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Not the Right Fit? How to (Politely) Turn Down a Job Offer 

Not the Right Fit? How to (Politely) Turn Down a Job Offer 

Most top candidates will at some point experience having to turn down a great job offer. However, that doesn’t mean it won’t be a hard conversation. In an ideal world, interviewing for a role helps build your network — even if you end up turning down the offer. So, follow these best practices to handle the situation with professionalism and avoid burning bridges if you decide the role isn’t for you.

What jobseekers should do to turn down a job offer:

1. Communicate your decision

It seems obvious, but some people prefer to avoid awkward conversations, which feel like delivering bad news or disappointing someone. No one likes to be ghosted. So take the time to gracefully turn down the job offer.

2. Show appreciation 

Thank the hiring manager for their time and the offer, of course. They invested energy and resources into getting to know you and offering you a position. Take this as an opportunity to thank them for their consideration. It’s best to keep things positive and professional. You never know where you’ll cross paths again.

3. Keep it short

Recruiters and hiring managers are used to receiving rejections. Don’t overthink how you go about it. Unless there’s a circumstance you feel really deserves explaining, keep it simple to avoid digging yourself an unnecessary hole. This is an opportunity to exercise emotional intelligence.

4. Offer referrals 

If you have friends or colleagues who might be a good fit for the role, it won’t hurt to offer an introduction to them. Because you’ve already received an offer, your referral will be highly valued. By now, you have more insights into the role and skills required than the average referrer. Plus, you’ll make the recruiter’s job easier by widening their talent pool. 

If they’re still accepting applications, you could share the job description on your social media channels, even tagging the recruiter and talking up some of the positives you learned about the company, if you’re comfortable.

5. Be transparent

It might be tempting to circumvent an awkward direct rejection. However, both parties are better off if you tell the truth about why it’s not a fit. You’ll avoid feeling guilty about a white lie and the company will be better able to target the right person for the role. 

If there was a specific element of the job or company that didn’t resonate, consider letting them know. For example, if there was a disconnect between your conversation with the technical sourcer and the hiring manager, it’s important to note. You could say, 

“In my conversation with X, I was optimistic about the growth opportunities in the role. After meeting with the hiring manager, it sounds like the plan is for the position to maintain its level indefinitely. I’ve been an IC for X years, and I’m eager to move into a lead role within the next two years.”

Thoughtful feedback

The more you help them make the recruiting process smoother, the more you’ll preserve the relationships you’ve built.

Think about how you like to receive feedback. Be kind and “read the room.” Present your feedback by trying to be helpful. For example, you could say, 

“I didn’t like X. I thought it was a terrible way to handle it.” Or…

“I think the process would benefit from X. It reduces friction and could make it more efficient.” 

See the difference?

6. Keep in touch

Sure – you probably won’t become best friends with the recruiter or hiring manager from the company you’re turning down. But it doesn’t hurt to add them on LinkedIn and reach out in the future if you find yourself looking for a new role. Particularly for recruiters, having an expansive network of quality candidates never hurts.

What jobseekers should not do to turn down a job offer:

1. Drag it out

It might be tempting to push out the conversation (or email) for a few weeks while you think about how to break the news. However, this strategy won’t do anyone any favors. 

If you’re sure about your decision, let the company know as soon as possible. That way, their search isn’t unnecessarily put on hold. At the same time, getting it out of the way means you won’t have to stress over the pending conversation.

2. Make excuses

Glossing over the real reason you’re rejecting an offer might be easier. For example, you say the salary offer is too low when it’s actually a cultural mismatch. But this won’t win you any brownie points when it comes to your longer-term relationship with your interviewer(s). 

It might be uncomfortable to tell someone you don’t think their cultural values mesh with your own. But knowing what caused you to walk away will help the team find the right fit.

3. Overshare

While providing the company valuable insights on your reasoning may be a good idea, it’s a tricky balance not to overshare. Hiring managers are generally happy enough with a polite and brief rejection. Don’t feel the need to share your life story and every reason behind your ultimate decision.

4. Walk away if there’s room for negotiation

Let’s say you’re thinking about turning down an offer because you have another one with higher pay or better benefits. Consider approaching the company to see if they have any flexibility to make you a better offer

Recruiting a candidate in itself consumes a significant amount of resources. So, you might be surprised how much flexibility the company has when it comes to negotiating a more attractive package.

Professionalism pays off if you must turn down a job offer

While declining a job offer may be uncomfortable, there are ways to go about it respectfully and gracefully. Using these tips will preserve a good relationship with recruiters and hiring managers. You never know when this will come in handy down the line! 

Related: How to Turn Down Other Companies When You’ve Accepted a Job Offer

Looking for job offers from top companies you’ll be thrilled to accept? Use Hired to land your dream role in tech or sales.

Originally written in August 2018. Updated by the Hired Content Team in June 2023.