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Advice / Job Search / Job Offer

How to Turn Down a Job Offer but Keep the Door Open

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You interviewed with multiple companies and were surprised to receive not just one, but two job offers. One clearly matches your profile and career goals, while the other is not a bad opportunity, but isn’t as good. Now comes the question: How do you turn down a job offer but keep the door open just in case?

Even if a job opportunity doesn't check all the boxes on your list, it could still be an option for the future. As they say, we never know what tomorrow will bring.

If you find yourself in this position, stress no more. We have some expert advice on how to turn down a job offer you might want later, including examples of what to say (or write).

4 tips on how to respectfully turn down a job offer

You might think that politely saying "no" is enough, but this is actually the bare minimum. The key to rejecting a job opportunity without burning bridges is to communicate this as thoughtfully as possible. Remember it's not just the offer you're turning down, but all the time the recruiter invested in you.

“They need closure in order to maintain a good relationship,” says Eloïse Eonnet, Muse career coach and founder of Eloquence. “It’s critical for them to understand why you have made this decision, especially if you have been telling them for the past three months that you want this job.”

Here are some strategies to approach this situation:

1. Be clear about your reasons

The same way you explained during the interviews why you wanted this job, it's only fair to give a clear explanation as to why it's not the right fit anymore. “Tweak your language accordingly, and make sure to be specific,”says Eonnet. “Specificity will help you build your case.”

For example, instead of saying, “I decided that ABC Firm’s salary of $100K a year is better than what you offered me,” say, “I accepted an offer from another tech company that aligns more with my qualifications and future goals.”

2. Don’t be dismissive

“The wrong way to turn down a job offer is to not give a compelling reason for your decision, and to come off as dismissive by not engaging in conversation,” says Eonnet. In other words, you'll want to show them that you care.

There's no need to list every single detail involved—especially if it's something that won't be nice to say or hear, such as “I didn't like what you said about the company's culture”—but you should demonstrate that you put a lot of thought into it before deciding.

Keep in mind that this is still a professional conversation. So even if you're not going to work for the company at this moment, your behavior and vocabulary matter.

3. Be empathetic

Nobody likes to be rejected, right? Job seekers know well—maybe better than anyone—how bad it feels to get a negative response after truly hoping for a yes. That's why you shouldn't be surprised if the recruiter seems upset when you decline their offer. “Especially if they vouched for you and invested time and resources into getting to know you,” says Eonnet.

So, instead of taking things personally, try to be understanding. “Their feelings will even out if you approach the situation with empathy and respect, and take the time to hear them out as well,” she adds.

For example, you could say something like, "I want to thank you for the offer and apologize in advance for any inconvenience".

4. Consider a phone call

The most effective way to turn down a job offer is to talk directly with the recruiter, says Eonnet. “I always suggest speaking via phone or in person.” This gives space for a more engaged dialogue where both of you can express your thoughts.

We all know that a lot has changed in the last few years, and many companies nowadays conduct most of their hiring processes via emails and virtual meetings. If this is the case, “you should include the reasons why you are not going to move forward with their offer in an official email.”

How to turn down a job offer: email examples

Speaking on how to politely turn down a job offer via email, it's time to see it in action. You don't need to write a super long text, but “be clear that your decision has been made, back it up with your reasons why, and be thankful for their time, energy, and trust,” says Eonnet.

Your email should include:

  • A formal salutation, the same way you'd do in a cover letter;
  • First paragraph where you briefly express your gratitude, and proceed to decline the offer;
  • Second paragraph giving a clear explanation for your decision. If applicable, mention that you're open to negotiate;
  • A closing line thanking the recruiter once again.

If you're the type of person who learns better with examples, here's two good ones on how to write a letter turning down a job offer (and keeping the door open):

Sample #1: You accepted another job offer

Dear Clara Smith,

I want to thank you so much for the offer to work as a sales manager at ABC Firm. I deeply enjoyed meeting you and learning more about such an exciting business. However, after careful deliberation, I made the decision to accept an offer of employment at another sales company.

While I appreciate your offer and would have enjoyed working for ABC Firm, I believe that the position I accepted is more suitable for my professional experience and more in line with my career goals at this moment.

I want to thank you again for taking the time to get to know me and apologize for the inconvenience. I wish you and the sales team at ABC Firm the best of luck, and look forward to crossing paths in the future.


Ana Jones

Sample #2: The salary isn't aligned with your expectations

When the salary offered is below your expectations, you can leave the door open for negotiation. “Unless the employer has specifically said that their offer is the best they can make, always express interest in negotiating,” says Eonnet. “Just make sure you would take the job if they could meet your salary expectations. If not, you will most definitely burn a bridge.”

Dear Clara Smith,

I appreciate you offering me the sales manager position at ABC FIRM. I deeply enjoyed meeting you and learning more about such an exciting business. It was great getting to know the company's culture and values better.

Unfortunately, I will have to decline the offer due to the salary and benefits being below my current expectations. I am open to future conversations about the matter if there is any flexibility in the compensation packaged company ABC FIRM can offer.

Thank you again for the offer and for taking your time to get to know me. I wish you and the sales team at ABC FIRM all the best, and look forward to crossing paths in the future.


Ana Jones

After writing your letter, be sure to proofread it. Remember, every communication with a recruiter or hiring manager should be as professional as possible, even if you're not planning to work together at the moment.