5 Steps to Gracefully Saying "No" To a Job Offer

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AnnaMarie Houlis4.87k
Journalist & travel blogger

So you've been offered a new job — congratulations! Landing a new job is an honor and something of which you should be proud, whether or not you actually plan to take the job.

In today’s market, dubbed the Great Resignation, you may find yourself in a position where you're fielding offers left and right, whether or not you’ve actually sought them out. This is an ideal position to be in, but it can also put you in a bit of a conundrum.

If you don’t want the job in the end, you can politely turn it down without burning bridges — in case you want to work with the company in the futured. Feel too awkward? Here's exactly how you can do just that without making the conversation awkward at all.

Is it OK to turn down a job offer?

First things first, you're probably wondering whether or not it’s OK to turn down a job offer. It might feel uncomfortable saying that you don't actually want the job, especially after what feels like wasting the company's time interviewing. But you have to remember that interviews are two-way streets — you’re not wasting anyone's time if you’re genuinely getting to know the company, as well, trying to decide whether or not it's a good fit for you just as much as they're deciding whether or not you're a good fit for them.
So, yes, it is OK to turn down a job offer, despite how iffy the conversation might feel. Rest assured, however, that you’re not the only one to ever turn down a job offer. And you’re certainly not going to be the last one to do so either. The company has experienced this before, and you're likely going to have to do it again in the future.
You simply have to make sure that, if you're going to turn down an offer for a job, you do so respectfully. After all, you don’t want to burn bridges with the hiring manager — you might decide that you want to work with them or someone they know down the line, at the company or someplace else. 

How do you politely decline a job offer?

Here’s how to be professional when declining a job offer in four simple steps.

1. Share your appreciation for the company’s time and consideration.

The first thing you need to do when declining a job offer is let the hiring manager know that you appreciate their time and consideration. After all, reviewing your application materials, interviewing you and consulting with their team about hiring you took time out of their workweek(s), so it's professional to show them respect for doing this for you.

2. Give a brief reason as to why you’re declining the company's offer.

Once you share your appreciation for the company's time and consideration, let them know that you've also spent some time considering the job role and, after further thought, you've decided that it's in your best interest to decline. Give them a brief reason as to why you're declining the job offer. Perhaps you've decided that the job role isn't quite what you had thought it was, or maybe you've been given another offer from another company that is offering you a bigger paycheck. If you do want to work with this company but have a better offer, letting them know might stir the pot enough to get them to match or beat the other offer, as well.
Whatever the case, be brief. You don't want to get into the nitty-gritty details — it's a waste of everyone's time. But you do want to give enough reason so they can understand what they can be doing better or differently in their recruitment process.

3. Express your interest in keeping in touch should opportunities arise and align in the future.

Express that you're interested in keeping in touch in case there are future opportunities that work out better. You never know what the future holds, and they might have your dream job open up down the line. So keep the lines of communication open in case that happens. You want them to keep you in mind and think of you whenever opportunities arise.

4. Follow up with a thank-you email if you’ve declined in person or by phone.

After declining the job offer either in person or by phone, make sure to follow up with a thank-you note by email. You just want to reiterate your points that you appreciate their time and consideration and that you hope to keep in touch going forward. This is just a nice way of truly driving home how appreciative you are so that you show your respect and they keep you in mind for future opportunities.

5. Actually stay in touch.

It's important to stay on good terms with the organization and/or hiring manager because you don't know when your paths might cross again. As we've underscored, it's a great idea to keep the lines of communications open — and don't wait for them to reach out to you. Check-in from time to time. For example, if there's an industry conference coming up, ask if they'll be there and if they're open to grabbing a cup of coffee to catch up.

How do I decline a job offer with a current employer?

If you're working for the company that offers you the new job, you can follow the same protocol for turning down the job offer. It's especially important in this case to stay professional, as you don't want to make the duration of your career with the company awkward. If you handle the situation with professionalism, you won't have to worry about that at all.
So, again, express your appreciation for the company's consideration, give a valid reason as to why you don't want to take the other job (perhaps you're really loving your current role with the company or perhaps you don't want to make a lateral move when you're hoping to move up in your current role soon, etc.), and then let them know that you're still keeping an open mind for future opportunities. You can do the same by following up with an email if you've declined the job offer in person or by phone, again, too.
Whatever you do, keep your words clear and concise. Be respectful. Stay professional. And don’t burn bridges.

AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreportand Facebook.

What's your no. 1 piece of advice for how to gracefully turn down a job offer? Share your answer in the comments to help other Fairygodboss members!