How to turn down a job offer

Even though we are in a recession and so job opportunities are harder to come by, it is important not to leap at the first offer if taking it would force you to compromise yourself further than you are prepared to go.

It ALWAYS pays to talk through the compromises that a job offer represents with someone else, preferably someone who can be more objective than you.

Having decided not to accept, you need to decide how to say NO. In these days of networking, it is vital that you do so in a professional manner that leaves room for a relationship to continue even if you are not going to join their firm, or are being recruited through a third party. You need these people in your network of contacts – you need to be in their mind should a MORE SUITABLE opportunity come up in the future.

So how do you say NO? There are really five key messages to get over:

1 Say how grateful you are for the offer (and mean it!)

2 Let them know how much effort you have put into your decision. It is worthwhile spelling out some of the key factors that attracted you initially. “Your approach to XX was particularly impressive, and I could see how much I would have enjoyed working with the members of your team who were involved in the selection process.”

3 Explain the detailed reasons for your decision. These CAN be directly related to the job as it emerged to you through interviews etc, or it may be something professional, longer-term, or personal.

4 Reiterate that you treat the choice of place to work very seriously and feel that you need to be sure that the role will be one in which you can really excel, and that this particular opportunity therefore didn’t feel right.

5 End your ‘turn down’ in a way that demonstrates openness and a desire to maintain contact. Say that you hope that they will still consider you for other positions, and/or that you hope to meet them in a networking capacity in the future.

If they try to press you to join them, then it’s worth exploring what would need to change to make it a better prospect.

If not, then move them to your list of networking contacts and begin to build the relationship. It amazes me how many people, having turned down a job offer (or simply not making it through to that stage) sever all contact with the recruiter or the company. It is precisely this group of people that you need to embrace in your network.

Best wishes

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One Comment

  1. Great Advice. I followed your 5 steps above just this past week. I had two job offers from great companies but one offer paid significantly more than the other. Since they were both great organizations I wanted to leave the door open with the organization that I did not choose. This was perfect advice as I see myself working for the other organization down the road. Thanks!

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