You’ve landed a job offer but changed your mind. Well, there’s a way of letting the employer down gently and with grace. You never know when you’ll cross paths again.
Having a job offer is a good problem to have. You’re in demand! But maybe you’ve received a much better offer elsewhere (and I’ll talk about that in a moment).
Or you may have seen offputting news about the organisation’s conduct. Like for example, Qantas selling seats on flights that never existed.
If you implement the advice within this guide, you’ll part on good terms. Should another great opportunity arise with the same employer, they’ll remember you for your professionalism.
(Related: How To Tap Into Australia’s Hidden Job Market).
1. Thoroughly Evaluate Your Decision.
Are you sure this is the right call? If the answer to that question is a resounding yes, you can proceed with confidence.
If you still have doubts, reach out to the hiring manager and request some more time.
How To Ask For More Time (Example).
Hi [hiring manager’s name],
Thank you so much for the kind offer for the position of [position name]. I’m carefully reviewing it, and I need a little more time to consider it. If it’s okay with you, please can I respond by the end of the day on [day and date]? I greatly appreciate your patience.
If you have any questions in the meantime, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
How To Weigh Up Pros And Cons.
While weighing up your options, write out a list of pros and cons in a good old-fashioned way. Still, why not go a step further and make it a quantitative process?
When you’ve written down a list of pros and cons, assign a weight to each factor based on its importance to you (on a scale of 1 to 5).
Create a separate column for each job option so you can easily compare. Some factors to consider:
- Will your salary and benefits significantly increase?
- How many hours are you expected to work?
- Will you be working different shift patterns that clash with other commitments?
- Do you have flexible, remote, or hybrid work options?
- Does the company have a track record of progressing internal candidates?
- How well do the company values align with your own?
Add up the totals for each of your respective options; you should have a clearer view of which direction you’re heading in.
2. Consider Whether To Email Or Call The Hiring Team.
Your relationship with the hiring manager will determine whether you respond via email or phone call.
If you’re already well acquainted with them, a phone call might be the best way of delivering the news.
If most of your conversations up to that point have taken place via phone call, emailing might seem like the coward’s way out.
If you call the hiring manager, they’ll appreciate your taking the time to confront the issue and be transparent.
Generally speaking, employees who work for larger organisations are much less connected to the organisation’s overall success, whereas the recruiter in a small business may be a shareholder or an owner.
Medium to large businesses tend to document every aspect of their hiring process to cover them in case of a legal challenge.
If you call them, they’ll likely request that you send an email following this up.
3. Be Prompt In Your Response.
Keeping people waiting is unprofessional, so as soon as you’ve made your mind up, politely decline their offer in a timely manner.
The recruitment team may await your response before contacting other applicants.
Delay too long, and you could inhibit the employer’s chance to hire their second- or third-choice candidate, who may have already accepted jobs elsewhere.
4. Start By Showing Your Appreciation.
Recruitment takes a lot of time and money, so declining a job offer will naturally be a blow to the employer, both financially and operationally.
According to the HR Industry Benchmark Survey in 2021, the average cost of recruiting a new employee in Australia is approximately $23,000. (This includes the hiring process, induction, training, and equipment.)
Being aware of that will give you a sincere appreciation of their efforts. As such, you should always start your response by expressing gratitude.
Saying thank you is a good start, but it’s not enough. Briefly explain why you’re grateful.
How To Show Appreciation (Example).
Thank you for the generous offer for the position of [job title]. I appreciate the [your favourite aspect of the company] and the warm reception I was given during the interview process. Please pass my sincerest thanks to [names of employees], too.
5. Provide A Good Reason Why.
Don’t keep the employer in the dark about why you’ve changed your mind. Your feedback will help them improve their hiring process and benchmark their offering against the competition.
Your reason for declining could be due to:
- Compensation package.
- Work-life balance.
- Job security.
- Development opportunities.
- Job responsibilities.
- Company culture.
You only need to offer a brief explanation. It’s a courtesy to provide a sentence or two.
How To Provide A Reason Why (Example).
After much consideration, I’ve decided to pursue another role that aligns more closely with my long-term career goals and ambitions.
Word choice is key to avoiding offending the hiring manager.
Saying that another company offers a “far superior salary and better development opportunities” can be interpreted to mean that the job you are turning down offers neither of those things.
Soften your language and don’t overly hype up the other job offer.
Telling The Truth, The Whole Truth, And Nothing But…
In some instances, you might not wish to divulge the truth about why you’re declining.
Perhaps you told the hiring manager in your interview that you weren’t motivated by money, but now you’re choosing an offer based on the salary package.
Telling fibs got you in this tangle, so it’s better to come clean rather than bending the truth further.
While this position seems like a great job opportunity, I’ve been offered another role that more readily meets my financial needs. While salary isn’t my only motivator, I can’t disregard the improved quality of life that this would afford my family.
6. Proofread Your Response.
Even the best writers and their team of experienced editors are guilty of overlooking grammatical errors. (If you’ve spotted any in this article, roast me in the comments below!)
For instance, in Harry Potter & The Philosopher’s Stone, the beginning of the story takes place on a “dull, grey Tuesday,” but the 1st November in 1981 was on a Sunday.
Don’t be afraid of asking a trusted friend or family member to cast their eye over it too. Sometimes those errors are invisible to your eyes only.
You can always ask an AI tool like ChatGPT to proofread your email, but it may introduce errors for you. Its default setting is American English, so it will switch words such as “colour” to “color” and “standardised” to “standardized”.
Be sure to prompt the AI tool to proofread in the correct style: British, Australian, Canadian, or American English.
7. Keep The Door Open.
In your email, state your intention that you’d like to stay in touch via LinkedIn.
That way, you’ll stay front of mind for any future opportunities, and the hiring manager will have a more informal way of connecting with you to share updates about the company.
Be sure to engage with their posts by liking, commenting, and sharing their content.
Email Templates To Help You Turn Down A Job Offer.
If you overuse email templates, you’ll make your response sound wooden.
View templates as a framework, the bones of your response. You’ll need to flesh them out, dress them up, and add cosmetic touches.
Here are some useful tips for crafting your response:
- Avoid the use of archaic language. Don’t start an email with “Dear…” for the same reason you wouldn’t end an email with “Have a spiffing day. Cheerio, old sport!” and send it by carrier pigeon.
- Refrain from using colloquialisms like hey, hiya, yo, howdy, and greetings. A simple hi or hello more than suffices.
- Express regret at the difficult decision to turn down their offer. You previously wanted this job, so express this (without labouring the point and being overly emotional). If you sound overly positive about your decision to decline, you may unintentionally come across as arrogant.
- Closing your email by inviting any further questions is a polite way to tie things up.
#1 – If The Salary Is Too Low – Email Example.
Hi [hiring manager’s name],
Thank you so much for the generous offer for [position name]. I wanted to extend my sincere gratitude for your offer. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed learning about [company name], hearing about [mention exciting project or company’s mission], and getting to know [team members’ names] during the interview process.
I regret that I’m unable to pursue this fantastic opportunity. One of the main factors that has swayed my decision is the salary. I’ve been offered another role that more readily meets my family’s financial needs, and I can’t disregard the improved quality of life that this would afford my family.
I’d love to stay connected with you on LinkedIn, and I sincerely hope our paths cross again in the future. Please keep me in mind for any future opportunities.
If you have any further questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
#2 – If The Company Interests You But Not The Role – Email Example.
Hi [hiring manager’s name],
Thank you so much for the generous offer for [position name]. I wanted to extend my sincere gratitude for offering me the position. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed learning about the role and how your employees are empowered to [mention most exciting responsibility of job].
But after careful consideration, it’s with regret that I’m unable to pursue this fantastic opportunity. One of the main factors that has swayed my decision is that the role doesn’t align fully with my current career goals.
I’m looking specifically for a role where I can [mention dream job characteristic]. Out of respect for all the amazing work you’re doing, I can’t in good faith commit to something that my heart is not set on.
I’d love to stay connected with you on LinkedIn, and I sincerely hope our paths cross again in the future. If you have any further questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Good luck in your search for the right candidate.
#3 – If The Timing Isn’t Right – Email Example.
Hi [hiring manager’s name],
Thank you so much for the generous offer for [position name]. I wanted to extend my sincere gratitude for offering me the position. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed learning about your company’s [mention exciting project] and getting to know [mention team members’ names] during the process.
But after further consideration, it’s with regret that I’m unable to pursue this fantastic opportunity. One of the main factors that has swayed my decision is the timing.
Due to [mention reason], I find that I’m spinning a lot of plates right now; and my biggest worry is that if I were to commit myself to this new endeavour, I wouldn’t be able to do so without dropping several plates.
I’d love to stay in touch with you on LinkedIn, and I sincerely hope our paths cross again in the future. If you have any further questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Best wishes for your continued success,
Your Future Career Could Be One Offer Away.
You might not realise this now, but the small ripples created by the decisions you make today can make huge waves.
Twenty or so years from now, when you look back on your career, you’ll realise that many of your successes and highlights came from others holding doors open for you.
Even if it doesn’t feel relevant right now, not burning bridges is a philosophy you should carry throughout your career.
By following the advice in this article, you’ll make a good impression on some pretty influential people.
You’ve nothing to lose by politely turning down a job offer and being courteous, but you’ve got much to gain.
FAQs On Rejecting A Job Offer Gracefully.
Declining a job offer requires careful consideration. Here are some insights on how to tactfully handle one.
Can I Decline A Job Offer After Accepting It?
While it’s frowned upon, it’s perfectly legal to change your mind and respectfully decline a job offer if you haven’t yet signed an employment contract.
You will only be obligated to serve a notice period after signing a contract. Even then, not all employers will require you to serve your notice period, especially when you’ve yet to commence working there.
How Do You Negotiate A Higher Salary After A Counteroffer?
A negotiation is essentially one party’s justification versus another’s.
The employer will always come armed with facts to justify your rate in today’s job market, but it’s up to you to demonstrate your true commercial value and convince them otherwise.
Give specific instances of how you can do things faster, be more productive, close more sales, or how you’ve used your knowledge to unlock cost savings in previous roles.
An employer is looking for a return on their investment. Show them how they’ll get a better ROI when hiring you versus another candidate.
Can The Employer Withdraw Job Offers?
An offer letter is often confused with an employment contract, but an offer is just a proposition to the candidate that has yet to be made legally binding.
Once the candidate accepts the job offer, they’ll be issued an employment contract, which both parties will sign.
Until a contract is signed, while it’s uncommon practice, the employer reserves the right to withdraw an offer.
They may do so due to changes in company direction or if the candidate’s background check reveals inconsistencies.