You can only work one full-time job, so if you have several offers on the table, you'll need to turn some of them down. Fortunately, it's easier than you might think. Here's how to decline a job offer while remaining polite and professional – and without burning any bridges in your industry.
Reasons You May Want to Turn Down a Job Offer
From the moment a company first expresses interest and continuing through each job interview, you want to learn everything possible about the role, so you can carefully weigh its pros and cons.
When deciding whether or not to accept an offer, it's helpful to understand the main reasons people turn jobs down.
One of the most common reasons someone rejects a job is because they have a better offer elsewhere. The other company might offer more money, a better culture, increased opportunities, or have many other reasons why they're the better pick for you personally.
The Job Isn't What Your Thought
Intentionally or accidentally, not all job listings explain the position clearly. As you move through the hiring process, you might discover the duties are different from what you want. For example, the job might require extensive travel, or the salary might be based on commission.
The Company Values Differ from Yours
This one is more important than many people think. If the company conducts business in a way you don't like, you likely won't stick around long, even if you accept the role initially. Bad company culture can include fraudulent business practices, a willingness to ignore safety standards or employees who lie and cheat to get ahead.
The Salary Doesn't Meet Your Requirements
Sometimes, candidates can travel quite far in the interview process before salary is discussed. If you wind up with a salary offer below your requirements, and negotiating gets you nowhere, you can walk away. However, only reject a job based on salary if you truly mean it because the chances of a company coming back with a higher offer are practically non-existent.
Tips for Declining a Job Offer
If you decide the job isn't for you, follow these tips when crafting your email or letter (either is usually fine).
Once you know you don't want the job, alert the employer right away. Making them wait around for your decision doesn't help either party. Plus, a long delay on your end can make you look unprofessional, which hurts your chances of working with the company in the future.
Be Direct in Your Messaging
The company doesn't need to hear a million reasons why you didn't pick them or how much you enjoyed every aspect of the interview process. Keep your rejection brief and professional. If applicable, tell them if you've accepted a job elsewhere. Otherwise, just say you don't feel the job is a good fit for you – there's no need to elaborate or say anything negative.
Be Open to Providing Contact Information
If you felt that the company was a good fit, but the role wasn't quite right for you, you can provide your contact information. Encourage them to reach out in the future if a different type of position becomes available. You could wind up expanding your network of contacts within an industry.
Thank the hiring manager and other folks you interacted with during the interview process. Tell them you appreciate their time and interest. If you ever cross paths with anyone again, you want them to remember you as someone friendly and polite (as opposed to someone who trashed their company when rejecting a job offer).
Examples of Both Good and Bad Emails for Turning Down the Position
There's a definite right and wrong way for how to decline a job offer. Here are good and bad examples of what type of email to send.
How to Turn Down a Job Offer Professionally
Subject Line: [Your Name] – [Job Title]
Dear [Hiring Manager / Company Contact]
Thank you for offering me the position of [Job Title]. I appreciate the opportunity, as well as the courtesy and professionalism you all showed me throughout the entire interview process. Unfortunately, I have accepted a position with another company. [Alternately: I have decided the position does not meet my career goals at this time.]
[Optional: Feel free to reach out if other opportunities become available within the company, especially roles with specific characteristics. My contact info is listed below.]
Once again, I want to thank you for the opportunity. Best wishes to the entire team at [company]!
The email is polite, direct, and brief. It conveys that you won't take the job, briefly touches upon why, and leaves the impression that you're gracious, friendly, and professional. In many ways, it's similar to a thank you message sent after an interview, only with less (or no) emphasis on follow-up communication.
How to Reject a Job Offer the WRONG Way
Subject Line: Take this Job and Shove It!
Dear [Hiring Manager / Company Contact]
Unfortunately, the interview process was a complete waste of time, as there is no way I'm accepting this job offer. The duties were completely different from what was stated in the posting, the salary was far too low, and the company's values were offensive.
I recommend you change your hiring processes because nobody in their right mind would want to work for [Company Name]!
Even if the company is truly terrible, this email still does nearly everything wrong regarding how to decline a job offer. It's rude, overly specific, and gives the impression the sender is someone the hiring manager should warn others in the industry to stay far away from.