How to politely decline a job offer – without burning bridges

How to politely decline a job offer – without burning bridges
JobStreet content teamupdated on 15 August, 2023

Knowing how to decline a job offer might improve your chances of landing your dream job. Imagine this: After interviewing for multiple jobs, you receive two job offers in your inbox. One job offer leads to your dream job with better pay, while the other offers the same position as your current job with the same compensation. The former is obviously the better option, but that means rejecting the second job offer.

Turning down a job offer isn't the end of the world – and it doesn’t have to be the end of your relationship with the company. It’s a perfectly normal part of the job hunting process, which is why professionals should learn how to reject a job offer politely.

Based on data, you might have to learn how to turn down a job offer sooner rather than later. According to JobStreet Singapore’s report “What Job Seekers Wish Employers Knew: Unlocking the Future of Recruitment”, 74% of respondents in Singapore receive multiple job offers annually. In a perfect world, you could accept them all. But reality demands that we figure out how to say “no” to a job offer politely if we want to maintain our professional connections.

Factors to consider before saying ‘no’

Compensation and benefits

Salary is the number one reason why Singaporeans reject job offers. According to JobStreet Singapore’s 2022-2023 Outlook Report on Hiring, Compensation, and Benefits, 78% of respondents turned down a job offer because they accepted another one with better salary packages.

Low compensation is a perfectly valid reason to reject a job offer. After all, we have bills to pay and families to feed. Your salary should match your abilities, and should be enough for you to live on.

Company culture and values

Cultural mismatch happens more often than we care to admit. It’s important to learn early on that company culture can make or break your career growth. If your values don’t match the values or culture of a company, there’s no shame in saying “no.” There’s no need to sacrifice your principles for a job.

Work-life balance

Job seekers naturally turn away from companies known for poor work-life balance. According to the “What Job Seekers Wish Employers Knew” report, the Singaporean workforce ranked work-life balance as the top deal breaker when accepting a job offer, right after financial compensation. Singaporeans prioritise finding “a stable job with good work-life balance, so I have time for family, friends, and hobbies.”

Location and commute

Location is becoming a growing priority for Singaporeans. The pandemic normalised remote work and hybrid work, and we aren’t ready to return to office life. Only 21% of Singaporeans would be comfortable returning to the office full-time, based on the same report. Meanwhile, 71% would prefer a hybrid model.

Hiring experience

The hiring experience itself can spell good or bad things for an applicant. Slow replies, unclear instructions, and evasiveness can make applicants lose interest in their job applications. In fact, 55% of Singaporeans would refuse an attractive offer due to negative experiences during recruitment, as per the “What Job Seekers Wish Employers Knew” report.

Job responsibilities and growth opportunities

One valid reason to reject a job offer is when your skills don’t match the job’s responsibilities. Another is when there are too many responsibilities in the first place. According to the “Hiring, Compensation, and Benefits” report, 27% of Singaporean job seekers who rejected job offers did so because they believed the workload would be too difficult – or easy.

The “What Job Seekers Wish Employers Knew” report also found that Singaporean job seekers are interested in job growth, and want to “join a good company and progress to a leadership position.”

Other offers

Because 74% of Singaporeans receive multiple job offers a year, many of these offers are inevitably rejected. If you find yourself privileged enough to have two offers, you'll have to reject the weaker job offer. About 78% of Singaporean respondents in the “Hiring, Compensation, and Benefits” report stated that they rejected a job offer because they got a better one.

Personal and career goals

What is it that you want out of a job? Compensation is one thing, but most job seekers want something else, like growth, promotion, or upskilling. Before rejecting a job offer, confirm that the job will not align with your personal or career goals.


There is a difference between nervousness and doubt. Nervousness can imply excitement for a job offer, but doubt spells trouble. If you have reservations about a position or a company, it might be best to listen to your gut and decline the offer.

Crafting a polite decline message

Woman typing her decline message using her laptop

The best way to reject a job offer is to be as professional as possible. That means ghosting will not work. Neither will a “thanks, but no thanks” breakup text.

Be as gracious as possible in how you phrase your rejection. Be honest, direct, and firm. It’s best to send a written decline via email or a letter, but email is the more efficient method. Sending a letter is a more old-fashioned method, and declining a job offer in person requires scheduling a meeting beforehand.

There are a couple of things to note when writing a polite decline message. The most important one, however, is to keep communication lines open. Avoid burning bridges by explicitly stating that you are open to working or collaborating with them in the future.

“Always leave the door open,” says Jeff Weiss, president of Lesley University and author of the HBR Guide to Negotiating, in an interview with Harvard Business Review. “The people you are dealing with are your potential customers, potential advisors, and perhaps even your future employers. Be respectful.”

How to politely decline an offer

Here are the general steps to declining a job offer:

  1. Make a decision. Once you've weighed all the pros and cons of declining a job offer, settle on a final decision.
  2. Craft your polite decline message. Follow all the tips in this guide to ensure your message is phrased as respectfully as possible.
  3. Determine the medium of communication you're most comfortable with. Most job seekers decline job offers via email, but some are comfortable calling hiring managers.
  4. Inform the hiring manager. The most daunting stage of the process is letting the hiring manager know that you're turning down their offer.
  5. Move on. Accept the better job offer if one is available, or continue your job hunting journey.

What to say when you decline a job offer

In an article in the Harvard Business Review, leadership guru and CEO Jody Glickman came up with a simple formula for polite declining emails:

  1. A gracious thank you
  2. A well-thought-out rationale
  3. Forward momentum

We’ve expanded this to include a few more steps. Here’s how to politely decline a job offer via email.

Show appreciation for the time and effort put into the interview process

First things first: Say thank you. Thank the company for the opportunity, time, and effort they invested in your hiring process. For example, open your email or speech with, “Thank you for this opportunity” or “Thank you for offering me the [Position] at [Company].”

Be honest and direct

State that you are rejecting the offer. Avoid waiting until the last sentence to say that you’re turning them down. This is not the time for suspense. Mention that you’re declining the offer by at least the second paragraph. If it's any longer, it will seem like you’re prolonging the inevitable.

Be respectful and courteous

State your reason for rejecting the offer. Be honest and direct in your explanation. Use positive language that reflects your gratitude. Avoid using words like “however,” “but,” and “unfortunately.”

Keep it concise and professional

Avoid going into too much detail. Let them know only what they need to know. In your bid to justify your reasons, you might fall into the trap of oversharing. To avoid this, keep your email concise, but try not to sound curt. For example, if you’re going through family issues, use general phrases like “due to personal reasons.”

Avoid negative comments or criticism

Avoid using negative language concerning the rejected job offer or the company. Even if their salary package was too low for you, try not to criticise the company or the offer. For example, instead of saying, “The compensation package was insufficient for me,” say “The compensation package would not meet my financial requirement at this time.”

Leave the door open for future opportunities

Offer to keep in touch in the future. Inform the hiring manager that you would be open to hearing from them in the future. You can close your email with, “I hope to hear from you in the future.”

And if you’re up for it, send a thank-you note to the hiring manager or anyone else you worked closely with during your hiring process. This will leave a positive impression.

Examples of decline messages

We’ve shared email templates to decline job offers before, but here are even more examples based on different situations:

Sample decline message for a job that isn't a good fit

Dear [Employer],

Thank you for offering me the [Position] role at [Company]. I appreciate your interest in me and the time and effort you have invested in the hiring process.

After careful consideration, I have decided that this position is not the right fit for me at this time. I apologise for any inconvenience this may cause, and I am grateful for the opportunity to interview for this role.

It was a pleasure meeting with you and learning about [Company]. I wish you success in your efforts to find the perfect candidate for this role and hope we may have the chance to work together in the future.

Best regards,

[Your Name]

Sample decline message for a better offer

Dear [Employer],

Thank you for offering me the [Position] role at [Company]. I appreciate your interest in me and the time and effort you have invested in the hiring process.

After careful consideration, I have decided to accept a position with another company that is a better match for my career goals. I apologise for any inconvenience this may cause, and I am grateful for the opportunity to interview for this role.

It was a pleasure meeting with you and learning about [Company]. I wish you success in your efforts to find the perfect candidate for this role and hope we may have the chance to work together in the future.

Best regards,

[Your Name]

Sample decline message for personal reasons

Dear [Employer],

Thank you for offering me the [Position] role at [Company]. I appreciate your interest in me and the time and effort you have invested in the hiring process.

After careful consideration, I must respectfully decline the offer as the compensation package does not meet my financial requirements at this time. I apologise for any inconvenience this may cause, and I am grateful for the opportunity to interview for this role.

It was a pleasure meeting with you and learning about [Company]. I wish you success in your efforts to find the perfect candidate for this role and hope we may have the chance to work together in the future.

Best regards,

[Your Name]

Communicating your decision to the employer

It’s never easy to reject a person, much less a company, but remember that employers receive rejection letters all the time. Don’t overthink it. Once your decision has been made, move forward with the next steps. Gather your courage, and click “Send”!

The right time and way to decline

The best time to reject a job offer should be within 2-3 business days after receiving the offer. Your decision should be communicated within a respectable time frame. You can respond on the same day you receive an offer if you’re 100% sure, but it might be best to wait a few days so you can properly weigh the pros and cons of the offer.

Once your decision is made, you can communicate your decision via email, call, or even in person. The templates in the above section tackled how to reject a job offer over email, but you might want to decline a job offer over the phone or in person.

Although it can be nerve-racking, rejecting the job offer over the phone is a personal touch that speaks well of your character. Informing them over the phone first will also soften the blow. The best time to call the Human Resources department is around the afternoon or towards the end of the workday. No one wants bad news in the morning!

Rejecting a job offer in person is an even more considerate step. It cements your relationship with the hiring manager, even if you won’t be joining the company. You’ve made yourself memorable to the hiring manager so that if there’s another job opening in the company that suits you, you could be the first one they’d call.

Turning down a job offer in person

A man turning down his job offer personally

Make a lasting impression

Since you’ve rejected their job offer, this might be the last time you encounter this company – at least for a while. Dress appropriately, speak with confidence, and make eye contact. By simply showing up, you’ve already let the hiring manager know how much you appreciate their effort in considering your application.

Prepare a list of things to say beforehand

Prepare a small speech or a list of things you want to mention. Write down what you want to say, so you’re prepared before meeting with the hiring manager. You can even use the email samples above as your template.

Prepare your responses for questions and counter-offers

This will save you from feeling pressured or put on the spot. If they ask you if another company gave you a better offer, prepare yourself to say, “I appreciate your interest, but those details are confidential.” If you’re presented with a counter-offer, you can say, “I appreciate the counter-offer, but my decision is final.”

Send an email after the conversation

After the conversation, you can follow up with an email that puts your polite decline in writing. It also lets you mention anything you forgot to say over the phone.

Coping with rejection and moving on

Rejection, whether it’s from employers or job seekers, is part of the process. Think of it this way: Declining a job offer is just a step towards finding the job most suited for you. The end of one path is the start of another.

For those with another job offer waiting in the sidelines, rejecting an offer isn’t such an impactful event. You have another job offer to move on to. But for those who felt compelled to reject their only job offer, it can be a little trickier to move on.

You might be stuck wondering “What if?” Regret is never a healthy state of mind. Neither is taking things personally. Declining a job offer is not a failure, so there’s no reason to treat it as such.

Maintain a positive attitude and show some resilience. The right job offer is waiting for you somewhere, so take a moment to process things, then continue with your job search. This is a learning experience. Take notes from the job offer you rejected, and apply them as you continue your job search.


One important thing to remember when declining job offers is that employers expect it. It’s a normal part of the hiring process, and although it’s not ideal, it’s expected. As such, you should feel comfortable rejecting job offers if they don’t meet your needs or expectations. So long as you decline job offers politely, with grace and respect, then no bridges need to be burned in the process.

For more career insights, visit JobStreet’s Career Advice page. Continue your job search journey by signing up to JobStreet or updating your profile. Download the JobStreet app now on the App Store or Google Play .

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

  1. Can I decline a job offer after I've already accepted it?
    ⁠Yes, you can. However, there may be consequences if you’ve already signed a contract. The best time to withdraw your job offer acceptance is before you sign a legal document. If you’ve already signed a document, it’s best to read it through carefully to understand the repercussions.
  2. How long should I wait before declining a job offer?
    ⁠The best time frame would be 2–3 days. If you reply too soon, you might seem impulsive. If you reply after a week, you might seem disrespectful.
  3. Should I explain why I'm declining the offer?
    Yes, you should. It would be impolite and disrespectful to not state your reason. You don’t need to go into detail. Keep it short and respectful, but to the point.
  4. How do I decline a job offer without burning bridges?
    Talk to the hiring manager. Show gratitude for their interest, then be honest and clear about your reasons for declining their offer. Don’t ghost a hiring manager just because you want to avoid an awkward conversation. Be professional about this. You could even call them directly, so you can explain over the phone and show your consideration.
  5. What should I do if I change my mind after declining a job offer?
    ⁠Talk to the hiring manager and take accountability. See first if they’d be willing to offer you a job again – but don’t expect it. Changing your mind after declining an offer will make you look impulsive and unreliable, so you’ll have to put in extra effort to be considered again.

Browse top search terms

Did you know many candidates preparing a resume also research their industry by exploring top search terms?
Did you find this helpful?

Subscribe to Career Advice

Get expert career advice delivered to your inbox.
You can cancel emails at any time. By clicking ‘subscribe’ you agree to JobStreet’s Privacy Statement.