How to Reject a Job Offer the Right Way

Receiving a job offer is an exciting moment. After all that time tweaking and perfecting your resume, and then keeping track of all the applications you’ve sent off, it’s nice to be rewarded with an actual offer.

However, just because you receive an offer doesn’t mean you need to take it. There are a lot of reasons for rejecting. Perhaps you’ve had a response from another company that excites you more, the job would require you to move somewhere you don’t want to go, or the salary just isn’t high enough for you to justify the change.

But no matter the reason, it’s important to remember there are right and wrong ways to reject a job offer. Business is all about relationships, and while rejecting an offer isn’t going to damage most relationships, doing it the wrong way certainly can, affecting your chances at career advancement down the line. To help make sure this doesn’t happen, here are some things to remember to make sure you turn down offers the right way.

Start by Negotiating

The first thing you should do when rejecting an offer is to ask yourself why you’re rejecting it. If it’s because you don’t like the salary and benefits package they’re offering, then maybe the first step in turning the offer down is to actually not turn it down at all and initiate a period of negotiation.

A company may be interested in you, but they aren’t likely to make their best offer to you right away. This is especially true if they’re working with a professional recruiting and human resources firm, as it’s their job to help companies fill positions and save money.

Going back to a company with increased demands could swing things in your favor, making a previously unappealing job offer seem sweeter. And this could be just enough to sway you to take the job instead of rejecting it.

Be Respectful of Deadlines

However, if you’re saying no for other reasons, such as you don’t agree with the company culture or aren’t interested in the role their offering, then negotiation isn’t going to help you much. When this happens, there is some protocol you should follow to help make sure you’re presenting yourself in the best light and not damaging any relationships you’ve built.

The first thing is to make sure you’re keeping up with deadlines. Most companies, when they make an offer, will ask you to let them know by a certain date. If you’re sure you’re going to say no, then tell them right away. They need to fill this position, and if you’re not going to be the one to do it, then the least you can do is give them time to move onto the next person on their list.

The worst thing you can do is leave a company hanging. If the deadline comes and goes, then they’ll obviously take this as a sign that you don’t want the job. But then they are going to feel as though you just wasted a week or two of their time, and this can create feelings of resentment, which will hurt your chances if you ever decide to apply for another position at the same company.

Try to Speak to Someone Directly

In today’s digital world, it’s easy for us to retreat and communicate only by text or email. However, as mentioned earlier, business is all about relationships, and nothing helps build a relationship like an in-person or over-the-phone conversation.

As a result, when you decide to turn a position down, consider calling your contact point to let them know. If they ask, you can tell them why you’ve decided to turn the position down. If they’re really interested, this might spark some negotiation, but if nothing else, it will help you maintain the relationship.

The best-case scenario is to end the conversation with “I understand. No hard feelings.” This helps keep the relationship intact, and it will improve the perception the company has of you, helping you should you ever decide to apply again, or if your name comes up in a conversation among important people.

Don’t Burn Bridges

Lastly, don’t assume the way you react won’t matter. Maybe you applied for a position you didn’t really want, and then when the offer came through, you decide to reject it. This is fine, but it’s not a reason to burn bridges and make enemies. If the salary is too low, don’t be rude, simply say you’re looking for something with better compensation.

If you’ve gotten a better opportunity, don’t rub this in the face of the employer you don’t choose. You may think you’ll never apply for another position at this company, but you really don’t know for sure. And just like you’re on the move in your career, so are other people. Someone you burned could pop up again in your life, and the last thing you want is for them to have a grudge against you because of the way you rejected their offer.

In the end, there is really no incentive to be anything other than polite. You’re going to another company, and everyone is a professional, so being rude or abrasive is only going to hurt your reputation and your chances of advancing your career.

Reject the Right Way

Being in a position to reject job offers is usually a good thing. It means your services are in demand, and it should result in you being able to secure a better, more rewarding position. However, just because people want you, it doesn’t mean you don’t have to treat them right. Make sure to reject all job offers with grace and class, as this is what will help you build a strong reputation within the industry, something you will need if you hope to rise to the top.

About the Author: Jock is the founder of Digital Exits, an online brokerage specializing in the buying/selling and appraisal of online businesses. He consults with entrepreneurs to help them grow and eventually exit their business, and this work has made him an expert on various aspects of business management and administration. He shares his experience whenever he can by contributing to blogs and other online forums related to business growth and management.   

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