How to Turn Down a Job Offer - Sample Emails [2020 Updated]

how to turn down a job offer

Turning down a job offer can be a strenuous and difficult thing to execute, especially for recent graduates or those who have only had a few jobs.

You can be stressed about what to do, often seeking advice from others. But if you are contemplating turning down a job offer, this guide has everything you need to know in order to make the best decision for yourself and do so in a professional manner.

Let’s get started.

When Do I Personally Know I Should Decline A Job Offer

Knowing when to decline a job offer is a tricky task. It will require you to spend some time contemplating what feels right and what feels not-so-right with the job opportunity. For example, if you are hesitating in jumping right in with the company, that’s an indicator.

There’s a variety of indicators that should tell you that you’re not willing to commit to the company. And when those indicators start to stack up, that’s when you know it’s time to decline the job offer that you received and move on.

For example, some of those indicators are:

Any of those above are common and also key indicators that should let you know to decline the job offer for now and potentially revisit it later. Declining a job offer professionally will always leave the door open for future opportunities at the same company.

how to turn down a job offer

When Should I Decline A Job Offer

Knowing when to decline a job offer is really important. After you’ve decided that you’re going to decline it, you need to know when the right time is. For the most part, the sooner that you can let the employer know, the better. It is a professional courtesy. The longer you wait, the more the HR team is going to find you unprofessional and potentially abusing any extension they might have given you on the job offer.

If you received a job offer and haven’t responded yes or no within the next 3-5 business days, it is too long. You can absolutely ask for an extension on the job offer if you need more time. But that might not mean that your employer is willing to do so. Or that the ask for the extension won’t make you look uncommitted to the opportunity. These are the risks that you have to take when asking for an extension.

Remember, declining the opportunity as soon as you know it’s not the right fit is the best route. Never keep the employer waiting for longer than 3-5 business days.

Related: How To Ask For An Extension On A Job Offer: Full Guide

Steps To Decline A Job Offer

The steps for how to turn down a job offer are simple. They are:

These things should be communicated by email, a letter or sometimes by a phone call. Though, most of us won’t be willing to make the phone call. Instead, a nicely written email should be able to do the trick.

How Do You Politely Decline A Job Offer?

The best way to be polite about declining a job offer is to simply be sincere. The more that you can express your gratitude or express the fact that you hold the company in a very high regard, the better off it will be.

It’s important to remember that even though you’d like to be polite in your job decline, employers can sometimes be turned off by the fact that you declined their offer. This is natural, it happens. But it is a short-lived moment.

An example email body of being extremely polite looks like this:

I want you to know it was a very difficult decision for me. I truly hold [Company] in the highest regard. I have the highest of respect for the talent your team has. I spent hours speaking with family helping guide me in making my decision.

Can I Turn Down A Job Offer While On Unemployment?

This can be a tricky thing for the manager. The short and skinny of this is that if you are offered a job and you decline it, it must be because the job was not considered “suitable employment.” This means, if you are currently on unemployment and applied for a job that you’ve had prior experience in, most likely the position will be for something that you DO have suitable employment for. You should consult an attorney if you feel as though you are concerned about how this might affect any unemployment benefits that you are currently collecting.

Can I Turn Down A Job Offer After Accepting It?

Turning down a job offer after accepting it is definitely possible. Though it isn’t advised. In most instances, those who are turning down a job offer after they accepted it should probably have turned down the job offer, to begin with. That’s because they could have felt as though the salary wasn’t high enough or that the job wasn’t the right fit.

If you refer to our notes on when you know you should decline a job offer, you’ll be more aware of the indicators that you should decline the job sooner.

If you are currently in this position, there are ways to get out of it. But for the most part, the employer that hired you isn’t going to hold you in the highest regard. If you’d like to learn how to decline a job offer after you’ve accepted it, read our full guide here.

Related: How To Decline A Job Offer After Accepting (With Sample Email)

4 Best Sample Email Subject Lines To Decline A Job Offer

Below are some of the best email subject lines that you can use when you are sending your job offer decline letter. When you do this, be sure that you are sending it only to the person that you have been interviewing with or speaking with most frequently.

3 Best Sample Emails To Use To Decline A Job Offer

Below are sample emails that you copy and paste directly into your email client in order to help you alleviate some of the stress that piles up when you are feeling like you need to decline a job offer.

Example one

Dear [Name] —

I want to thank you for all the time that you’ve spent with me. Meeting you and your team to speak about [Company] was an absolute pleasure. I really hold all of you in high regard.

At this time, I’ve decided that another opportunity is a better fit for me and my career path. I want you to know this was a very difficult decision.

I hope we can stay in touch and speak about future opportunities.

Thank you so much,
[Your name]

Example two

Dear [Name] —

This is regarding the wonderful job offer that I received from [Company]. It was a very difficult decision for me to make but I have decided that another opportunity is a better fit.

I hold [Company] in very high regard and the have a dear amount of respect for the whole team.

Thank you so much,
[Your name]

Example three

Hi [Name] —

This was such a difficult decision for me to make. I spent a long time meditating on the opportunity that you put in front of me. It is such a great one. But after a lot of consideration on my career path, I’ve chosen another route. I want to thank you for all the time you and the team put forth. And I hope we can stay connected and speak about future job opportunities that may come up later down the road.

Thank so much for everything,
[Your name]

Job Rejection FAQ's

Below are some common questions job seekers have when it comes to turning down a job offer.

Can you tell me how to turn down a job offer when I have a job offer letter in hand?

The process is the same as the above. If you have a job offer letter, simply act quickly and be sure to express gratitude to your hiring manager and pull yourself out of the recruitment process early.

Should I write a job rejection letter?

An email should be sufficient. Many HR departments will not require a formal letter.

Will this hurt my personal or professional reputation?

As long as you handle the situation with professionalism, it should not. This is common, to either pull yourself out of the recruitment process or simply decline the job offer altogether.

What if I decided to accept the job offer?

If you already decided to accept the job offer, then you should refer to our guide on how to turn down a job offer after accepting. It is also very common to turn down a job offer even after you have decided to accept it.

Is turning down the job offer due to the company's culture a good reason?

It certainly can be. But you may only want to include that in your reasoning in special circumstances. Though, if you really want to be honest with your hiring manager, then you can say, "I've decided the company's culture isn't what I'm seeking right now" and use that as your reasoning.

Will this hurt my job hunt?

Only if you turn down the job offer in a negative or rude manner. You never know the professional network that your hiring manager is connected with. And you don't want to risk rumors spreading about your demeanor.

What should I do if I have multiple job offers?

As a job seeker, this is a great problem to have. Try to think through which one has a better job offer. Are there benefits that you appreciate or need? For example, having kids and needing good health insurance? Maybe one has a low salary and the other doesn't. Or maybe one has a low salary but aligns with your career goals more. Be sure to consider all angles before you decide to turn down one offer over the other.

Should I mention that the other job offer I had is simply a better opportunity for me?

You can say something like, "There is a better opportunity for me with X company" but it's best not to go too in-depth with it. For example, saying that the other offer is your dream job or something like that. Avoid things like comparing company culture or using another job offer to continue your salary negotiation. Just decide what's best for you and then go with the better opportunity.

What if no job offer I got is right for me?

Then continue your job search. You won't really know if a job is a perfect fit for you until you receive an offer letter. At the very least, you get more comfortable with the interview process or hiring process, and this develops your skills more as a job candidate. More time with a hiring manager or recruiter is always a good thing. Wait until you receive a better offer that you feel is a good fit for both your personal life and professional life.

What if decide I don't want to leave my current job?

Did you already give notice as an employee? Ideally, you did not. But if you did, you should speak with your supervisor and be honest and open about the fact that you did an interview at other companies but realized how great your current role is and this is the right job for you. You'll need to be empathetic and apologetic in order to overturn your resignation.

author: patrick algrim
About the author

Patrick Algrim is an experienced executive who has spent a number of years in Silicon Valley hiring and coaching some of the world’s most valuable technology teams. Patrick has been a source for Human Resources and career related insights for Forbes, Glassdoor, Entrepreneur, Recruiter.com, SparkHire, and many more.

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