It seems unlikely in the current economy that you would ever want to decline a job offer. However, this situation can and often does occur.
If you are unhappy in your current job, you are likely to apply for a couple of positions to ensure your escape, rather than apply for one position at a time. Interviews are inevitably spread out, and you might find yourself being offered a position by your second choice while you wait for your preferred employer to interview and get back to you.
This is a potentially awkward situation and one that requires tact and diplomacy to ensure that you don't burn your bridges with a potential future employer.
What not to do
Make sure that you don't do any of the following when rejecting a job offer:
- Leave a telephone message with the receptionist
- Write a short email
- leave a long delay
- Ignore the employer
Thanks but No Thanks
It’s not just a better offer that might find you needing to turn down a job and write a rejection letter. You can also find yourself in this position if your circumstances change or if:
- You accept a job offer but your current employer offers you a more attractive salary and position to encourage you to stay
- You simply change your mind about taking the job. Perhaps the money is not what you were expecting, you didn't like the atmosphere in the company after visiting, or you generally feel, after consideration, that your goals are not aligned.
A Professional 'Dear John'
You can use the rejection letter that you receive from an employer after an unsuccessful interview as a guide. When you are rejected after an interview, usually the letter (or email) is very formal, polite and thankful of your time. Even if there are real negatives, such as the journey being a pain or no opportunity for development, you don't want to mention this in your rejection letter. An employer would never refer to the negatives or point to your lack of experience or poor communication skills - they would simply refer to the 'unusually high volume of high caliber applicants.'
Here is an example of a rejection letter that you can follow:
Thank you for interviewing me and offering me the position of Senior Marketing Assistant at Marketing Ltd.
It was really good to meet your team and find out more about your company. Marketing Ltd is certainly a dynamic and exciting company that I would really like to work for.
After deep consideration I have however decided to accept an offer from an alternative employer. Very soon after I was interviewed by your company, I was offered a position for a similar role in a local company. This would remove the need to commute.
I am very grateful for you for the interview and once again, thank you so much for your time.
Once you have made a firm decision to decline a job offer, write a formal and polite letter, as above, to the interviewer. Make sure you address this letter it to the most senior person on the panel who interviewed you.
In dating and employment, no one likes rejection - you need to you say no to the job in the most positive light and ensure that you remain on good terms.
You never know when you might want to work for, or alongside the employer in future. Keep it polite, professional, thankful and keeping the door open for future employment.