Salary negotiations are a vital part of any interview process. Unfortunately, you may not be offered a salary as per your expectations. If you’ve negotiated multiple times but didn’t see a better offer coming your way, you should know how to gracefully turn down the job offer.
How To Turn Down A Job Offer
But now, after years of layoffs and hiring freezes, plenty of corporations are starting to increase staffing levels again. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported there were 163,000 jobs added on public and private payrolls last month, which was the biggest gain in five months. Chances are at least some of those newly employed people were offered more than one position and had to decline an offer.
“There are many reasons why a job candidate might have to turn down a job offer–but it can usually be boiled down to three key areas: the money, the work itself, or the people at the company,” says Andy Teach, a corporate veteran and author of From Graduation to Corporation: The Practical Guide to Climbing the Corporate Ladder One Rung at a Time.
Perhaps you learned some unfavorable things about the company’s financials from a reputable source, and you are now hesitating to leave your current situation for an uncertain future, adds Miriam Salpeter, job search coach, owner of Keppie Careers and author of Social Networking for Career Success and 100 Conversations for Career Success.
Marjie Terry, a workplace communication trainer and consultant at Great on the Job, says that you might want to turn down an offer because you received another one at the same time, because you discovered things you didn’t like about the organization or its management as you went through the interview process, or you realized the company isn’t a good cultural fit.
Whatever your reason is for having to turn down an offer, it can be quite uncomfortable, as you are letting down people you’ve presumably been trying to impress throughout the interview process, Terry says. “All along you’re giving the impression that you’d love the opportunity to work at their company and then, when the offer comes through, you sing a different tune,” she says. “This can be very awkward.”
To avoid the awkwardness, you should be as transparent as possible in the interview process about what you really need to make the position acceptable to you. Then, if the offer does not meet your stated requirements, it won’t be a surprise to the potential employer when you decline.
Salpeter agrees. If the organization went out of their way or incurred a lot of expenses in interviewing you, it may be uncomfortable for some people to say no to the job. “If the organization offered everything you asked for, it may be difficult to turn it down. However, it’s important to keep in mind, the interview process is an opportunity for each party to evaluate the other – they wouldn’t feel guilty if they didn’t hire you, so recognize that it is not unreasonable for you to decide the company or job is not right for you.”
It is also up to you to do your research in advance, she says. “For example, if a flexible work schedule is a deal breaker for you, and you wouldn’t take a job unless you could have flexible terms, it is up to you to see if the company’s culture supports that before you interview, if possible,” she adds. “Gauge your needs as early as possible. This helps alleviate some potentially uncomfortable situations.”
Teach believes that the degree of awkwardness in turning down a job offer really depends on how tough of a decision it will be for you. “If you know that the job is not for you for many reasons, turning down their offer probably won’t be too difficult for you,” he says. “If it’s a tough decision for you, and you’ve gone back and forth in your head before making a final decision, the level of discomfort may increase a few notches because you may doubt your own decision about turning down the job.” One main reason for feeling uncomfortable is your fear of how the hiring manager will react. “There could a hostile reaction and that’s not something anyone is looking forward to,” he says.
So if you determine turning down a job is the right decision, the key is to do it tactfully, respectfully, sincerely, and professionally. Put yourself in their shoes, Teach says. What would you want to hear from a candidate who just turned you down and in what tone? “You never know when you may apply for a job with that company again or interview with the same hiring manager, perhaps at another company in the future, so keep this in mind.”
When declining their offer, always tell them how much you appreciate the fact that they chose you over several other job candidates, Teach adds. “Thank them for their offer and then respectfully tell them why you are turning down their offer.”
“If you wait too long, they may miss out on another candidate whom they’re considering and if this is the case, you’ve just burned your bridges with that company,” Teach says. Furthermore, if they rejected you, wouldn’t you want to know as soon as possible so you can move on?
How you communicate your decision says a lot about you. Speaking with them over the phone shows professionalism and class while emailing your decision may give the impression that you’re afraid to speak with them directly and chose the easy way out. “I think the hiring manager will respect you more if you have the guts to talk to them, even though it may be an uncomfortable situation for you,” Teach says. “You can also follow up with a typed letter after your phone call, if you like.”
How to politely decline a job offer
1. Make sure you want to decline the offer
Consider all factors of what it means to say no to the job offer. Would your pay or salary significantly increase? How would accepting (or rejecting) impact your mental health and well-being? What about workplace flexibility, remote, or hybrid work options? Do you see yourself growing within the organization? How well do your values align with the company values?
When I recently evaluated a career change, I wrote out all the pros, cons, and things I needed in my life — both personal and professional. It helped to see an evaluation on paper to be able to decide on whether or not a role was the right fit for me.
You might consider working one-on-one with a coach. A coach can help guide you through your decision-making process and challenge your thinking in ways you might not have imagined. With personalized coaching, you can decide with confidence. After all, a new career brings on a whole new set of challenges and opportunities.
2. Show appreciation and gratitude
Interviewing is a hefty, time-consuming process. It’s likely many folks invested a lot of time throughout your interview process. Recruiting takes a lot of work — from resume and phone screens to interview panels to vetting sample projects. The offering company is excited about you and eager (and hopeful) for you to join the team.
Lead your declination with a sign of appreciation and gratitude. Make sure you thank the recruiting team and the hiring team 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 learnings, you’re signaling to the company that you really took this opportunity seriously.
3. Keep the networking door open
Sometimes, timing is everything. For example, you could interview at your dream company for a role that you’re not super excited about. Or you be keeping your eye out for a different position in another region or location.
Keep that networking door open when you decline an offer. It’s a good idea to offer to stay connected on LinkedIn. You can also reiterate your interest in the company but say the position just wasn’t the right fit. It’s not too bold to say you’d be interested in future roles (if that’s the case) that may be more aligned with XYZ.
4. Explain your decision
A simple “I’m declining this opportunity” won’t suffice. Especially if you’re interested in keeping that networking door open, it’s important to explain your decision. This is particularly true if everything is aligned except for the actual role — new roles may come up.
You can 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 growth opportunities. It’s okay to share that information with the recruiter.
But you may be relocating to a new area to care for a sick family member and need to find a new job. In personal and private career and life decisions, you’re under no obligation to share with a potential employer. At the end of the day, it’s up to you.
In some ways, companies may not even know their job offers aren’t stacking up to others in the market without this tangible feedback. It’s important that companies understand the logical reasoning behind their declinations. By gathering this data, they can actually take the feedback to adjust their own hiring practices.
How to decline an offer: via email or a phone call?
Now that we’ve looked at practical tips for how to reject a job offer through email, you might wonder if you could place a call to let the employer know that you’re declining the offer. While phone calls may seem more personal, you may also run the risk of putting the other person on the spot by expecting an instant response. Emails allow the recipient to respond at ease.
Sometimes it may boil down to personal preference. If you’re uncomfortable calling the hiring manager to deliver this news, there’s no harm in sending an email. Just remember to inform the hiring manager to avoid an unpleasant situation.
Conclusion: How to Reject a Job Offer Politely and Professionally
Declining a job offer is never easy. But sometimes, it is necessary because only you can make the right decision for yourself. Sending a well-structured email response declining the offer will always hold you in good stead. Once you reject the offer, you can focus your energy on preparing for other interviews.
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