How to tactfully decline a job offer

Sep 08, 2022

3 mins

How to tactfully decline a job offer
Aglaé Dancette

Fondateur, auteur, rédacteur @Word Shaper

You’re looking for the job of your dreams. You start the application process by sending out your résumé, responding to job offers, attending interviews, and taking phone calls and tests. Then comes the day when you need to make a decision and perhaps even decline an offer. Despite previously being eager to showcase your talents, you’re now a bit baffled about what the next step should be. Don’t worry—we’ve outlined the dos and don’ts of turning down a job.

Ask yourself the right questions

First, don’t rush; take time to reflect. It’s better to weigh up the pros and cons now than to regret your decision later. Finding a job that meets all your criteria is rare, so if you’ve decided to reject a job offer, ask yourself why. Are you sure there’s no room for negotiation when it comes to the drawbacks or that they might not improve over time? The salary offered by employers at the interview stage is often just a starting point, and the role’s responsibilities will probably evolve over time. By digging a little, you’ll usually find that employers are open to discussing many aspects of the job they’re offering.

Know that if you get a bad vibe during an interview, remember that one person doesn’t represent the entire company. Once you’re hired, you may not have any more contact with Robert, the awful human resources director who interviewed you. In a situation like this, it’s a good idea to ask to meet with your boss or the person you’ll be in daily contact with, in order to get a better idea.

If you feel like you need more information or have questions, it’s smart to schedule a second meeting for clarification instead of prematurely turning down a job that might suit you in the long term. Don’t come to a conclusion based on first impressions—consider all your options before making a decision.

Time your response well

When you respond to employers, be considerate of the time they’ve already given you and try to make a decision promptly. However, the hiring process comprises a vast web of dilemmas, negotiations, and conflicts of interest—and all parties want to have the upper hand. Therefore, be mindful of your timing when you respond. If you’re waiting to hear back about interviews with other companies, don’t shoot yourself in the foot by rejecting an offer too soon and then find yourself with no offers at all.

Each situation is different, but informing the employer that you’re being courted by other companies can also be a good way to negotiate aspects of your potential role. So take the time to act wisely while still respecting the employer’s time.

Be honest about the choice you’re facing

There’s nothing wrong with declining a job offer—it can often be the best decision to make during the search for your dream job. Explaining your refusal politely and honestly can be very beneficial. If the employer notes your expectations, requirements, and skills and likes your personality, they may think of you in the future when a more suitable position surfaces. They may also be prepared to share their network with you and connect you with the right people for other opportunities.

To facilitate a positive exchange, opt for direct contact and deliver your refusal over the phone if possible. It’s a nicer, more open way to provide precise reasons and make yourself memorable. To follow up, you can stay in touch by writing to the employer regularly to keep up with any changes to their needs or within the company.

Learning to say “no” and turning down a job that you don’t see yourself doing is a crucial part of the job search. People sometimes feel guilty, change their minds, and are afraid of discussing their refusal with employers at length, but if it’s done with skill and tact, turning down a job that doesn’t suit you is better than accepting the first offer that comes along.

Translated by Kate Lindsmith

Photo: Welcome to the Jungle

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