How To Turn Down A Job Offer But Keep The Door Open

By Chris Kolmar
Jun. 13, 2022

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Getting a job offer can be exciting and a great thing, most of the time. Needing to decline a job offer happens from time to time.

There can be plenty of reasons for needing to decline a job offer, and doing it while keeping the door open can be pretty important.

We’ve got the step-by-step help you need to turn down a job offer but keep the door open, and examples of how to answer for different reasons for needing to turn down the offer.

How to turn down a job offer but keep the door open.

Why It’s Important to Know How to Turn Down a Job Offer But Keep the Door Open

We live in a different world than our grandparents did. Even some of our parents would freak out if you said you’re turning down a job offer.

Today, jobs are easier to find through the internet, which opened a whole world of opportunities to job applicants. It also means, for some professions, that working remotely is possible, so you’re no longer tied to a location.

This is fantastic because you can find jobs that financially are better for you, that suit your interests more, and you can pick the type of company you want to work for. Of course, this all means you’ll probably be turning down a job offer at some point.

Let’s be honest, turning down a job offer is a rejection, and many people have a hard time with that. Luckily, we live in a world of remote connections, i.e., almost everything is done by email. This can make the entire process much easier, especially if you’re nervous about it.

How to Decline a Job Offer But Keep the Door Open

Whether you’re turning down a job offer by email, phone, or in person, the steps are the same.

  1. Respond quickly. If you decide to decline the job offer, make sure you do it quickly. This will be important to the company so they can continue to search for other candidates. If you wait too long, they might not want to considering you as a future candidate for another position.

  2. Start with a thank you. Always say thank you to someone who took the time to consider you for a job. Whether you’re offered the job or not, whether you’re accepting the job or not. They put time and effort into your application, basically at your request, so they deserve a thank you.

  3. Say something positive about the opportunity. You don’t have to go on and on about how you thought this would be the perfect job. That’s not necessary, but consider this a polite compliment.

    If you’ve ever done a “compliment sandwich,” this is really what you’re doing here. You sandwich the negative between two compliments to make it easier to swallow.

  4. Reject the job offer. Make it clear that you’re saying no — no waffle room or ambiguity. But there’s no reason to go on and on about how the job offer is insulting, or you’re better than that job, etc.

    Simply tell them you won’t be taking the job at this time. You can add a reason or two if you want but keep them very short and make sure you’re not insulting.

  5. Don’t close the door. Yes, you basically said no a second ago, but you want to still offer to keep in touch or possibly work together in the future. You never know the other job you want could fall through, and then you’ll be desperate for this one again.

    Also, most professions are really very connected, and you don’t want to risk tarnishing your reputation.

Example of How to Decline a Job Offer Because You Accepted Another Job

You wanted the job, but you had another good job offer come in while you were waiting to hear from this company. It happens a lot, and if you’re happy with the job offer you accepted, then it’s time to start saying no to the other offers — graciously, of course.

Bob Smith
Editor of The Times
1122 First Street
Sacramento, CA 94203

Dear Mr. Smith,

I want to thank you so much for the offer to work at the Times. I enjoyed meeting with you and learning more about the business.

Unfortunately, I am unable to accept the offer at this time as I have just accepted another offer.

Again, I want to thank you for the offer and for taking the time to consider me for this position. I wish you the best and sincerely hope that we can professionally cross paths again in the future.

Best wishes,

Abigail Jones

How to Decline a Job Offer Due to Salary

You like the idea of the job, but the compensation is just not making you smile. If you aren’t completely desperate, it’s best to say no and then wait for a better offer to come in. Starting off at a low salary sets you up to continually be behind the curve.

Bob Smith
Editor of The Times
1122 First Street
Sacramento, CA 94203

Dear Mr. Smith,

I want to thank you so much for the offer to work at the Times. I enjoyed meeting with you and learning more about your company and your team.

Unfortunately, I am unable to accept the offer at this time as the compensation doesn’t line up with my experience and career goals.

Again, I want to thank you for the offer and for taking the time to consider me for this position. I wish you the best and sincerely hope that we can professionally cross paths again in the future.

Best wishes,

Abigail Jones

How to Decline a Low Job Offer While Asking for More Money

You really like the job, and you want it, but you know you’re worth more compensation, so you’d like to leave the door open to negotiation. But you’re not entirely sold, so if they don’t jump at your offer to negotiate, you’re okay walking away.

Bob Smith
Editor of The Times
1122 First Street
Sacramento, CA 94203

Dear Mr. Smith,

I want to thank you so much for the offer to work at the Times. I enjoyed meeting with you and learning more about the business.

I am very interested in working for The Times, but I’m afraid that the current compensation package isn’t in line with my requirements. I would be open to future discussions if there is some flexibility in salary and benefits.

Again, I want to thank you for the offer and for taking the time to consider me for this position. I hope to hear further from you, but if you are unable to negotiate on salary, then I do wish you the best in your candidate search, and I hope we have the opportunity to work together in the future.

Best wishes,

Abigail Jones

How to Turn Down a Job Offer If It’s Not Right for You

You thought you wanted the job, but once you talked to the hiring manager or the recruiter, you realized that you really didn’t. There’s just something, it could be anything, that makes you feel that this is not a good fit for you, and you don’t want to work there.

Bob Smith
Editor of The Times
1122 First Street
Sacramento, CA 94203

Dear Mr. Smith,

I want to thank you so much for the offer to work at the Times. I enjoyed meeting with you and learning more about the business.

Unfortunately, after deep and careful consideration, this position doesn’t line up with my current career goals.

Again, I want to thank you for the offer and for taking the time to consider me for this position. I wish you the best and sincerely hope that we can professionally cross paths again in the future.

Best wishes,

Abigail Jones

How to Rescind a Job Offer After Accepting It

Please note that this is not as straightforward as declining a job you haven’t accepted. There may be employment contracts involved, and if you’ve already signed them, you might want to enlist the assistance of an attorney. It’s also important that you act quickly in this situation because the longer you put it off, the worse it’s going to be.

Bob Smith
Editor of The Times
1122 First Street
Sacramento, CA 94203

Dear Mr. Smith,

I want to thank you so much for the offer to work at the Times. I enjoyed meeting with you and learning more about the business.

Unfortunately, although I accepted the position of Custodial Engineer last week, I’m going to have to rescind my offer at this point. After careful consideration, I have determined that I would not be a good fit for your company and believe it’s better to rescind my offer now rather than leave you in a hiring bind in the future.

Again, I want to thank you for the offer and for taking the time to consider me for this position. I apologize for the inconvenience.

Best wishes,

Abigail Jones

Reasons to Turn Down a Job Offer

Now that we’ve covered the steps to turning down a job offer, it’s time to get into the specifics. Each situation or for every reason you turn down a job, you’re going to have a different reason, and that can color your rejection letter.

Also, sometimes you’re not actually saying no. You’re saying no to what they’re currently offering, but you might be open to a better offer (i.e., an offer which would allow you to earn more). So, let’s first look at some reasons you might turn down a job offer, then we’ll give you a sample rejection letter for each situation.

  • You’ve already accepted another job

  • The salary is too low (not interested at all)

  • The salary is too low (but more money could sway you)

  • The job really isn’t what you want

  • You accepted the job, but now you have to reject it

  • You are not ready or can’t relocate to another area

Tips For Declining a Job Offer

After declining a job offer, here are some tips of things you can do after:

  • Stay in touch with hiring manager. It is a good idea to stay in touch with the hiring manager and continue to build that relationship. This can ensure that they will remember you when it is time to start hiring again.

  • Be honest. Lying about the reason you turned down the job could come back to haunt you. You don’t need to go into deep detail as to why you are declining the job offer but telling them why will make things a little easier.

  • Be a resource. During the interviewing process, you learned about the job and what they are looking for. If you know of someone who would be a good fit, recommend them to the company. This is also helpful if you are still in contact with the hiring manager.

Final Thoughts

If you’re offered a job, and you don’t want to accept it, for whatever reason, you still need to respond to the offer and decline the job. Ignoring the offer isn’t professional, and it can put you in a bad light that might come back to haunt you in the future.

Rejecting a job offer can feel difficult and be uncomfortable, but it’s best to take the professional approach and do it graciously, politely, and be succinct. You don’t have to mention the reason you’re declining the job offer.

You can simply say it doesn’t line up with your current career trajectory, but mentioning the why can sometimes be useful, and it can keep the door open for future offers.

Speaking of keeping the door open, it’s always good to end the rejection email with your best wishes and suggesting that you’d welcome the opportunity to work with that individual or that particular company in the future.

You’ll find that the business world is a small place and people often circle back, so leaving a good impression is probably the biggest key takeaway.

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Author

Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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