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Tips on Declining a Job Offer without Burning Bridges

In today’s job market it’s typical for candidates to apply and interview at multiple companies. If you’re a stellar candidate that leaves a great first impression (which you do if you keep up with our tips!) you may find yourself having to choose between offers. As stressful as this may sound, it is not a bad situation - options are always good!

In this post we provide tips on declining a job offer without burning bridges. The key is to expect that you will cross paths with this company and the hiring team in the future. Acting with this in mind keeps you available for future opportunities at the company, plus industry networks are not as large as you think - you never know who will be hired as your next coworker or boss.

Express Appreciation

Regardless of why you choose not to accept the position, you applied and made the decision to move through the company’s hiring process.  Being offered the job should be a huge confidence booster because it proves you are valuable, plus every interview experience helps you improve your ability to present yourself. Expressing your appreciation for their time and interest is respectful.

Be Honest

So you decided you are declining a job offer; maybe it was because of the environment, maybe it was because of the pay, maybe because the role. Keep your initial explanation high level, but if asked for more information, you should be as honest as possible without offending them or their company.

Pro tip:  Never use salary as an excuse. If you use salary as your reason for not accepting the offer and they respond with a counter, you will burn bridges by continuing to decline.

That said, if salary is the only concern, be honest! There’s always room for negotiation.

Give Them a Call

Regardless of whether you’re doing the rejecting or being rejected, it’s never a fun conversation, but it is part of making decisions. While it’s tempting to avoid any form of confrontation by sending an email, get over your discomfort and pick up the phone. A phone call shows respect and will further differentiate you from the pack. Plan what you want to say in advance, and keep the message short and clear. Rambling in a situation like this is unprofessional, uncomfortable, and disrespectful of the hiring manager’s time.

Plan Your Message

Now let’s practice: State what you are calling about, express your appreciation for the opportunity, and be honest (without sharing TMI) about your reason for declining a job offer. Here are a few examples to help:

Example 1:

I’m calling regarding the job offer for X role. I want you to know that I really enjoyed meeting the team and greatly appreciate the offer. I have decided that I’m really focused on Y and am going to continue looking for a role that fits my long term goals. If any opportunities in that area open up, please keep me in mind.


Example 2:

“Thank you so much for the offer. I really enjoyed meeting you and learning about [insert company name]. It was a tough decision, but I’ve decided to move forward with an offer from company X.  I hope our career paths will cross again in the near future.”


Learn from Your Experiences

All of the tips above are lessons we at Own The Boardroom have learned from our collective experiences. Have you ever declined a job offer? How did you do it? Share with us your own tips and thoughts in the comments. 

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