How To Turn Down A Job Offer (And Not Look Like a Fool)

By Mike Simpson

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If you are of the same generation as Jeff and I, you probably remember when actress Sally Field was accepting an Oscar for her role in “Places in the Heart” and she was up on the podium clutching her statue, tears streaming down her cheeks and she said (cringe),

you like me“You like me, you really really like me!”

Well, that’s how it feels when you get multiple offers for a job!  (Minus all of the audience snickering of course…)

Suddenly rather than being one in a sea of a million applicants, you’re the star!

The employers are falling all over themselves begging you to come work with them.

Suddenly you’ve gone from being the eager applicant to the much wanted (and in some cases, coveted) future employee of not one but two or three or…wait, how many jobs were you offered?

Okay superstar, bask for a moment in all this adulation and love, but then remember, there are only so many hours in a day and unless you’re master of space and time and can bounce between dimensions, you’re going to have to turn someone down.

Turning Down A Job Offer

Having to decline a job offer might sound like the dream problem to have, but it can also be incredibly stressful.

Inevitably at one point or another you were trying to impress these people in the hopes of getting a job and now you have to tell them “On second thought, thank you but no thank you.”

Luckily this is the real world and we’re talking about jobs, so don’t think for one minute you’re emotionally scarring someone by not going with them or condemning them to a lifetime of rejection.

This is business, not the Senior Prom.

That being said, there is some protocol you should adhere to in order to maintain not only your professional reputation with these employers, but to ensure that any future dealings you have with them are not colored by your rejection of their offer.

Remember, not all jobs are permanent and you might end up in the applicant pool again and there’s nothing worse than having to repair a burned bridge with a potential employer you dumped harder than a Mack Truck at terminal velocity.

Step 1: Be Prompt

Don’t keep job offers on the line for days on end or waffle back and forth on a decision endlessly.  These are businesses and time is money.

By not taking the job, you’re leaving them with a position that still needs to be filled and the longer it’s open because you’re being indecisive, the ruder it is.

Avoiding the rejection conversation might be a great way to avoid the stress that comes with saying no, but it’s building up resentment on the side of the employer and that can bite you in the butt later on down the road.

Step 2: Be Thankful

The last thing you want to do is make an employer feel as though they wasted their time on you.  Be gracious and grateful but don’t be “over the top”.  Tell them how much you appreciate the time they gave you and that you are so thankful for the opportunity but that you are respectfully declining the offer.

If you are declining a job because you have an offer from another that will pay you more, keep that to yourself. Don’t go into gory details when telling a potential employer no.

Less is more.

Very rarely can you leverage one company against another in the hopes of achieving an even better salary or bonus, so don’t risk alienating a future employer by telling them how much better the other offer is or why you’d rather work for someone else.

Often company hiring managers talk to other managers and word can spread quickly.

Step 3: Look To The Future

Declining a job offer today might actually lead to more work in the future.  When saying no to a job, you can still have a great relationship with the company. By showing that you’re interested in maintaining a positive relationship with them, you’re keeping the door open for possibilities down the road.

MIKE’S TIP: Use this as an opportunity to network as well.  For example, if the job isn’t an exact fit for you but you know someone who is perfect, recommend that person to the hiring manager.

Step:4 Thank You Again!

Remember when you wrote letters to tell the company thank you for the interviews?

Well, it’s time to dust off those pencils and papers again and write them another letter, this time a “turn down job offer letter” (not the official name for it lol).

Taking time to write a personal note saying how much you appreciate the offer again puts you in a class above most applicants.

It tells the employer that you’re invested personally into every aspect of your career and that you pay attention to the details that make up good business.  Keep your letter short, professional and polite.

So there you go.

A gracious “Thank you but not at this time,” followed by an equally gracious thank you letter will help you turn down a job offer without closing the door on future possibilities without hurting anyone’s feelings, burning any bridges, or ruining any Proms.

Step 5: Share this article with your social networks if you enjoyed it!

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