Updated: Feb 10
In this competitive work world, turning down a job offer is a happy problem. Nevertheless, after doing all you can to sell yourself and wow your interviewers, when you are ultimately offered the opportunity, but don’t want it anymore, for whatever reason, it can be awkward. But, if handled correctly, turning down an offer can not only be okay, it can be a way to create and solidify a relationship for the future. To leave the door open, the key is to follow the rules:
Throughout the interview process, always be straight forward. Interviewers and organizations assume that high caliber candidates have many options of how and where to work. Your first objective when you are interviewing is to show your interviewer how you will contribute to their mission and make their organization better. If you are considering staying where you are, let your interviewers know and tell them what it would take for you to leave. If you are looking at other opportunities, without giving specific names or details, tell them that too. Tell them why you are excited about their organization and why you would like to join. But, once you see that they are interested in you, let them know what you are looking for. That way, if in the end you turn them down, they are not caught off guard. They knew what you wanted from the start.
Just as you would always be right on time for an interview or would always return an interviewer’s email or call lickety split, let the interviewer know that you are declining their offer the moment you know. If you have accepted another offer, or have decided to stay where you are, you want to make sure the person or organization that made you the offer hears it from you, not through the grapevine. Show them that you know their time is valuable and give them the opportunity to find someone else for the role as soon as possible.
If you are turning down the offer, chances are you have a good reason. If it is because you have been offered more money, let the interviewer know. Or if your current company has convinced you to stay with more responsibility, share that as well. By being candid with this information, you are demonstrating that you value their time and appreciate their offer.
If you are turning down the offer, you probably don’t love everything about the organization, your prospective boss, or the role. Be diplomatic and always say only positive things about the organization and everyone you interviewed with. Let them know what you like about the company and the job. If you have something negative to say, better to just keep it to yourself.
Most likely, if you were offered a position, then your interviewer or interviewers took time to meet with you, research you, and maybe even check your references. Thank them sincerely and tell them how much you appreciate them choosing you and offering you the opportunity.
Even though you may have received an offer from an organization, the fact is that a person or people wanted you to join them. Treat your interviewer(s) accordingly. Thank them personally and sincerely, ideally with a phone call. By doing this, you are showing them that you care enough about them as a professional and a person to reach out, rather than just with an email where you could avoid personal contact.
Often in your interview process, by the time you receive an offer, you have met with several people including HR, your prospective boss, or prospective colleagues. After you have declined the offer, follow up with each one of them personally either by email or phone. They will appreciate the personal connection.
Be a resource:
The chances are that you learned alot about the organization and the role while interviewing for the job. If you know of someone else who would be a great candidate for the role, refer them to the company. If that person ends up being a good hire, you will still be a hero even though you turned them down.
Stay in touch:
If you like the company and/or the people you met with, you want them to think of you for opportunities at their organization or at an organization that the interviewers may end up at in the future. Make everyone you met with part of your network. Connect with them on LinkedIn. They will appreciate your wanting to stay in touch even though right now, you don’t need anything from them.