How to turn down a job offer?

If you’re still waiting for that elusive job offer this might sound an odd subject for a blog. But, the day will dawn when you have to decide whether or not a job offer is right for you, and the answer might be a no. You don’t want to cause offence. How do you deal with that conversation?

now300The need to turn down a job offer can arise in a number of situations. The way in which you handle your response will vary accordingly. But there is one overriding principle. Get on with it! The conversation doesn’t get easier the longer you leave it. If you delay and cause the employer to lose the chance of securing its next preferred candidate for the role, you’re likely to have caused annoyance.

1. Where you have a number of offers and you can’t take them all.

You presumably like this employer (or you wouldn’t have applied) but you prefer another, or you’ve already accepted another offer which is just as attractive. Here’s a polite formula for turning down the offer:

“Thank you so much, I’ve thought very carefully about this and it has been a very difficult decision but I have decided to accept an offer from x. I have enjoyed meeting you and staff at your offices, thank you for making the application process so pleasant and for giving me this opportunity.”

choice-doors300Expect the follow up “why” question and be ready with your answer. Perhaps there is some feature of the other grad scheme which is more appealing? Maybe the training? The salary, or terms and conditions? The other employer got the offer to you faster? Be ready to be specific.

It’s possible that you might want to work for this employer in the future and this polite and clear rejection shouldn’t impact your future chances. If you’ve impressed through the process, you might well find that the response to this is a suggestion that you get in touch if you’re ever interested again in a job with this organisation.

2. Where, having worked your way through an application process you know this particular job isn’t for you.

grumpy-cat300You might be pretty clear that you’re never going to want to work for this employer, but don’t be rude when you turn down the offer. You might be entering a reasonably small sector where everyone knows everyone else and where recruiters regularly move from one organisation to another. If you handle this with anything less than polite panache and then find (a couple of years down the line) that the recruiter has moved to work for your dream employer, you might have damaged your chances of working there. Follow pretty much the same formula as above when you turn down the offer and find a reasonably anodyne reason for doing so. Definitely avoid the:

“Because everyone I met was rude, the application process was a nightmare and you’ve taken ages to get back to me. I hate the décor in the offices and you can’t offer me any decent work anyway.”

This is not the moment necessarily for transparent honesty!

3. Where the terms of the offer are just not good enough and it’s better to walk away.

This might arise where you have applied to a smaller organisation and have tried to negotiate the offer. If the salary offered isn’t good enough, or you reckon you’re just not going to get any decent training then walking away might be the right thing to do. (Think carefully though whether you could take the job for a while and whether it might support your future career- I think I feel another blog coming on!)

This is probably a time for more honesty;

“Thank you for the opportunity, I’ve enjoyed meeting you and I’ve thought really carefully about the offer but I’m afraid that I simply couldn’t pay rent and travel costs on the salary you’ve offered / I don’t think this post is going to take me in the direction I want for the rest of my career. I’m going to have to turn the offer down at this stage.”

Be ready though for an employer to see this as the last round of your negotiation. What if the salary offer is suddenly improved? Will you accept? If you’ve been less than frank in your answer you might find yourself in real difficulty if a better offer is made.

4. The most difficult situation! Where you’ve already accepted an offer and a better one comes along.

time-to-rethink300This is tough but unfortunately it’s a common occurrence for application processes in different organisations to be “out of synch” with one another. You might find you get an offer from your back up choice of employer while you are still waiting for the dream one to get back to you. What to do? If you can’t negotiate extra time to consider the offer you have, you might decide you have to accept it and “hold it” while you wait for the other process to play out. It’s not a great thing to do but ultimately you’ve got to do what’s right for you. Many students will be in the same position as you and while employers (understandably) complain about those who renege on job acceptances they are likely to have encountered it before.

When the dream offers comes through you need to be prepared to pull out of the job you accepted very quickly. You’re into damage limitation territory – it’s possible you might want to work for the spurned employer in the future. Phone up the recruiter, an email isn’t really good enough. Be apologetic, polite, honest and specific. Why have you chosen (at this late stage) another employer? Be prepared to go into detail. You owe that to an employer which you have inconvenienced!

Some of this is tough but don’t lose sight of the fact that you got a job – even if it was one you didn’t want! For more comment on this read my earlier blog.

A chalk board with consulting text written on it


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s