Declining a Job Offer? Breaking Up With Your Job on a Good Note

Declining a Job Offer? Breaking Up With Your Job on a Good Note
Jobstreet content teamupdated on 29 March, 2023

So you’ve received a job offer. Congratulations! A company has acknowledged your potential and has invited you to join its workforce.

As a jobseeker, this is terrific news. After all, most jobseekers would send out several resumes to see if a company would bite and give you work. But what if you don’t feel like accepting that one offer? Or what if you receive multiple job offers? Declining a job offer is easier said than done as you may end up burning bridges with employers, which can affect your professional reputation. And while a job offer is a fantastic opportunity, chances are that there are better ones out there, and it’s only logical that you find the best one for your career.

Thankfully, there are ways to turn down that invitation to serve your best interests and those of the recruiters as well. Here are some reminders and tips when declining a job offer. Who knows, you might even gain new career opportunities and build new professional relationships from turning down a rejected job offer.

Research First.

Sometimes, after submitting applications, you may discover things about a company that are incongruous with your values. Perhaps you found a conflict of interest. Or maybe you learned that one of your least favourite professors back at university works there. It can get awkward, especially if you already went through the testing and interviewing steps.

To avoid this situation, make sure to do your research about companies before sending in your resume. It allows you to adopt a more targeted approach and saves precious time and effort.

Things to Remember When Declining a Job Offer

Don’t feel guilty.

First of all, it’s perfectly normal to feel a sense of guilt when planning to decline a job offer. You may feel like you wasted the hiring manager's time and effort. After all, they set up the interview and took the time to get to know you. They chose you among several applicants vying for the same job.

However, try to remember that they are only doing their job and that you’re perfectly qualified for the role, hence the invitation. You might as well decline it now that soldier on unhappily and resign later. Moreover, your application for the job only acknowledges that you believe in the company as a great place to work – you just have different priorities or preferences at this point in your career path.

Express appreciation.

Any hiring manager will have likely experienced dozens of candidates backing out of their application. It's part of the job, but it could still be a frustrating experience screening hundreds of resumes and conducting interview after interview to filter out the best candidates – only to get the cold shoulder after an offer.

What should set you apart is your spirit of gratitude and appreciation. Ascertain that if you ever decline a job offer, do it with the utmost respect. Thank them, and wish their company all the best. This way, the hiring manager is less likely to recall your application negatively.

Act with a sense of urgency.

Are you using the job offer as a placeholder for another potential role? Remember that most job openings are filled quickly, so if you plan on declining a job offer, you should do so with a sense of urgency. The longer you delay telling the hiring manager or recruitment officer, the more you give them false hope that you might just accept the invitation. You’re also stealing precious opportunity cost that the company could have used to pursue another shortlisted candidate.

Sure, being empathetic in this scenario may directly favour the employer more than it would your career. But looking at the bigger picture, showing a sense of sensitivity to the needs of the company casts you in a better light than you seeming insensitive and not informing them of your decision in a timely manner. While job offers typically come with a deadline, it’s only courteous to let HR know as soon as you’ve made a choice.

The best way to communicate your decision is in person. If this is not possible, a phone call will suffice. While you can always send an email, speaking to your interviewer/s directly is always better.

Be transparent.

There's a reason honesty is the best policy. When you decline a job offer, make sure you also state the reason behind your decision, such as the compensation, work setup, or distance from your residence. Explaining your motivation allows the hirer a chance to make a counteroffer, if possible, which can work in your favour.

But not too transparent.

It should go without saying, but remember to give valid reasons while staying polite. Do not insinuate something offensive or mention details you dislike about the company, such as its company culture or office environment. If you received a higher offer of compensation with a different company, you could say something along the lines of, “I am interested in the position and would love to be able to work with you, but I have been offered a higher salary by a different company,” or “I appreciate the job offer, however, I would like to receive more leadership opportunities.”

Don't tell them one reason then tell others a different one. Your industry may be small, and the hirer may discover your inconsistencies. When explaining your motives, start by mentioning something positive about their offer or the company before segueing to why you are declining. Avoid talking about other job offers you're considering.

Stay humble.

Frankly, there may be a case when a job offer might be too unattractive for you to consider. For example, you may feel the compensation and benefits are not enough. While you may not believe that the salary package is not commensurate with your qualifications and expectations, stay humble and down-to-earth. Some companies may not be able to offer huge salaries or fun bonuses, but they may make up for it with fantastic networking opportunities and on-the-ground experience.

If compensation is the only thing keeping you from a yes, try to negotiate. You should also look at the entire offer – not just the salary. Perhaps you get other perks, such as gym memberships, more holidays, complimentary training programmes, and more.

Don’t decline a job offer on a whim.

Whatever you do, don’t be so impulsive as to turn down an invitation on a hunch that you’ll receive a better offer from a different potential employer. There’s no way to determine if this will happen for sure. Don’t be too overconfident. You don’t want to decline a job offer and discover you want it back after not hearing back from another company. To guide you in your decision should you receive two job offers, make sure to evaluate your long-term goals and check which company would be able to help you fulfil these.

Add the hiring manager to your professional network.

If you plan to stick around in the same industry, you might bump elbows with your hiring manager again. It is why declining an offer on a good note is crucial. You may not want to work for one company now, but you might eventually. You don't want things to get awkward the second time around.

Get the hiring manager's card. Add them to your professional social media networks. These efforts show that you value their expertise and experience, and would like to remain in touch. It also confirms that you're not rejecting their company's offer out of spite. It's just not in the cards for you at this point.

Recommend someone for the job.

Being sensitive to the needs of the hiring manager or HR staff will do wonders in upholding and enhancing your professional reputation. Knowing that a position must be filled and that you can't be the one to fill it, consider recommending someone else for the role when declining the job offer. In this way, you’re not only asserting your decision to turn down the offer, but you’re also helping them find a better-suited candidate – perhaps one who actually wants to be there. Although this is by no means your responsibility, recruiters will appreciate your assistance and won’t regard negatively your refusal to accept their job offer.

What If You’ve Already Signed a Contract?

Make sure to have read the contract to the letter before affixing your signature. If you suddenly get cold feet after signing, check the document if there's a grace period for backing out. Most recruiting managers will likely allow you to back out if you haven't officially started. However, bear in mind that this might cast you in a bad light. Make sure you also check the contract for the terms should you not show up and not complete the probation period.

Should you decline a position after saying yes, make sure to have a compelling reason beyond first-day blues. As much as possible, try to explain your grounds professionally.

You can also seek legal advice to check if you can still back out of a contract.

The Bottom Line

Receiving a job offer is an amazing way to kickstart your career in your desired direction. However, as you#SEEKBetteropportunities, part of the journey involves declining other job offers. Just remember to do it politely, respectfully, and professionally so that you don’t burn bridges along the way. We can't overstate the importance of researching the company, its compensation and benefits, as well as the industry before submitting your resume. You can do this with our Explore Careers, which helps you understand the ins and outs of various roles. A little prep can go a long way to avoid any uncomfortable backsies.

Don't worry. So long as your reasons are right, at the end of the day, you’re making a decision that will best work for you and your career. Good luck!

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