Let’s admit it, when you receive two or more job offers at a time, you will feel flattered. Finding yourself in the fortunate position of having multiple great job offers is an exciting achievement. However, it is also a dilemma on how you can choose one and how to come up with an effective way of declining a job offer professionally. I have a few tips for you. Move on with this article and we will guide you through the steps of handling this situation when you are in high demand. We will explore the importance of handling communication professionally, not only for the immediate situation but also for long-term career growth.
There are several things that you should consider these offers but my goal is not helping you make a decision today, it’s simply helping you close one of the two in the best way possible. The reason why this is important, as I said, it’s definitely because it might help you long term (for instance, you will meet those people again in your next company or opportunity) but also because the way you manage this specific moment is how that company (and the batch of people you interviewed with) will remember you.
In my career, I had rejections from people who managed it so badly that we all agreed on not contacting them ever again. An example of this was a candidate completely ghosting us for a week for a VP Sales role, then coming back to us (and my VP of People) with a long email of excuses and the title “Respect“. The email felt completely made up, it was actually trying to tell us we were losing an amazing candidate and offered little explanation of why he ghosted us for a full week ignoring our emails.
But we also had a few cases where we loved the candidate, and made a great offer but we simply lost. Still, the way that person managed that communication made an impression on us, and walked away thinking “Let’s touch base again with her in a year and see if something has changed“.
Ok let’s dive into what to do and what you shouldn’t do declining a job offer.
How to decline a job offer respectfully and with thoughtfulness
While it can be challenging to turn down an opportunity, especially when it has its merits, it is important to acknowledge to at least have the decency of informing the company about your decision. Professionally declining an offer by reaching out to them. It shows respect and gratitude for the chance given to you. Throughout the process, even if it’s clear that you like the other offer more, you should be very communicative. The recruiter will likely ask you for quick calls, feedback, and touch bases. You should always stay responsive, be very clear that you have another offer and give the recruiter the reason why you are leaning more toward one or the other: while you don’t want to show all your cards and stay in both races as much as you can, if this done with empathy, the recruiter will become a champion for you and she will be the first person vouching for you. You are building trust with her and that’s always helpful.
All of what I said above it’s still valid even if you reject the position because you are playing a long-term game, and you want to leave a good impression of yourself.
1. Express appreciation: be authentic
Begin your communication by expressing gratitude for the offer extended to you. Acknowledge the time and effort invested by the employer in the hiring process and convey your appreciation for the opportunity they presented. Keep in mind that the recruiter has spent a lot of her social capital in some cases, she had multiple discussions with the hiring manager where she tried to highlight your pros and sometimes she might have been the reason why you have been selected in the end.
2. Give them a call, emails are ok but not great
ok, I know how this goes. You feel like this is done and an email is enough. Wrong! Send them an email and ask for a time to talk. If you have spent a few weeks getting to know their team, company etc, they deserve a call and nothing else. It might be more difficult for you, but believe me, it’s the best (and only) way to do this. If you really want to send an email, make it great and explain why and how you made a different decision.
3. Avoid too negative feedback
As I told you, you should really give feedback to the recruiter throughout the process but there is no reason to be negative about something once you have decided to reject their offer. At least, you shouldn’t express that in a strong way: it creates tension and it completely jeopardize the reason why you are trying to manage this communication in the best way possible. For instance: let’s say you were not impressed by the CEO when you talked to him in the process. The way this should be expressed would be: “Listen, I liked talking to Jack (CEO) but I also got the impression he has in mind a different type of person for this role and we were looking at this from two different worlds“. It’s useful for the recruiter because she will likely coach her CEO or try to make sure he is fully aligned on the expectations for this role.
4. Explain your decision
If you feel comfortable, you can offer a brief explanation for your decision. The best way to do this is simply explain your decision process and – in a very objective way – tell them what you have considered (growth, salary expectations, culture, product etc).
5. Help them or offer suggestions on what they could do now
Convey your best wishes to the employer and express your interest in potential future opportunities. This demonstrates your professionalism and leaves the door open for potential collaborations down the line. Highlight that your decision was not easy and that you genuinely value the organization and the people involved.
Opening future career doors in the future when you decline a job offer
Maintaining professionalism when declining a job offer offers several benefits for long-term career growth. It enhances your reputation, increases the likelihood of referrals and recommendations, and helps cultivate positive relationships that can lead to future opportunities. By approaching these situations with integrity, you position yourself as a highly regarded professional in your field, opening doors for continued career success or even mid-life career changes. You also enhance your credibility and leave a lasting impression on the employer. In the long run, there might come a time that they’ll need to reach out to you for a collaboration or a new offer, and because you handled declining a position in their company with grace and they felt your genuine respect and professionalism, considering you will be easier for them. Effective communication in this context sets the tone for continued positive interactions and opens doors for future collaborations.
Declining a job offer over the phone: example of a conversation that you can use as a guide.
Employer: Hi [Candidate’s Name]! Thanks for reaching out. I’m glad to hear from you. Have you come up with your decision regarding our offer?
Candidate: Well, after careful consideration, I’ve made the tough decision to decline the job offer. I want you to know that this wasn’t an easy choice because I was genuinely impressed by your company and the amazing team I had the chance to meet. But as I reflected on my career goals and weighed different factors, I realized that this opportunity may not align with my long-term career goals.
Employer: I see. We appreciate your honesty. Can you briefly explain your decision?
Candidate: I actually received another offer that’s more closely aligned with my career aspirations and will allow me to pursue my professional goals in a direction that gets me really excited. It was a difficult decision, especially considering the positive impression your company made on me, but ultimately, I believe this other opportunity is the best fit for my long-term growth and development.
Employer: Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. We wish you the best in your new endeavor.
Candidate: Thanks for understanding.. I genuinely appreciate the chance you gave me, and I’m grateful for the positive experience I had throughout the hiring process. I hope we can stay connected in the future and explore potential collaborations or opportunities down the road.
Employer: We value your feedback and appreciate your kind words. We’ll definitely keep you in mind for any suitable positions that may arise later on. We wish you great success in your new role, and it was a pleasure getting to know you during this process.
Candidate: Thanks for your time, and all the best to you and the team.
You can use this example as a reference to make sure that you are showing respect and gratitude to the company when you decline a job offer.
3 things to avoid while rejecting an offer
Now that we have talked about what to do to reject an offer, let me give you 3 things you should absolutely avoid – I’ve seen all three of them happening for several roles with European candidates and US candidates. The reason why I want to share them is because they are some of the most unprofessional episodes I’ve experienced and I know they happened to several other companies too.
1. Do not disappear or ghost your contacts after the offer
This is probably the worst thing you can do: ghosting the recruiter or replying to their emails with a big delay. This is usually happening because you are making a decision or waiting for an offer that did not arrive on time compared to the other. In both cases: be communicative. Tell the recruiter “I am simply putting my thoughts together and I might need a few more days. Is that ok with you?” – there is no need to tell them you are waiting for another offer (btw, they know!), but this will be enough to let them know you are still engaged.
During this period you can also keep the conversation open asking for additional things and details that you did not have a chance to discuss before. Unfortunately there are many people that simply decide to ghost companies when they want to reject an offer: in 2021 we had a person receiving the offer and stop responding to us at all (it was a good offer! if you are wondering). Very unprofessional and even if she would have came back to us after a few days of silence that could have raised strong red flags on our side.
2. Keep negotiating even after the offer is final
It’s a rare one, but it happened to me. Candidates that spent a few days thinking about it to then come back and restart the negotiation on salary, conditions, time off etc. It’s always a strong red flag in my book: it shows you are not able to manage the situation and you don’t have a lot of respect for the company. If you have received a better offer, that is something you should absolutely disclose and talk about it with the recruiter, but reopening the negotiation is just bad. I’ve seen cases where this has brought the company to rescind the offer as well.
3. Blame the company and make them feel bad about what happened
You might feel the offer you have received is bad or very misaligned with what you have discussed with the company in the process. Unfortunately, there are cases where companies do that. Still, follow what we said in this article, don’t blame the company and don’t try to make them feel bad about it. A way to quickly respond is “Unfortunately I have to reject the offer because I feel is not aligned with the expectations I had for it.”
I am saying this because once the company decided to make you an offer there is little you can do if it’s very far from what you have discussed and my suggestion for you would be to stay far from such companies: they are trying to take advantage you and simply playing their game will not benefit you.
I hope you enjoyed the article, I will definitely come back to this topic to discuss how you should compare offers and what kind of criterias you can use to make a decision.