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Whatever method you choose for declining a job offer should convince the hiring manager that she did make a good initial choice by giving you an interview. Depending on how the hiring process develops, you may need to respond by phone, email, or letter, or in person. For many candidates, this task is a daunting one. However, with common sense and care, it's possible to craft a graceful reply that does not damage your professional reputation.
Decline by Phone
Call the interviewer as soon as you decide, which shows you've got guts. Thank her for the opportunity and share specific things you liked about the company or the interviewing process, says Marjie Terry, a workplace communication trainer interviewed for Forbes magazine's August 2012 article, "How to Turn Down a Job Offer." Offer a succinct rationale for your rejection. For example, if salaries or benefits were the issue, say so. If the job didn't seem like a good fit, ask to be kept in mind for consideration when a better one turns up.
Decline by Email
Strike a businesslike tone in responding by email. State your reason for writing in the subject line, such as, "Our Interview of X Date." Reference your meeting and phone call with the interviewer. Then specify your reason for declining by saying, "Thanks for your offer, but I've taken a position at Company X that better fits my needs." If you didn't spend much time with the interviewer, this approach will suffice. Otherwise, include a sentence or two outlining whatever logistical or technical reasons affected your decision, and thank her for her time.
Decline by Letter
Phrase written rejections in three to five sentences. State the position you were offered, followed by your decision to decline, advises guidelines posted by the University of California San Francisco's career office. For example, you might say something like, "Thanks for your telephone call and letter offering Position X with Company Y. While I appreciate your generous offer, I have accepted another job." Then sign off by expressing your best wishes to the interviewer.
Decline In Person
Treat a follow-up meeting like an initial phone call, but don't neglect the personal touch. Express what you liked about the position. Then say, "Thanks for the offer. It's a great opportunity," and follow with your rejection. For example, you can say, "Unfortunately, I'm seeking a position that fits career goals X,Y and Z," or, "I've accepted another job that provides salary X," states The Wellsville Daily Reporter. To soften the rejection, offer to stay in touch or recommend other candidates who might fit the bill.
Follow the interviewer's cues to determine how you should respond. If she favors email, send her an email. If she expects a return phone call, ask when you can call to let her know of your decision. Also, if you're feeling last-minute doubts about pay or benefits, alert the employer by phone or email that you still have some questions. Suggest times when you both can speak to finalize any concerns and settle your mind about your decision.
- Forbes: How to Turn Down a Job Offer
- The Wellsville Daily Reporter: How to Turn Down a Job Offer So the Hiring Manager Doesn't Hate You
- University of California San Francisco: Office of Career and Professional Development: Declining a Job Offer Letter & Withdrawing Yourself From the Candidate Pool Letter
- Virginia Tech Division of Student Affairs: E-mail Guidelines and Etiquette
Ralph Heibutzki's articles have appeared in the "All Music Guide," "Goldmine," "Guitar Player" and "Vintage Guitar." He is also the author of "Unfinished Business: The Life & Times Of Danny Gatton," and holds a journalism degree from Michigan State University.