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No matter how old we are or how long we’ve been working, we all have questions when it comes to careers—from how to respond to a rejection letter to learning to say no when a role isn’t a good fit. That’s where Career Counselor comes in. In this weekly series, we connect with experts to answer all of your work-related questions. Because while we don’t all have the luxury of a career coach, we still deserve to grow in our careers.
So you've received a job offer—congratulations! However, you are not interested in taking the position. This could be for a variety of reasons. The offer terms could be unsatisfactory, the corporate culture may not be a fit for you, or maybe you got another offer that you like better or are more excited about. Or it could be none of these things. We are currently living in unprecedented stressful times, and maybe you have come to the conclusion that starting a new job is not what's best for your mental health right now. That's perfectly okay, too. When it comes to your career, you're allowed to be choosy. But whatever the reasoning may be, knowing how to reject a job offer is an important skill.
In the United States, 17.3% of job offers—over 1 in 6—are rejected, according to Glassdoor data, meaning it's not as uncommon as you may think. Right now especially, people are taking a good hard look at what they want for themselves and their careers. Plus, there's an added factor about what's realistic in today's workplace landscape (i.e. can you commute to work if your kids are doing virtual school? Will you have the equipment to be able to work remotely?). These factors all might contribute to make you turn down a job. If you need to decline a job offer, here's how to do so politely and respectfully.
HelloGiggles (HG): What is the first thing someone should do when they know they want to turn down a job offer?
“Once you’ve decided you’re going to pass on a job offer, tell the recruiter as soon as possible. The sooner they know you aren’t taking the role, the sooner they can begin reaching out to other top candidates. If possible, only sit on an offer long enough to both weigh the terms of the offer as well as compare it to any other offers you have. If you’re uncomfortable doing it over the phone or video, a short email is fine.”
—Colleen McCreary, career expert and chief people officer at Credit Karma
“When offered the role, take a moment to compose yourself. Then, explain that you are regretfully rejecting their offer. Always approach this in a polite yet professional way, expressing your gratitude for the offer and giving a short explanation. Don’t elaborate too much or hesitate as the employer may try to influence your decision. Although you may find this process difficult, you’ll have peace of mind knowing you are moving onto an exciting new position elsewhere, so don't waste time in reaching out."
—Andrew Fennell, director and career expert at StandOut CV
HG: Can you give an example of how to politely reject a job offer via email?
"When writing an email to a hiring manager to decline a position, provide an appreciation for the offer, be thankful, and, if you're comfortable, give a reason for not being able to accept. Here are some examples of emails you can follow.
Dear [Hiring Manager],
Thank you so much for the generous offer to join your team. As discussed during my interview, I am a big fan of your company and the work that you do. However, after further consideration, I feel this role will not align with my current career goals.
That being said, I have a few connections I think would be great for the role and would be happy to send their contact details to you.
If there's anything else I can send along to you, please let me know.
Dear [Hiring Manager],
Thank you so much for the offer to join your team.
While I'm really grateful for the offer, I'm going to have to decline as the offered salary is below my expectations. I'd ideally like between X and X for my next role as I believe this is in line with industry pay based on my years of experience.
I hope you are able to find a better-suited candidate within your budget and wish your company every success.
—Joanna Zambas, career specialist at CareerAddict
HG: Is it necessary to provide the reason for why you are rejecting the job offer?
“You’re definitely not expected to provide a reason for rejection, but if you do, it helps the organization think better ahead—[or] maybe, if they know the reason, try to contact you back addressing your issue and bring you a better offer.”
—Rolf Bax, HR Manager at resume.io
“I recommend being transparent. There are a number of reasons you may turn down a role— title, salary, the scope of responsibilities, etc.—but regardless of the reason, you should feel free to share why you’re turning it down once you understand the offer. It’s important to note that you’re not obligated to do this, but authenticity to help them find the next candidate is appreciated. For example, if you thought there was anything about the interview process that could have been improved, share that feedback in a constructive way so they can take it into consideration for future interviews.
"And remember, there’s a chance the recruiter comes back and counters, so it’s helpful to prepare a step ahead. For example, if you go back to them and say the salary is too low, they may come back with a different number. In this case, know what your ideal number is so as to not draw out the process."
HG: How can you make sure not to burn the bridge with the company?
"You may offer...to stay in touch, so in case of more suitable job offers in the future they contact you. You can end your email with a line like, ‘Thank you for your time and consideration; best wishes in your continued success, and I hope our paths cross again in the future.’"
“A quick thank you is an easy way to show you appreciated the time and effort put in by the hiring manager. After all, you never know when you’ll cross paths with that recruiter, hiring manager, or the same company down the line! They could hold the keys to your next dream job, so you want to be gracious.
"At the end of the day, a job should meet certain criteria you set for yourself. Whether you’re looking for a certain role, a certain salary, or a certain company, the decision should ultimately be yours. If you need to reject a job offer, just try to do so respectfully."