Asian female woman in her 30s, smiling while talking on a mobile phone and looking at her computer screen

You spent a lot of time tailoring your resume to the job. You may have gone through months of job search, several rounds of interviews and received a job offer. You should be thrilled that you got the job, but you have chosen to decline it.

Declining a job offer takes careful consideration, and there are many reasons why people decline a job offer.

Perhaps the offered salary was too low even after negotiations (go to our salary comparison tool to understand the industry average for your salary), there was a disconnect with your future manager, and you sense that you would not be a good fit with the company culture, or during the discussion, you realise that the actual job does not match the job description you signed up for.

Related: 3 impactful resume templates to guide your resume writing process

Is it unprofessional to decline a job offer? Not at all. In today’s job market that is candidate-driven in some functions, skilled professionals may have more job opportunities, and it is widely accepted that job seekers might turn down a role.

Depending on your industry and sector, you might even receive multiple job offers. In fact, a recent survey by Gartner found that nearly 50% of job seekers are considering at least two job offers simultaneously.

Turning down a job offer takes tact and grace

Declining a job offer is a difficult decision. A big decision. It is natural to feel nervous about turning it down. It almost feels like you are breaking a promise or not holding up your end of a deal you made when you first applied for the job.

The reality is employers know that candidates may not accept a job offer even if they interviewed hard for it. If you still feel bad, think of it this way: Like the way hiring managers turn down applicants, job seekers also have the right to turn down job offers.

Declining a job offer will not burn bridges. You need to do it in a respectful and professional way that would not damage any work relationships with the organisation in the future. Ahead, you'll find tips on just how to decline a job offer.

Related: 10 common job interview questions in Hong Kong

Be prompt when turning down the job offer

First and foremost, you need to act quickly and inform the hiring manager or recruiter as soon as you have decided to decline the job offer.

Taking your time to update the employer of your decision is likely to create an inconvenience. This is because the hiring team may have other potential candidates lined up in the event you decline their offer.

Also, this will not do you any favours in maintaining a good relationship if you do like the company and hope to work there in the future.

Consider the medium: Should you email or call the hiring manager to decline a job offer?

Although sending an email to turn down a job offer is acceptable, speaking to the hiring manager or recruiter directly over the phone makes a more considerate way of turning down the job. A phone call also offers a more personal touch.

After all, this person has invested much time with you through the interview process and is probably looking forward to having you on their team. If you want to call but are worried you would get stuck during the call, write down what you want to say and use your notes to keep you focused.

If you cannot get them on the phone, send an email immediately to avoid delaying the hiring process further. You could add in your letter that you didn’t manage to catch them for a phone call and have to email.

Related: 6 performance and career progression secrets they don’t teach you at school

Give a good reason why you are turning down a job offer

here are the steps to follow to turn down a job offer

You do not have to give the hiring team or recruiter a complete account of why you are turning down the job offer.

You need not provide a specific reason, and the reason need not be the whole truth (for instance, there is no need to say you don’t connect with the hiring manager, or that you do not appreciate their company culture).

At the same time, to decline a job offer politely, you do not want to say too little, or anything negative as you should take this opportunity to preserve the relationship for the future.

Start with a note of appreciation

In your email or call, start with a thank-you note like:

“Thank you very much for offering me the opportunity to work at [Company] as [Job Title].”

“Thank you for your generous offer and the opportunity to work at [Company] as [Job Title].”

7 example job rejection responses to give when turning down a job offer

Follow with a brief explanation of why you have to decline a job offer. Here are some examples of how to explain your reason:

  1. “After careful consideration, I’ve accepted a position at another company.”
  2. “After much consideration, I’ve decided to decline your job offer to focus on roles that are more in line with my current career goals and the work I was hoping to do.”
  3. “I sincerely appreciate you taking the time to discuss salary expectations with me. Ultimately, I will have to decline this role/job offer as the salary is too far outside my expectations to leave my current position.”
  4. “After much deliberation, I will not be accepting the job offer, as it is not the right fit for my long-term career goals.”
  5. “After much consideration, I have decided to pursue another role that will offer me more opportunities to pursue my interests in [insert interest] and [insert interest].”
  6. “Unfortunately, I have decided not to accept the position, as it isn’t a good fit for me at this time.”
  7. “While this position seems like a great opportunity, I’ve decided that now is not the best time to leave my current position.” 

How to end your call or email when declining a job offer

Finish your conversation or email with a thank you note and some pleasantries. You want the hiring manager to know that you appreciated their time.

And again, you do not want to burn any bridges as you may not know when your paths will cross again, especially if your industry is small.

So end your call or email with something like this, “Again, I sincerely appreciate you taking the time to interview me and for offering me this role. I wish you all the best in finding someone suitable for the position. It’s been a pleasure getting to know you, and I hope that we cross paths in the future.”

Related: Resignation letter templates [2022 Update]

How to maintain a good relationship with a company after rejecting their job offer

Turning down a job offer is intimidating but can be handled with professionalism and grace. Keep in mind that a role that is not quite the right fit for you will only lead to resentment and unhappiness in the long run.

Follow the steps above, and you will be able to decline a job opportunity and still maintain a relationship with the company. If you want to remain in the company's good graces for future job opportunities, you could stay in touch.

One way is to add the individual who interviewed you on LinkedIn. This way, this person will be updated on your achievements and career developments.

By doing this, you would, to some extent, remain top-of-mind for the company when a job opportunity at that company comes up. 

Looking for a great job opportunity? Browse our latest jobs, submit your CV or get in touch with a Michael Page consultant to discuss roles in your field.

Read more:
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