In this article, we will cover how to write an email rejecting a job you have been offered, potential reasons why you should, and even how to decline a job offer you’ve already accepted.
As much as you may want to accept a job offer, sometimes it’s better to decline if the job just isn’t a good fit for you. The reasons may vary, but the outcome is the same: you need to respond and tell them why.
This may seem unnecessary, but if you want to be perceived as a professional in the job market, you should be courteous and decline the offer officially. This is true even if you’ve already made the mistake of accepting it.
There are many reasons to decline a job offer, not the least of which is that the salary isn’t enough. Your reason is likely to fall under one of the several that we’ve listed below.
This one is pretty straight forward: you had multiple applications sent out and one stood out above the rest as “the one” to take. This could be for reasons of salary, work-life balance, better benefits, or simply more flexibility in how you’re allowed to work, but the end result is the same: you want this job more than any of the others.
Everyone has bills to pay and you’re likely no exception to that. Maybe the salary you’re offered is enough to cover your basic living expenses, but there’s next to nothing left over for savings or leisure and that’s just not enough for you. Or the job may not be enough to cover your living expenses at all.
If you’re currently jobless and on the brink of losing everything, maybe it would be better to accept while you’re looking for something with a more significant income.
A company’s benefits don’t matter if you can’t access them for 6 months or even a year. Whether it’s a 401(k), health insurance, or vacation days, if it takes too long for you to gain access to them, they may as well not be there. Will your employment with the company even survive the waiting period? Depending on the benefits, it could be worth it, but if you don’t expect to be with this particular company long term, it may not be.
Everyone has their “must” list when it comes to a job. Maybe you want to be able to bring your small dog with you to work so you don’t have to leave him at home all day or maybe you need flexible work hours because you have a family. Regardless of what your “must haves” are, if the job you’re being offered won’t allow for it, it may be best to turn it down.
This ultimately depends on how big of a deal breaker you’ve decided this is. Be sure that you’ve discussed these “must haves” with your potential employer ahead of time and get their stance on accommodating you, preferably in writing, before you accept any offer.
If you’re going to start in a particular position, can you advance beyond that and if so, what does that look like? How many spaces above where you’ll start can you possibly move up within that organization before you’re done with advancing there?
Any job you take on should assist in building your professional career and not keep you stagnant in the same position for too long. If they can’t tell you your potential for advancement, it’s time to pass.
Are the dues of the job you’re being offered clearly laid out? Does it seem like everyone runs around doing a little of everything, and there are no specific “assigned tasks”?
If you’re unsure of your role responsibilities and can’t get clarification on them, that’s a red flag. Taking a job where you have no idea what is expected of you is a bad idea and will likely end due to frustration on both ends of the relationship.
Don’t get stuck with a job where your supervisor can assign you tasks that you’re uncomfortable with simply because they didn’t define the job well enough before you were hired.
Does the company offer any training on what you’ll be responsible for? How difficult will it be to learn how to perform your assigned duties if they don't?
If you’re being expected to fill some big shoes in a position, make sure that you’ll have access to training or other general guidance to help you get up to speed. If it’s going to take too long to get familiar with all of your duties or you’ll lack support in getting there, you may want to pass.
Does the company hire and fire a lot? If they do, do they have a reasonable explanation as to why? Some jobs have a high turnover rate naturally, while in other situations it’s the company itself causing it.
It’s not a bad thing to reach out to former employees and find out what their experience was working there before deciding to accept a job offer. You can also get clues as to turnover reasons in your interview by asking why your predecessor left, what the company culture is like, and even why the interviewer has remained with the company as long as they have.
If you don’t like the answers they give, consider passing.
The pay may be great and you may be proficient at your job’s duties, but not fitting in with company culture can be taxing for the best of us. Is the workplace culture traditional or is it more casual and modern? Open concept spaces may work for more casually minded people, but if you value traditional structure, you may not enjoy being in that environment. How much this matters is up to your personal preference, so find out what you can about company culture before accepting a position.
The company’s vision overall may not align with your own personal values. Perhaps the company is too conservative or too liberal for you to feel fully comfortable. Either way, if your personal values and the company’s are at odds, it’s a good reason to decline the offer.
If your interview process isn’t organized very well, that’s a red flag that the rest of the company may not be well organized, either. If the date for your interview has been moved more than once, for example or maybe the person you were supposed to be interviewed by has been switched to someone else.
Look for signs of disorganization and chaos before accepting a job offer. If disorganization is something that grates on your nerves, it’s a solid reason to decline.
Work life balance has become incredibly important over the past decade and is a talking point with almost all interviews today. Does the company’s expectations of your availability line up with what you want? Are you comfortable with answering emails or phone calls after hours or do you want a more clear line between work and home?
Will you be given vacation days only to be discouraged from using them when you want or need to? Does the company allow for flexible work hours so you can deal with family issues as needed?
All of these things should be questions that you ask during your interview and you should have clear responses from the company before proceeding. This is a critical issue, so serious consideration should be given before accepting a job that doesn’t exactly align with your wants or needs here.
Speak to current employees and find out what their current experience with the company is like. Is it a great place to work or is it just okay?
Is your spidey sense tingling and you don’t know why? Sometimes you just can’t put your finger on it and a job offer feels wrong. Take some time and try to figure out what it is that’s making you uncomfortable. If you can figure that out, address the issue with your interviewer when following up with them and make sure you get answers that alleviate your concerns before accepting.
Having to decline a job offer is a normal part of career building and after a few times doing it, it shouldn’t bother you too much. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t handle it with care, however; as with anything written down, you want to be mindful of what you say and how, in case your communication makes it somewhere it shouldn’t.
Here are a few tips on how to politely decline a job offer.
As soon as you realize that the job offer is not for you, you should begin crafting a response letter declining the offer. It’s perfectly fine to use a template, but you should customize it to yourself and the offer that you’re turning down.
Keep in mind that your potential employer may have other candidates in waiting, so you want to issue a response as quickly as possible. This shows professionalism on your part and should anything with the company change in the future, it doesn’t shut the door on that relationship.
When writing your letter, you always want to express appreciation at being considered for the role in the first place.
You don’t have to give a reason for declining a job offer, but depending on why you’re turning it down, it may prevent damaging the relationship with the company.
For example, perhaps the salary negotiated was too low or the work-life balance wasn’t what you require. If this is the case, these are both perfectly valid explanations that should be accepted easily by most companies.
However, if you noticed negative aspects of the company in general, such as disorganization, poor company culture, etc, it can be better to be more vague about why you’re declining their offer.
No matter the reason for declining the job offer, you want to always end your communication with the company positively.
If you need help determining what to write to decline the job offer, here’s a sample email that you may use for this purpose.
Subject Line: Job Offer - [Your Name]
Dear [Interviewer’s Name],
I would like to thank you for the opportunity to interview for [position title] at [company name]. Your time interviewing me was appreciated.
It wasn’t easy for me to come to this decision, but I will have to decline your offer.
[Politely give a reason for declining the offer, even if it’s as vague as not being a good fit for the company].
Once again, I’d like to thank you for being considered for the position. I hope you can find a candidate that will work for you in that position. I wish you well now and in the future.
[Your Contact Information]
Have you realized that you made a mistake and accepted a job offer that you shouldn’t have? It happens and it’s nothing to be ashamed of, but it is a delicate situation that should be handled with care. Regardless of why you now need to decline the offer, you should handle this as promptly as you can.
Subject Line: Job Offer - [Your Name]
Dear [Interviewer’s Name],
I would like to thank you for deciding to hire me on as [position] at [company]. I’ve been happy to work with you in attaining the position and learn more about how the company operates.
I have given the opportunity and position much thought and unfortunately, I will have to rescind my acceptance of the offer. I have accepted a position at another company which I believe is a better fit for my skill set at this time. I’m terribly sorry for any inconvenience this decision may have caused you.
[Give a reason why you’re declining and be polite and professional. Avoid criticizing the company.]
I wish you well now and in your future endeavors.
[Your Contact Information]
Declining a job offer is nearly always a difficult decision when you’re job hunting, as it’s always a decision between doing what’s best for you and not wanting to burn bridges with potential employers. However if it’s done correctly, declining a job offer can be what is best for both parties depending on your reasons for doing it.
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