Job offers can range from jump-out-of-your-chair-and-call-your-mom exciting to start-venting-to-the-group-text insulting. But regardless, you still need to respond.
Of course, it’s easier to reply to a job offer if you’re delivering positive news or just asking for more details or more time. But turning one down is a different story.
Whether you’re faced with an offer that you’d never accept in a million years or one that you’d consider (if not for the other, better offer you also received), here’s how to craft a gracious “thanks but no thanks.”
How to politely turn down a job offer without burning any bridges
Follow these steps to craft your email:
Step 1: Show your appreciation.
First and foremost, it’s important to thank the hiring manager for the offer and for their time. Yes, interviewing potential candidates is part of the job, but this person likely spent several hours reading your resume, trolling your social media profiles, and sitting down with you for interviews. They also may have gone out on a limb to talk you up to other people at the company.
So a heartfelt—and specific—thank you for that time and effort will go a long way. For example:
- Thank you so much for the offer for the marketing manager position. I so appreciate you taking the time to consider me and for answering so many of my questions about the company and role.
- Thank you again for the interview last week—it was great to meet the team and see the offices. I enjoyed learning about the operations director position, and I appreciate this generous offer.
Step 2: Give a good, brief reason.
Especially if you’ve spent a lot of time interviewing or the job offer is from a company you’d consider working for in the future, it’s right and respectful to not leave a hiring manager in the dark about why you’re declining the position. That said, there’s also no need to go into detail about the red flags you saw in your would-be boss, spill about the amazing perks at the job you did accept, or moan that you’ve spent the past week agonizing over your decision.
The best approach is to be brief but honest about your specific reason for not accepting the position, saying something like:
- After careful consideration, I’ve decided to accept a position at another company.
- After much thought, I’ve decided that now is not the best time to leave my current position.
- While this position seems like a great opportunity, I have decided to pursue another role that will offer me more opportunities to pursue my interests in marketing and social media.
You can elaborate to the extent that it makes sense—for example, at one point, I had been referred to a company by a friend and gone through three interviews before getting an offer and felt that I owed the hiring team a thorough explanation. I expressed how much I enjoyed getting to know the group and why the position was so interesting to me, but shared that I had another offer that would ultimately point me more in the direction of my career goals.
But if the position seems terrible and the only real reason you have is that you’d rather stand in an unemployment line than accept it, a simple, “It’s not quite the right fit for my career goals at this time” will suffice.
Step 3: Stay in touch.
The working world—especially in certain industries—can be surprisingly small. So offering some small pleasantries before you sign off is always a good idea. If you can reference something you discussed, like an event or conference you’re both attending, do so. Otherwise, you can make a simple mention that you wish this person all the best in the future.
- I hope to see you next month at the conference we’re both attending.
- It’s been a pleasure getting to know you, and I hope that we cross paths in the future.
- Again, thank you for your time and support, and I wish you all the best.
Email examples for turning down a job offer:
Here’s what this advice might look like all together:
Email example if you decided to accept a different offer
Thank you so much for the generous offer to join your team. As we discussed, I’ve admired the company for a number of years, and am a proud endorser of its products. However, after further consideration of where I currently am in my career, I’ve decided to accept an offer at another company.
I would love to stay in touch via LinkedIn and have already started following you on Twitter. Again, thank you so much for your time and consideration.
Email example if the role or offer isn’t the right for you
Thank you so much for taking the time to meet with me over the last few weeks. It was a pleasure to learn more about all the great work you and the team are up to at Company Inc.
While I’m flattered to receive such a great offer from your team, I’ve decided to pursue a role that has more of a focus on writing than editing. So I will unfortunately have to decline. It’s been terrific to get to know you and the team, and I wish you all the best.
Email example if you’ve decided to stay at your current job
Thank you again for offering me the software development role on your team. I appreciate you all taking the time to interview me and answer my questions about the job and the company. After a lot of consideration, I’ve decided that this isn’t a good time for me to leave my current position. I hope we can stay in touch and that I might have the pleasure of working with you in the future.
Tips for turning down a job offer
Here are a few more things to think about as you write your email—especially if this is a situation where you’d really like to keep communication lines open.
- Respond promptly once you’ve made your decision to let the employer continue their search as quickly as possible. The tendency to procrastinate difficult communications is human, but this isn’t the time to give in.
- Offer referrals if you have them, especially in the case that you really think the company is awesome. You might say something like: “That being said, I have a few connections I think would be great for the role and would be happy to send their information along to you.”
- Keep your email short and sweet. There’s no need to justify your decision at length or heap excessive praise on the company. Just rip off the Band-Aid fast and hit send.
- Consider a phone call if it feels appropriate in your situation. Instead of breaking the news via email, use that email to set up a quick call at the hiring manager’s convenience and have the conversation live—particularly if you already had or have developed a rapport with the hiring manager.
Turning down a job offer—no matter how sure you are that you don't want it—never feels great. But sometimes it’s worth waiting it out for the right job, and not just one that happens to be available. Take a deep breath and don’t forget that you’re dealing with this because you’re great and people want to hire you.
Adrian Granzella Larssen, Richard Moy, and Regina Borsellino contributed writing, reporting, and/or advice to this article.