How to Turn Down a Job Offer


It happens. You’ve been interviewed two or more times and they’ve been coy about the compensation, or hazy about some of the specifics. Either that, or everything seems great and then you suddenly get another, better offer unexpectedly.

Whatever the reason, you find yourself in the position of being offered a job and you no longer want it.

So what do you do?

This isn’t the sort of thing people become masters at: It’s a sensitive act of professional gymnastics since you want to basically break up and still stay friends. Easier said than done, friends.

Lifehacker inspired this post with their own on how to accept or decline a job offer. I want to talk about the latter exclusively here. Lifehacker says a lot of things and goes over the many, many reasons you might want to turn a job down. Here’s what Lifehacker considers completely admissible reasons to walk away from an offer:

1. You received an offer after learning during the interview process that the organization was not the right place for you.
2. You received an offer that had too many aspects that didn’t meet your ideal job description.
3. You attempted to negotiate for the terms you needed from the offer and were either unsuccessful, or the organization was not open to negotiations.

So, again, what do you do?

Lifehacker says email is an acceptable way of handling the let-down. Not exclusively — it says you can call or email. I’m telling you: you should call. If they took the time to meet with you in person, you can make the time to call and deliver the bad news. Lifehacker says you should:

1. Thank them for their time and help.
2. Tell them that you are declining the offer.
3. Give them your reasoning for declining.
4. Tell them you would appreciate the opportunity to stay connected.
5. Tell them to let you know if you can ever do anything to help them reach their goals.

Why? You want to maintain a good relationship with the place because, well, who knows: They might have something that’s a better fit for you later. Regardless, you don’t want to burn any bridges. You never know what the long-range future holds, so don’t damage your immediate future.

David Wolinsky is a freelance writer and a lifelong Chicagoan. In addition to currently serving as IFC’s comedy, film, and TV blogger, he's also a comedy-writing instructor for Second City and an adjunct professor in DePaul’s College of Computing and Digital Media. (He also co-runs a blog behind the DePaul class, DIY Game Dev.) He was the Chicago city editor for The Onion A.V. Club where he provided in-depth daily coverage of this city's bustling arts/entertainment scene for half a decade. His first career aspirations were to be a game-show host.

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