How to Reject a Job Offer Gracefully

Ticking refuse box

After having applied for job after job after job in your cut-throat job search, you’ve finally managed to bag yourself an offer but it just isn’t quite right for you. Whatever you reason – maybe you’ve received a second offer and you need to let this one down or perhaps you’ve simply realised that the job doesn’t tie in with your career goals – rejecting an offer can be just as hard (if not harder) than a breakup.

So, how do you go about letting the hiring manager down and rejecting a job offer gracefully? And should you call or email them?

This guide will answer all your questions and walk you through the steps you need to take to decline a job offer without burning any bridges in the process. 

1. Don’t Procrastinate

Once you’ve made your decision and you’re 100% certain that you want to turn down the offer, it’s vital that you don’t waste any time and let the hiring manager know immediately. Their time is money, and while you’re procrastinating they could be losing out on another candidate they had their eyes on.

Don’t sit on a decision for days or hold off rejecting the offer because you’re too nervous – unless, of course, you want to earn yourself a black mark next to your name and ruin any chance of making vital contacts in the industry.

2. Keep It Simple

You don’t have to go overboard and make your refusal super emotional (I know I compared it to a breakup, but you’re not actually in a relationship with the hiring manager). You don’t have to be excessive on how great you think the company is. Instead, be polite and keep the rejection letter or email to the point – there’s no need for pages of unnecessary waffle.

3. Show Your Appreciation

It’s important to thank the hiring manager for the opportunity and for their time throughout the interview process. If you have taken a liking to the interviewer, this appreciation will come naturally as you will feel bad about letting them down.

You could choose to thank them for something specific. For example, if you asked a lot of questions to come to your conclusion, you can mention how helpful you found everyone involved in the process and how you really appreciate the time that they spent to explain the role in detail to you.

4. Provide an Explanation

Following on from the previous point, you will naturally need to provide an explanation as to why you are rejecting the role and why you find it unsuitable. The most respectful thing you can do is to not leave the hiring manager in the dark about why you are not willing to work for the company. That said, if your decision is based on the fact that you didn’t like the company culture or the hiring manager, you don’t need to brutally honest about it.

In all other instances, you should be brief but honest. For example, if the reason is because the salary they’re offering is too low for your financial obligations, you can tell them so; they may even come back with a counteroffer. The same applies if the commute will be too long, the role isn’t what you expected or you have been offered a more suitable position that better aligns with your career goals.

Be sure to include aspects of the company you like, though, and how you enjoyed meeting the manager or recruiter in your explanation.

5. Propose to Stay in Touch

If you made a connection with the hiring manager, but the role wasn’t a good fit for you, you can propose to stay in touch with them. Keep the door open by letting them know that you’re still interested in the company if a more suitable role arises. In addition, you can offer a small pleasantry before you sign off by referencing something you discussed or by simply ending your note on: ‘It’s been a pleasure getting to know you, and I hope that we cross paths in the future’.

6. Offer Referrals

As I previously mentioned, some jobs can just be the wrong fit for you – but perfect for someone you know. If you have a reliable contact that is looking for a similar position, let the hiring manager know and put them in contact with your friend. This will generally soften the blow of your refusal.

You could follow the template below when writing up your response:

Dear [Hiring Manager],

Thank you so much for the generous offer to join your team. As discussed, I am a big fan of your company and a follower of its products. 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.

Thanks again,

[Your name]

7. Follow the Style of Your Point of Contact

Has your communication been entirely by email? Or have you been discussing details over the phone? Consider your normal method before choosing how to decline the offer – it might be much easier to decline the offer by email but if you’ve been speaking on the phone, it’s only polite to call before you follow up in writing.

8. Call Them

Deciding whether to accept or decline a role can be an important life decision and the way you deliver your decision can make a world of difference. As Leanne Knight, the senior HR manager at Boots UK, says: ‘In a digital world, sometimes it’s nice to get the personal touch by having a great telephone conversation’.

The following tips will help you deliver the news politely over the phone:

  • Call at a convenient time: Choosing the right time to call is an important first step in this process. You don’t want to ring before they’ve even had a chance to sit down and have their morning coffee, so it’s a good idea to call before lunch or at the end of the day when the hiring manager will be more relaxed and have time to talk to you.
  • Be Thankful: Before you deliver the news of rejection, be sure to thank the hiring manager for their time and the offer. Make sure it’s genuine, though, and doesn’t come across as if you are being fake.
  • Answer any questions you’re asked: After you’ve made it clear that you won’t be accepting the job, you’ll most likely be asked a few questions as to why. Be honest in your response without being rude or offending the company.

9. Send an Email

An email is usually the preferred method of communication when it comes to the hiring process. The below sample can help you form your personalised reply when you are lost for words.

Job offer rejection emailTotalJobs

10. Do it by Letter

A letter is also an appropriate method of notification, especially if it’s a follow-up after a telephone conversation. The below template can give you inspiration for your personal letter.

 Job offer rejection letterWikiJob

Being the bearer of bad news is an uneasy situation but is necessary when you need to decline a job offer. By following this guide, you’ll learn how to do this gracefully without burning any bridges.

Have you had to turn down a job offer before? If so, share your experience with us in the comment section below…