Congratulations! You made it through the grueling interview process and have received an offer. Your hard work and your impressive interview skills have paid off. But you, unfortunately, have to decline the offer, what now?
We currently find ourselves in a very strong candidate market in the middle of this “great resignation”. Employees are leaving their jobs looking to find more flexibility, hybrid work, roles that fit into their personal lives, and company missions/values that they can connect with. There are also more open jobs than unemployed people in the United States at the moment. Job seekers are able to ask for what they want in their next careers, and many are receiving multiple offers.
There are many reasons to decline an offer. Your personal circumstances could have changed, your current employer has offered you a promotion or salary increase that you can’t refuse, the salary you were offered does not match your expectations or requirements, you are looking for more flexibility than what was offered, the company culture doesn’t feel like a fit, you were offered another job with a better career trajectory, and many more!
It is important to decline a job offer appropriately, as you do not want to burn any bridges in the process, and you wouldn’t want to negatively impact your future career moves.
The most important aspect to keep in mind when declining a job offer is timing. You want to let the employer know as soon as possible when you’ve decided to decline a job offer. This demonstrates that you respect their time and you want to give them the opportunity to offer it to another candidate or begin the search process again as soon as possible.
You also want to demonstrate your appreciation for their time throughout the interview process, their interest in you and your work, and their decision to offer you the job. If you really enjoyed a particular part of the interview process or a particular conversation with a member of the interview team, be sure to call that out and provide a compliment as well. Employers strive to provide a positive candidate experience, and that feedback would be welcomed.
It goes a long way to be as honest as possible throughout the interview and offer process. Trust is important between an employer and employees, and even when declining an offer, transparency helps the employer to understand that they did not waste their time. You have a valid reason for declining the offer and you made a very thoughtful and careful decision based on these factors.
Lastly, try to keep the channels of communication open for the future, the world can be a very small place, and you never know if your paths might cross again. Emphasize your wish to have an opportunity to keep in touch and possibly work together in the future. This could also include staying in touch for networking opportunities as well.
Wondering if it’s better to email or call when declining an offer? Whatever you are most comfortable with. If you’ve had a large number of conversations or interviews with a recruiter or hiring manager, and you would feel most comfortable having a conversation over the phone to explain your decision, by all means! Otherwise, email does tend to be a great way to make sure you are able to express everything you want to say, and gives you the opportunity to edit your comments and explanations. More importantly, it gives the recipient time to reflect and respond as well. A recipient could be surprised by your decision over the phone and feel rushed to respond.
Overall, you should feel very proud of yourself for completing the interview process, for receiving an offer, and for being able to make a decision such as this to benefit your career journey! A career is a lifelong journey that can take you in many directions. Being thoughtful along the way (timely and honest responses, demonstrating appreciation, and building intentional relationships) will be sure to make that journey a smooth one.