Turning down a job offer is a delicate process. It requires nuance — you don’t want to burn bridges with anyone in your industry because your paths could very well cross in the future. Plus, you should be polite regardless.
To that end, here are three phrases to use to gracefully reject a job offer.
The hiring manager and HR representative have invested time in the process — reading your resume, interviewing you and so on — and you should express your gratitude for this, as well as the offer. They are simple and to the point, but the words “thank you” are pivotal when you’re turning down a job. Remember to be specific as to what it is you’re thanking them for.
What better way to demonstrate your appreciation than to say so? Telling the hiring manager that you appreciate all that they have invested in you and your candidacy acknowledges the immense amount of effort and resources they have put into the process and will help you both leave without a bad taste in your mouth.
This leaves the door open. There is always the potential for your paths to cross again, or even for you to work at the same organization, and if that’s the case, you want to remain on good terms. An alternative to this is to write something along the lines of “I wish you the best of luck” — or, you could say both.
These are phrases to say — but how do you say them? For one, timeliness is key. The employer surely has a second-choice candidate, and by letting them know that you’re not accepting the job offer as soon as possible, you’re giving them the opportunity to go with another viable candidate.
If you’ve gone through a recruiter initially, you should let that person know, too. “Depending on your relationship with the internal hiring team, I would also write them a nice letter with an apology, letting them know what a difficult decision this was and how you appreciated their time, effort and offer,” Ruth Robbins wrote in Fairygodboss' community feed..
Email is usually sufficient. This is probably the most common way to reject a job offer. But you could take it up a notch by calling the employer directly.
Ultimately, how you decline a job offer is just as important as the substance of your communication. You want to convey your appreciation and thanks, all while keeping the door open. You never know when you might encounter the employer again, after all.