Job Offer Rejection: Top 10 Dos & Don’ts When Saying “No, Thanks”

job offer rejectionAs challenging as a job search is today, sometimes a job offer rejection is necessary. Perhaps the location or salary is wrong, the people don’t feel like the kind of people you want to work with, or you have already accepted a job somewhere else.

As many job seekers have learned, a million things can cause you to feel a job is not a good fit.

So take these DOs into consideration when you need to see “no, thanks.”

1. Make Sure a Job Offer Rejection is the Right Decision for You

Be careful about turning down job offers. Evaluate carefully, unless you know sure that you don’t want to work for that employer in that job.

2. Keep Communications Formal and Business-like

Even if you really liked the people there and were referred by an employee, don’t call them up, and be friendly and informal. This is a business decision and a business transaction, so the best way to proceed is in a business-like manner.

When you know a job offer rejection is the right thing to do, proceed carefully. Usually, the safest method to use is a written response (usually email these days) in a very short 5-point message described below.

3. Request Time to Make Your Decision, If Necessary

If there’s a possibility you might accept the job, ask for a day or two to consider their offer. Particularly if the salary, location, hours, or job title appeal to you. Give yourself some time to evaluate your options.

4. Ask If Some Parts of the Job Offer are Negotiable

Sometimes, the job offer is only the start of a negotiation process that will result in a more appealing job offer. If there have been no discussions about starting date, salary, and other aspects of the total compensation, this may be the beginning of the negotiations for the “real” job offer.

If they really want to hire you, they may be willing to negotiate some aspects of the job offer, from the starting salary to the number of paid vacation days and tuition reimbursement.

You won’t know unless you ask. So ask.

5. Use This Short, Simple, 5-part Job Offer Rejection

When you know a job offer rejection is necessary, keep it short. Providing too much information (“TMI”) can backfire on you big time, so be very brief in your rejection. You have no obligation to help them understand your decision, even if they ask:

  1. Thank them for the job offer.
  2. Tell them, “regretfully, I must turn down your offer because it isn’t quite right for me at this time” (no details about why it’s not quite right).
  3. Share that you believe you have found a job which is “a better fit for me right now, at this point in my career.” Remember, NO details are required OR helpful in this situation!
  4. Thank them for their time and consideration, and …
  5. Tell them that you enjoyed meeting them and learning more about their organization (even if this isn’t completely true).

That’s it. Short, sweet, and simple. No details and nothing that can come back to bite you later. If they are really interested in your career, they can monitor your LinkedIn Profile to see the job you accepted.

Take note of these 5 Don’ts when you are turning down a job offer:

1. Don’t Reject a Real Offer Because of a Possible/Pending Offer

Don’t turn down a written job offer from Employer A because someone at Employer B said (not in writing) that they want to hire you. That opinion can reflect the response of one interviewer at the end of a great interview, but another candidate may have had an even better interview later. Or, the person who wants to hire you doesn’t make the final decision on who actually receives a job offer.

This is a tough situation, but I’ve seen too many people turn down a real opportunity for one that doesn’t happen. You may be able to share with Employer B that you have received an offer from Employer A (preferably without naming them specifically), but would prefer to work for them. They may believe you and may be able to speed up their process, or they may not.

Verbal job offers aren’t worth the paper they are (not) printed on. A written job offer, for the right job, at the right location, with the right job title, salary, and benefits, is a real job offer.

2. Don’t Drag Out the Process if You Know You Will Reject the Offer

As tempting as it might be to enjoy this situation and to savor the offer for a few days before telling them no thanks, respond promptly if you know a job offer rejection is necessary.

Think about the other job candidates who may be waiting with fingers crossed for this job offer. You will leave the employer with a better impression of you, too. They will appreciate a quick response so they can reach out to the number two candidate before that person moves on, too.

3. Don’t Be Dishonest

Being truthful does NOT mean telling the “whole truth and nothing but the truth.” Don’t feel obligated to create a fake reason why you are turning down the opportunity. This is a business decision (mostly).

The best thing to do is to provide a short version of the truth (see # 5, above).

4. Don’t Share Too Much Information in Your Rejection

You are not obligated to provide any specific reason or any details about why you chose a different job and employer.

If you end up talking with someone over the phone, be extremely careful of what you say! Keep the conversation short and sweet! Use the 5 part job offer rejection above (the 5th DO) as your script. If they are insistent that you provide more information, firmly, but politely, end the call.

The more you say (and the more information you provide), the more complicated the situation can become for you, later.

5. Don’t Burn Any Bridges

Remember that while this employer and opportunity may not be right for you at this point in time, at some point in the future you may want to have a good relationship with this organization and/or these people.

Do not brag in social media about rejecting the offer! You could annoy your new employer, and the rejected organization could respond publicly or just hold a grudge. Plus, you’ll look kind of cheesy and unprofessional to other members of your network. None of those outcomes will be good for your career long-term.

The bottom line? Be professional. Keep the rejection short and detail-free. Stay positive.

You just never know when you might run into these people or this employer again…


For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at Work Coach Cafe.




Susan-P-Joyce-AuthorAbout the Author: Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. A veteran of the United States Marine Corps and a Visiting Scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management since 2012, Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. Since 1998, Susan has been editor and publisher of Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Google+.



This entry was posted in Job Search and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.