Proper Etiquette for Declining a Job Offer

by Jill Leviticus

It’s always flattering to receive a job offer, but sometimes the job or the compensation just doesn't meet your expectations. Declining a job offer requires a certain amount of sensitivity and diplomacy. After all, you don’t want to alienate someone who might one day make hiring decisions for another company.

Call Promptly

The company is expecting to hear good news from you, so the sooner you can decline the offer, the sooner the company can extend the offer to the runner-up for the position. Although telling HR or the hiring manager that you don’t want to work for the company may be uncomfortable, you won’t win points by putting it off. Make calling the company your first choice. If you absolutely don’t think you can handle a telephone conversation, send an email or letter explaining your decision.

Offer Thanks

Thank the HR representative or hiring manager for the chance to interview with the company. After all, the interview process helped you realize that the job just isn’t right for you. Offer a compliment, if it's genuine, but don’t bother with an insincere remark. Let the representative or manager know that you’ve decided not to accept the job after much thought and wanted to let him know as soon as possible.

Explain Your Reason

Although it would be nice if the representative just accepted your declination without question, he probably will want to know why you made the decision. This isn't the time for brutal honesty. You never know when you’ll work with or for this person in the future, and you don’t want to insult or belittle him. You might have thought the supervisor was arrogant or that the job was boring and unchallenging, but you don’t have to share this information. The Harvard Business Review suggests mentioning that you weren’t a good cultural fit or that you need a job that will provide experience in a certain area in order to meet your career goals.

Conclude the Conversation

Thank the HR representative or hiring manager again at the end of the call. If you'd like to work for the company in another capacity, mention that you hope the company will consider you for other positions. If you interviewed with several employees or managers, send emails or letters to all of them expressing your gratitude and mentioning that although you didn’t accept the position, you appreciated the time they took to tell you about the job and the company.

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