Reasons to Say No and How to Do It Gracefully

​You got the interview — and the job offer! Congratulations!
Perhaps you are not sure how to evaluate a job offer or whether this is the right time to make a career move. Here are some reasons to consider turning down a job offer (and how to do that gracefully).

  • There’s something about the company or the job that makes you uneasy. One of the purposes of the job interview is not only to find out if you’re a fit for the job but also if the job/company is a fit for you! A job interview can be like a date — maybe the spark just isn’t there for you. While the job offer is flattering if you feel like it’s not going to work out, don’t “get married” (accept the job offer).
  • Online reviews from current and past employees are giving you pause. Maybe you waited until after the job interview to check out the company’s reviews on — and what you read has you worried. While there will usually be some reviews from disgruntled former employees, when you see reviews from current employees that gripe about company culture, pay practices, or benefits, that’s a reason to give the job offer second thoughts. If you see online reviews that concern you, use your network to connect with current employees and see if you can get either confirmation or refute the information.
  • You’re uncertain about the company’s financial future. Part of doing your due diligence with a new employer is making sure they are on sound financial footing before accepting a job offer. If the company is a startup, for example, what is the source of its funding? Do they have sufficient reserves to weather the current business environment? Is this a declining industry or is it growing? Do a Google search on the company name. See if there are any Reddit forums discussing the company. Research its Better Business Bureau (BBB) rating. And take the opportunity to use your network to vet information. Current employees are often aware of potential issues before they become public.
  • The total compensation package doesn’t match up with your current position. Maybe the new job would offer a higher salary, but the health insurance offered is more expensive or has a higher deductible and co-payments. Often you don’t find out all the details of the benefits package until you receive the job offer, so take a close look at the total compensation package when considering whether to accept the job offer. Also, make sure you’re fully aware of how the benefits package works. Is there a wait before you can contribute to the company retirement plan, or get a match? If you’re being offered stock options, do you understand when you’ll receive them, and when and how they vest?
  • Your attempts to negotiate a higher salary were unsuccessful. One of the most common reasons to change jobs is to increase your salary. If you were offered a salary lower than you were expecting, and you attempted to negotiate your salary but your counteroffer wasn’t accepted, you might reconsider making a move. If you were offered the “promise” of a larger salary at the new company, but weren’t given specific timeframes and metrics for reaching that level, it might be a sign this isn’t the right job.
  • The salary you were offered is lower than what you’re making now. Unless you’re out of work, or there’s some other benefit the new company offers that would make it worthwhile, consider a move carefully. Perhaps you should be considering the cost of a career change or job change that you hadn’t previously considered. For example, would you lose vacation time from your current employer? Or does the new job have a longer commute, which would result in higher transportation costs? Maybe you have to purchase specific equipment or materials that are an unexpected expense of the new position. Would it be better to stay in your current role and wait for a different job offer rather than take a role with the same — or lower — compensation?
  • Can you get what you were promised in writing? One big red flag for potentially turning down a job offer is if you are given assurances about certain aspects of the job, but the hiring manager won’t put them in writing. For example, if you’re offered a remote or hybrid position, but the company won’t specifically define it as such, you may be asked to return to work from the office in the future. Or the hiring manager says you will be eligible for a raise in a few months when you earn a specific credential, but won’t put that in writing. There’s a saying, “If it’s not in writing, it didn’t happen.”
  • What you were offered in writing doesn’t match what you were offered verbally. No matter what you were offered in the interview, it’s what’s in writing that counts. No matter what you discussed in the interview or what was listed in the job posting, it’s what’s in the job offer that matters. Make sure the written offer matches what you were offered verbally, and if the written document isn’t corrected, walk away.
  • You’re still unsure about some aspects of the job. You might interview for a role that is a new position with the company — and get the feeling that the hiring manager isn’t sure what the job will entail or how success in the role will be defined. In these situations, it can be wise to take a step back after receiving the job offer to ask for clarification. If you can’t get the specifics you’re looking for, it can be smart to pass on the role. Otherwise, you may find yourself out of a job — and it’s no consolation when the hiring manager says “It’s us, not you.” Or you may find yourself taking on responsibilities that you’re not qualified or willing to do.
  • Assess this job in the context of your longer-term goals. How does this role fit into your goal for professional development? Sometimes it can make sense to take a new role because it offers you the opportunity to learn a new skill or get different experience. Is that the case with this job? Or are you thinking about leaving your current position just to get out of a toxic work environment, or because you can earn more money? Make sure you’re making a move that will improve your future job prospects, not just because it provides a short-term solution.
  • You have other irons in the fire. Don’t accept a job offer just because you’re not sure if you’ll get another job offer. If it doesn’t feel like a fit, don’t accept the job offer out of fear. It may set your job search back if you accept a job that isn’t right; you may quit the job shortly after you start — or get fired — and have to start all over again.  If you have been actively interviewing for various roles at different companies, chances are you will soon be wondering about how to handle multiple job offers!
  • You have a gut feeling this isn’t the right fit. Trust your feelings! This is often the most important reason not to accept a job offer. If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. 

How to Say No Respectfully and Without Burning Bridges

​You’ve decided that this job isn’t the right one for you — so how do you turn down the job offer gracefully? Just because you were offered the job doesn’t mean you have to accept it.
The first step is to decide how you’re going to communicate that you’re declining the job offer. If you had a good rapport with the hiring manager, and the hiring manager is who made the job offer, it makes sense to reach out to him or her directly. It’s an uncomfortable situation to be sure, but part of turning down the job offer gracefully is through clear, direct communication. And time is of the essence. In making the job offer, the hiring manager may have given you a timeline for making the decision. Don’t put off telling them no if you have decided you’re not going to accept the job. The conversation won’t get easier with time, and you’re just putting off the inevitable.
If the offer was extended through a human resources representative, you may decide to let the HR representative know you’re declining the offer, and then follow up with the hiring manager as well. If you really can’t imagine yourself being able to turn down the job offer by phone, an email is acceptable. But a phone call is preferred.
You want to communicate three key points:
  • You are grateful for the job offer
  • You’re declining the offer
  • You appreciate their time and consideration of you as a candidate
The most important is the second point — it should be clear that you’re turning down the job offer. You don’t have to provide a reason for doing so, but you’ll likely be asked, so be ready.
Here’s how a phone call to the hiring manager might go:
Hi, Joe. I appreciate you offering me the sales manager job. I’m so appreciative of the time you took to interview me and help me understand what the role entails. However, after careful consideration, I’ve decided not to accept the job. But I wanted to let you know that I’m so grateful for the time you and the team put into the interview process, and I’m sorry that we won’t be working together.
Joe is likely to either accept you declining the offer, or he may press you for a reason why you’re not accepting the job. Be ready to explain, even if it’s not the “real” reason.
For example, if you discover that the company is behind on paying its suppliers, and you don’t want to leave a stable company for one that might be in trouble financially, you don’t have to say that. (And Joe might try to persuade you that things are, in fact, fine … even if your inside contact has told you otherwise.)
So, you might give a more “innocuous” reason, such as “After thinking it over, I just don’t think now is the right time for me to make a move,” or “After getting a better understanding of the role, I’ve come to realize this role isn’t the right fit for me.” This is an easy way of saying, “It’s not you, it’s me.” It’s harder for a hiring manager to push back against a reason that has to do with you versus one that has to do with the company. Do not criticize the job or the company when providing your reason for declining the job offer.
Also, please don’t lie. It can be easy to say, “I’ve decided to accept a different job offer,” but if that’s not the case, it may come back to bite you, especially in a small industry where the hiring managers know each other. It’s fine to say you’ve decided to stay at your current job, but don’t make up another job offer as a way to decline this one.
The most important thing is to be clear that you’ve made your decision. If you’ve decided that you aren’t accepting the position, don’t be persuaded in the conversation you’re having to decline the job offer to accept it. (Especially if you are offered more money after previously being turned down for a salary increase when you made a counteroffer.)
If you’d like to be considered for other jobs at the company in the future (maybe this particular job wasn’t the right fit, or the salary for this role wasn’t what you were hoping), make sure that you emphasize that you appreciate learning more about the company but that this specific role wasn’t the right fit. There’s no guarantee that you will be considered for other roles in the future, but you’re trying not to burn the bridge. You can express interest in staying in touch with the hiring manager in the hopes that you’ll be considered for future opportunities.
Declining a job offer can be difficult. However, turning down a role that you ultimately wouldn’t be happy in is important. But it’s better for you — and the company — that you decline the position so they can find someone who is a better fit.

About the Author

Mandy Fard is a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW, CMRW) and Recruiter with decades of experience in assisting job seekers, working directly with employers in multiple industries, and writing proven-effective resumes.
Feel free to connect with Mandy Fard on LinkedIn:
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