Work Relationships

How to Decline a Job Offer With Class

Written by Peter Jones

You’re job searching and you got an offer. Congratulations, that’s great—no matter how you slice it. Downside? You don’t really want that job. Either you’ve been offered something better, or you’re holding out for a more appropriate opportunity to your skill level and experience.

Whatever the reason, if you need to decline a job offer with politeness and class—and without burning any bridges—here are five steps to follow for a graceful exit:

1. Acknowledge.

Don’t just let the offer letter sit in your inbox—or the offer message in your voicemail. Promptly acknowledge your receipt of the offer, making sure to reiterate your gratitude and sincere appreciation for both the offer and their time and consideration, and confirming timetables. When do they need your decision? Or if they haven’t imposed a deadline, suggest that you’ll get back to them with your answer by a certain (in the very near future) date.

2. Stay in touch.

Keep a line of communication open with you and the recruiter or hiring manager during your deliberation. You never know when a company might be open to negotiate to sweeten the deal for you. Not to mention, ignoring a company that’s just made you a job offer is a great way to look seriously unprofessional and childish. Put on your big girl panties and let them know where you are at.

3. Dot your ‘i’s.

Before you decline offer A (if you’re doing so because you also got offer B), make sure that you’re all finished with the preliminary on-boarding obstacles at job B before declining offer A. And please don’t post on any social media (especially LinkedIn) that you are accepting any offers until you’ve notified all companies you mean to decline and you’re well on your way to bringing in your plants and pictures to the job you are taking.

4. Rip the Band-aid.

The best approach, once you’ve decided, is to get your decline over with as quickly and succinctly as possible. With an email or phone call, give a good brief reason, whatever that reason is. Either you’ve decided it’s not the best time to move/leave your current position/transition to a different role, etc. Or you’ve opted to pursue a position that allows you to be better challenged in one particular area of expertise. Or you’ve simply decided to accept an offer from another company—no further explanation needed unless asked. Elaborate only to the extent that it makes sense in the context of your prior conversations with this company. Remember that any intel you provide will help them in their hiring process and give them greater insight into their own process.

5. Don’t ghost.

Reiterate at this final stage how much you enjoyed meeting the team. You really enjoyed your conversations, yada yada. But why not stay in touch? Just because you declined an offer, provided you did so reasonably and with a certain degree of professionalism and class, there’s no reason at all to go burning any bridges. Connect on LinkedIn to stay abreast of future employment opportunities. Reference a conference you might be attending together as a point of future contact. If none of this makes sense, simply state that the process was a pleasure and you wish them all the best.

About the author

Peter Jones