Change of heart: how to revoke a job offer without burning bridges

Jan 25, 2023

4 mins

Change of heart: how to revoke a job offer without burning bridges
Christine Wilson

Christine is a writer based in Toronto, Canada.

Sometimes the job we thought was the perfect fit, just doesn’t feel right anymore. The high of receiving an offer can often mask your true feelings about a role, leading you to regret your decision after the smoke has cleared. So what do you do? Start a job you don’t actually want and just deal with it? Or, tell the recruiter you’ve had a change of heart?

Revoking a job offer can be triggered by a number of factors: maybe your current job wins you over with a significant promotion upon the news that you’re leaving. Or, the other company you interviewed with—the one you thought was a long shot but went for anyway—also wants you on their team. Perhaps you gave the job description another read, and you start to realize that it’s not the right fit. You’ve already accepted the job offer, but your gut feeling tells you it’s not the right choice. What are your options?

To find out, Natasha Sharma, a Career Coach and DEI Consultant, shares how to appropriately navigate the situation when you no longer want the job you accepted.

Why might you change your mind about a job offer?

A 2019 report from Robert Half Talent Solutions found that as many as 28% of candidates said they accepted a job offer but then backed out. Know that changing your mind about a job offer is a normal part of the job search process and can happen for a number of reasons. Whatever the cause, it’s important to be honest with yourself and the company about why you’re revoking the offer. Doing so will help to avoid any potential negative impact on your professional reputation and relationships.

You’ve received new information

In the aftermath of accepting an offer, you could come across new information about the job or the company that you didn’t know at the time. This could include issues with the company’s culture or reputation, or a change in personal circumstances that makes the job less appealing.

You got a better opportunity

Perhaps you were finishing up other recruitment processes at the same time as receiving this offer, or maybe something else came up in the meantime. Either way, having multiple offers to decide between could lead you to having to rescind your offer. Maybe the other offer is a better fit for your skills and interests, or maybe it provides a higher salary, better benefits, or a more desirable location.

Your career goals don’t match

No matter how many interviews you’ve done and how much research you conducted on the company, sometimes taking a step back after the recruitment process clears things up in our minds. Maybe you realized a little too late that the job you accepted doesn’t actually align with your career aspirations.

Your personal circumstances changed

Whether you’ve suddenly decided to move to Europe or something came up in your family life making it impossible for you to take the job, life happens and situations change. Having to revoke an offer because of your personal circumstances is ok.

Is it bad to revoke a job offer you previously accepted?

Whatever your reasoning, deciding to go back on what you told the recruiter and yourself can be a hard thing to do. You might have to have some tough conversations, and yes, they could be uncomfortable. However, Sharma asserts that it’s not as awkward as you think.

“If the candidate wants to back out, it really is okay,” she says. The only person in charge of your career is you. The company you would have joined would have been investing in you, too, so it’s better they know sooner than later that you’re rescinding your acceptance. You can think of this as a learning opportunity.” While it may feel daunting to have this conversation, if you’re comfortable with your decision it’ll be worth it in the long run.

Although, as with everything in life, there’s always a silver lining. “The good news is it shows you are employable. Where there’s one opportunity, there will be more,” Sharma highlights. She also confirms that it isn’t personal. “Another way to look at it is, it’s just business. Sometimes deals work out, other times they don’t. Try not to let your concerns over what other people will think cloud your judgment when it comes to your career.”

How honest should you be about why you’re changing directions?

Sometimes it feels easier to tell a little white lie rather than reveal the truth, especially if it boils down to a simple conclusion: you don’t want to work there. However, the age-old advice we would have received from our caretakers growing up applies here, too, and that is that honesty is the best policy. “Just be upfront,” says Sharma. “You can say that another opportunity presented itself or that you’re seeking other opportunities, and while it was a tough decision, you’re looking for something better aligned with your career goals.”

Being upfront and transparent with the recruiter is to your advantage. You never know when you might need to reach out in the future, so don’t leave a bad taste in their mouth. “Companies appreciate transparency in the recruitment process, this allows them to find a better fit for them, too,” Sharma explains.

What should you do if you no longer want the job you accepted?

First, be proud of being clear and honest with yourself, rather than simply taking an opportunity because it presented itself. Next time you want to revoke a job offer you accepted, here’s what to remember:

  • It’s not personal. Interviewing goes both ways. It’s more like a business deal than anything else. If you had a rapport with the recruiter or hiring manager, then they will likely have your best interest in mind and want you to do what’s best for you.
  • The earlier the better. Avoid wasting the company’s time—and yours. As soon as you’re sure you won’t be joining them, get in touch. It’s important to remain respectful and not burn any bridges with the recruiter.
  • Be honest. You don’t have to give all the details away, but you can feel okay admitting that you either decided it wasn’t the right fit, or that you’re pursuing another opportunity. There’s no need to come up with an elaborate excuse or, even worse, ghost the employer and never show up.
  • Respond the same way you received the offer. If the offer happened over the phone, you might want to consider following suit with a proper phone call. Otherwise, sending an email is totally acceptable.

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