How To Respectfully Decline a Job Offer: 3 Tips and an Example

Experts recommend giving any job offer full consideration, and then being clear and kind when you share your decision to decline.
Taryn Phaneuf
By Taryn Phaneuf 
Updated
Edited by Laura McMullen

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Making it all the way to the end of an interview process doesn’t mean you have to take the job. When you’re in the position of declining a job offer, approach it the same way you’ve approached earlier aspects of the process — with respect and gratitude.

If you’re planning to decline a job offer, experts recommend keeping the following tips in mind.

React neutrally to the offer

Even if you immediately recognize that the offer doesn't appeal to you, like if the pay is way below what you were expecting, try not to give those thoughts away as you receive the initial offer.

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At that stage, you don’t know how flexible the offer might be, says Kathryn Wieland, director of business career services at Iowa State University’s Ivy College of Business.

“I recall a candidate who received an offer that they considered a low ball, and the person essentially laughed at the offer,” Wieland says. What the candidate didn’t know was that the employer had the flexibility to make a more competitive offer, which they eventually did — to someone else.

Take time to review

Just as you don’t want to be too quick to accept a job offer, don’t decline an offer without taking time to consider the job offer. Ask yourself: What’s not working for you and could it be negotiated?

You could find that the obstacles are unchangeable features of the job: the hours, location, or responsibilities and scope of the role, for example.

But other aspects could potentially be changed. You can negotiate salary or your hourly rate, start date, hybrid or remote work arrangement, paid time off, more vacation time, or relocation assistance, among other benefits.

Saying no too quickly could make you miss an opportunity, Wieland says. So if you suspect there's a way to make the offer more appealing, communicate that to the employer or recruiter.

Share your decision in a phone call

If you ultimately decide to decline the job offer, it can be tempting to do so via email because the situation is uncomfortable. But sharing your decision in a phone call shows maturity and professionalism, Wieland says.

Here’s how to tackle the task:

Show gratitude. It’s possible you’ll interact with this person or organization again in the future, so be gracious as you turn down the job. Even if that’s not the case, consider that the company invested time and energy in your job candidacy. That’s worth appreciating.

Avoid giving too much detail. You don’t have to explain your reason for declining the job offer. Instead, you can keep your statement short. Wieland suggests saying, “Although I've decided to head in another direction, I'm grateful for your interest in me and I hope we can keep in touch.”

After you’ve declined the offer personally, follow up with an email that reiterates your decision. That way, both parties have the conclusion in writing.

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Declining a job offer email example

Here’s an example showing one way you could write an email declining a job offer.

Dear Peter,

Thank you for taking the time to speak with me today. I’m writing to formally decline your job offer for the Associate Accountant Position at Great Accountants.

As we discussed, I’ve decided to pursue another opportunity at this time. But I appreciate your interest in me, and I hope we can keep in touch.

Sincerely,

Taryn