future. And that's why the first step to crafting a quality apology is to ...

Mean it

Yes, that's right - if you can get it into your head that you do actually mean this, your apology will be easier to write, and much more effective. Try and put yourself into the employer's shoes and imagine how you'd feel to miss out on the opportunity to employ someone as awesome as you.

Depending on your reason for turning the job down this could require an Oscar-nominated performance, but it's still a good idea. Even if you have no desire to ever work for the company, the member of staff in charge of hiring probably has friends in the industry, and friends talk to each other.   

Don't beat about the bush

Given that you don't want to lead the reader on, you should really start making your apology as soon as possible in your message. If you start apologising further down the page, you may end up causing unnecessary disappointment by making them think that it's a written acceptance. This is also the point to thank the employer for their time.

Give a reason

Depending on your rationale for declining the job offer, this may or may not be the real one. Comparing the MD to an infamous historical figure or implying that the company's premises resemble something you might otherwise have stepped in is probably not the tack to take. This is not the time to get personal! If the company is that bad, then they may well be looking to hire you because of a high turnover of staff, so they might work out what's happened anyway (although they probably won't, given their apparent ineptitude for management)! 

The go-to reason 'I don't feel that it's a good fit for my career goals at this time' is always a good one - although to be fair it is a bit of a cop-out. A few other potential reasons could be:

  • The commute is too long. Work/life balance is important after all. 
  • You've received another, more tempting offer elsewhere. Have to be careful with the wording of this, but if it's the truth, it's the truth.
  • The salary on offer is not attractive. There's nothing wrong with saying this, given that it's your time, effort and experience you'd be 'selling' to the employer. The employer should appreciate the feedback.

Sign off

Once you've apologised and given a reason for declining the job offer, it's time to say goodbye. Rather than just going with 'yours' or 'best regards' though, you might want to consider 'bowing a little lower' as it were. Wish the employer all the best for the future and that you hope your paths cross again at some point - because they may well. This way, you could end up making a valuable new contact rather than just someone you try and avoid at networking events.

It's difficult being in demand

Given that you're on our site, you've probably already got in touch with some of the recruitment agencies we advertise. These guys are experts in the art of matching people to jobs, so they'll have your phone ringing off the hook in no time - but given that there's only one of you, you're eventually going to have to turn some offers down. Hopefully our guide has made this a little less daunting, and you can now see how it can actually be a valuable process. 

Manners cost nothing - and even if you don't really feel like apologising to a company, at least in this case you only have to do it on paper!