The job might seem like a perfect fit until you finish the interview process. After you learn more, you might decide the job isn't for you, or you receive an offer for your dream job while waiting to hear back from a company you're not as thrilled about. When you receive an offer from a job you've decided you don't want, decline the job gracefully to maintain a positive relationship.
Responding quickly is key to saving your relationship with the company that offered you a job. You don't want to burn the bridge with that company because you don't know if you might want to reapply in the future. Responding promptly, in less than a week after you're offered the job, helps the hiring manager contact the second candidate in a timely fashion or decide who else needs second interviews. If you wait much longer, other desirable candidates might have accepted other job offers while you're waiting to contact the company.
Make a Phone Call
It's an uncomfortable phone call, but it's still better to make that personal connection when turning down a job offer. Call every person who interviewed you to say that although you appreciate the offer, you've decided to go a different direction with your job choice. This helps maintain the relationship you started to build during the interview process; they'll be sorry you didn't accept the offer and more likely to extend another one if you make the effort of a personal call.
Be Courteous and Honest
During the phone calls, keep the tone positive at the beginning by telling each person what you like about the company. Perhaps you were impressed with their five-year strategic plan or how tightly the teams worked together. After building them up a bit, be honest about why you're declining the position. You don't have to go into great detail, but your reasons can help the company hire more qualified candidates in the future. If the pay isn't competitive, for example, the company needs to know that. Or, if you liked some of the job responsibilities but didn't like others, share that information as well. The managers might decide to rework the job description in the hopes of catching another candidate like you in the next round of interviews. Thank all the interviewers for their time, and tell them how much you enjoyed meeting them. Maybe your paths will cross again, so it's best to be as courteous as possible while turning down the job.
Follow Up in Writing
A phone call doesn't replace a formal offer rejection. It's best to send this by regular mail, although you can send it in an email as well and let them know to be expecting the hard copy. This helps them keep their records straight and ties up loose ends. The letter can be short and should be as positive as possible -- thank them for the consideration, and respectfully decline the job offer. This should be sent to the same people you called when declining the offer by phone.