Applying for a new role always carries some uncertainty.
Labor shortages, The Great Resignation, or a looming recession are just a few factors that make the job market particularly volatile. And even though the number of job openings in the US dropped from 11.3 million in 2022 to 8.8 milion in July 2023, there are still plenty of opportunities you might be seeking.
Plus, your stellar resume and valuable experience can make you a popular applicant. This level of success could create some awkward situations if more than one company extends an offer to you. That means that when you have multiple opportunities on the table, learning how to decline a job offer is an important skill.
Maybe you just invested weeks in a grueling interview process, and though you enjoy the company and its culture, the potential job isn’t the right fit. Or perhaps you’ve been applying rigorously, but your current company just offered a salary adjustment you can’t refuse.
Whatever the case may be, you need to say “No” in a way that maintains a polite and productive relationship with your would-be employers. After all, careers are long, and life is unpredictable — you just might find yourself with an attractive job offer from them in the future or hope to find a mentor amongst their senior staff.
How to politely decline a job offer
You’re searching for remote work and the new job’s hybrid work environment doesn’t align with your lifestyle, or you’ve received two job offers, and while both seem like great opportunities, one suits your current career goals a little more.
No matter the specific reason for turning down a job offer, your career development is in your hands. You know better than anyone what the right job looks like for you.
So, whether you’ve decided to stay in your current position or accept an offer elsewhere, you need to communicate your needs respectfully. Let’s walk through how to politely — and professionally — decline a job offer.
1. Be sure you want to decline
Changing jobs is a big life event — and the decision isn’t always an easy one. The first (and probably most important) step is to make sure you want to say no. There’s rarely wiggle room if you change your mind.
Consider exactly what it means to decline by asking yourself these questions:
- Would your pay or salary significantly increase if you accept?
- Does this company have better compensation, whether that’s more PTO or better benefits?
- How would accepting (or rejecting) impact your mental health and well-being?
- Is workplace flexibility a priority, and does the new company provide unique benefits?
- Would the new job title offer you better career growth opportunities than your current job?
- Do you see yourself growing within your current organization?
- Does your current organization have opportunities for your growth?
- How well do your values align with the new company’s?
Consider writing out all the pros, cons, and factors you need in your life — both personal and professional. Seeing an evaluation on paper might just help you decide whether or not the role is the right fit.
Working one-on-one with a coach can help you overcome indecision if you’re still on the fence. They can guide you through your decision-making process and challenge your thinking in ways you might not have imagined.
2. Show appreciation and gratitude
Being a job seeker can be overwhelming — submitting applications and interviewing is a hefty, time-consuming process. Keep in mind that many folks likely invested a lot of time throughout your interview process, too. Recruiting takes a lot of work, from reviewing cover letters to assembling interview panels and vetting sample projects. The company reaching out is excited about you and eager for you to join the team.
Respect their efforts and lead your declination with a sign of appreciation and gratitude. Make sure you thank the recruiting and hiring teams for their time and thoughtfulness.
It’s never a bad idea to reiterate what you’ve learned from the process. By sharing your gratitude and what you took away from the experience, you signal to the company that, even though things didn’t work out, you really took the opportunity seriously.
3. Keep the door open
Sometimes, timing is everything. You might interview at your dream company for a role that you’re not super excited about. And while the position they offer now isn’t right for you, you could wind up sitting across from the same hiring panel years later with your dream job on the line.
Keep the door open for networking when you decline a job. It’s a good idea to offer to stay connected with the hiring team on LinkedIn, follow the company on social media, and end your communications on a positive note. It’s not too bold to say you’d be interested in future roles that better align with your professional goals (if that’s the case).
When you don’t take a job, look for takeaways you can bring into your next job search. Try to see the process as an opportunity to connect with new people — even if you decline an offer, your paths might cross in the future.
4. Explain your decision
A simple “I’m declining this opportunity” won’t suffice, especially if you want to add the hiring team to your professional network. It’s important to explain your decision.
You should be transparent, but you also don’t need to share details. For example, let’s say you’re declining a role because you’ve received another offer with a better compensation package, flexibility, and professional development opportunities.
It’s good to share that information with a potential employer. But if you have private reasons for saying no — like a sudden change in personal financial circumstances — you can leave the nitty-gritty out of your explanation.
Some companies may not even know their job offers don’t stack up to others in the market without your tangible feedback. They can then use this feedback to adjust their own hiring practices for the better.
Declining a job offer: email examples and templates
If you’ve resolved to decline an offer, the next step is to share your decision by responding to your job offer email. A simple and concise email immediately lets the hiring manager know they must keep the position open and move on to candidates.
Here are three job offer rejection email templates to help craft the perfect message for any scenario:
If the offer doesn’t help you achieve your career goals
Hello [name of the person who made the job offer],
Thank you for the generous offer to work as a [position] for [company]. Meeting the team and learning more about the company has been a genuine pleasure.
Unfortunately, I must decline this opportunity. After careful consideration, I don’t feel that this particular role is the right fit for my career aspirations, [professional goal]. As such, I will be continuing my job search.
I sincerely appreciate your generosity and want to express my gratitude for the time and effort you put into the hiring process. I wish you all the best in finding the right candidate for the role.
If you’re interested in the company but not the role
Hello [name of the person who made the job offer],
Thank you for the generous offer to work as a [position] for [company name]. It’s been a pleasure meeting the team and learning more about the organization and its culture throughout this process.
After careful consideration, I have come to a difficult decision. Unfortunately, I have to decline this opportunity at this time. I deeply admire [company] and would love to one day join the team, but the position itself doesn’t seem like the right fit for my career goals.
I’m hoping to steer my career in the direction of [professional goals]. Should the opportunity arise, I would sincerely appreciate the chance to be considered for a different role in the future role. Please do keep in touch if another position opens up that you think would be a good fit for my skill set and professional aspirations.
Thank you again for the offer. I wish you all the best in finding the right candidate for the position.
If you’ve accepted a better offer
Hello [name of the person who made the job offer],
Thank you for the generous offer to work as a [position] for [company]. I’ve enjoyed learning more about the role, the organization, and the company culture.
After careful consideration, I’ve come to the difficult decision that I must decline this opportunity. My career aspirations are to [realize your professional goals], and I’ve accepted another position that aligns more closely with this path.
I sincerely appreciate your generosity and am grateful for the chance to meet your team. I wish you all the best in finding the right candidate for the role.
How to turn down a job offer when the timing isn’t right
When you show up to work, you arrive as a Whole Person. Your personal circumstances and career choices both contribute to your professional journey — they aren’t mutually exclusive.
Just because you set out to land a new role doesn’t mean you can’t reevaluate if the timing is no longer right. Job search depression is as real as it is daunting, and making a big career change may not turn out to be the right decision for you in the here and now.
Plus, an offer from another company might help your current manager realize how valuable you are to the team, earning you a counteroffer with better compensation or greater clarity on how you can progress in your role.
There’s no shame in admitting an offer doesn’t align with your current needs. Your well-being is far more important than any new title. To turn down an opportunity because of the timing, follow these steps:
- Seek support: Reach out to family, friends, or a mental health professional to address any stress you’re feeling and ask for career advice. Then, engage your work support network, whether it’s a mentor, teammate, or career coach. They can offer insight and feedback to support your decision.
- Be transparent: If you realize the timing isn’t conducive for a career move, communicate your intentions with transparency. You don’t have to divulge personal details — simply saying you’re no longer in the right place to accept the offer is enough. Express gratitude for the relationships you built during the hiring process and wish them luck in their search.
- Maintain connections: Connect with the hiring manager on LinkedIn and show an ongoing interest in the company and its team. If you feel comfortable and reinvigorated, reach out to the hiring manager privately and indicate your readiness for the right opportunity when the timing aligns.
- Emphasize compatibility: In your declination, highlight your transferable skills, values, and career aspirations. Acknowledge the organization’s desire for long-term commitment and growth and show how your future aligns with theirs.
- Explore future opportunities: Stay on the company’s radar by aligning your interests with their objectives. And when a new opportunity comes knocking, make sure you take it (if that’s still what you want).
Your next opportunity is out there
Your career path is yours — and no one else’s. Only you can decide what opportunities are right for you, which is why learning how to decline a job offer is so important.
You should feel proud of yourself for receiving an offer, even if it’s not the right fit for you. After all, the hiring process can be grueling, and you invested serious time and effort into landing the job.
Though it can feel disappointing to realize a position isn’t what you’d imagined, there’s a silver lining. Each application is another opportunity to learn more about what you’re looking for and a step closer to your dream job.