How To Decline A Job Offer Without Being Disrespectful

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"Deal or No Deal" models with briefcases.

Don’t be afraid to say “no deal” to a job offer. You can find other attractive options out there. (Though maybe not this many.)

If you’re struggling to find a job, this headline may make you think: “I wish I had any offers to turn down.”

Well, when you get that offer—and you will!—it, unfortunately, may not be one you want. And that can make what’s supposed to be a happy experience hard to swallow.

Often, people take those frustrations out on the prospective employer. They’re rude to them, don’t return calls, or generally forget that companies in the same industry may talk—about you. To avoid burning any bridges, here’s how to decline a job offer respectfully.

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Step 1: Don’t Procrastinate

This may be an awkward conversation. Many of us don’t like awkward conversations, so we put them off. Get over that fear, and let the company know your decision as soon as possible.

The reality is that people turn down jobs all the time. You are not the first—and you certainly won’t be the last. In fact, three other people may have turned down the same job before you did.

A hiring manager understands that business is business. You won’t upset them by declining their offer. However, you will upset them if you’re not respectful of the company’s time. After all, they may have put everything in motion—from getting your papers to HR to finding someone to train you—and now, they need to find someone else.

Step 2: Be Polite

Even though you’re turning down the job, you should still thank the company for their interest.

Start by saying “I really appreciate this opportunity,” then end by wishing them the best in their future endeavors. This acknowledges the company and the interviewer for the time they put into getting you the offer.

If you’re declining for monetary reasons, don’t take it personally. This is where many people forget their manners. If the salary wasn’t up to par or the benefits package wasn’t great, avoid calling the company cheap. Instead, just tell a nicer version of the truth: “I’m looking for a higher salary” or “I just need more benefits.”

Who knows? They may be willing to negotiate!

Step 3: Answer Their Questions

This ties in with being polite.

If the company really wanted you on board, you may not be off the hook after you say “no thanks.” They’ll probably ask questions to find out why you turned down the job. This could allow them to ease some of your concerns, or it could let them proactively address issues for future applicants.

They’ll likely be happy you pointed out these things, provided you do so respectfully (i.e., don’t call the hiring manager a “jerk you wouldn’t work for in a million years”). But note: If any of these questions get too personal, politely decline to answer them.

Step 4: Put It In Writing

Although phone calls are an ideal, personal way for declining an offer, you may also want to email the company your decision. Simply put, it serves as proof that you turned it down.

It’s not that you would need proof per se. It’s just that if you leave it at just a phone call, the interviewer may forget to jot it down or tell HR. Some companies may also require it in writing due to HR policies.

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At some point or another, you’re probably going to have to turn down a job. If the job’s not a good fit, then it’s that simple. Use this as an opportunity to practice your diplomacy, and keep your decline short and sweet. Who knows? You may reapply at the company in the future, so you’ll want to part ways on good terms.

Have you turned down a job offer before? How’d it go for you?

(Photo: Wikimedia)

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