We’ve all been through it — applying to several open positions that sound interesting, just in case you don’t get called back for the one you’re hoping for.
It seems logical when you do it, but when you least expect it, you are placed in the awkward position of having to decline those job offers that move forward.
You shouldn't just walk away from a job offer. Even if the job doesn’t suit you now, it’s still crucial to handle the situation professionally and respectfully to maintain these positive relationships. You never know whom you may stumble upon in the future.
In this article, we’ll go through the perfect recipe for turning down a job offer. With all these tips in hand, you’ll see that it’s not as complicated as it seemed to be — and, most importantly, not as terminating as it appears.
Why decline a job offer?
Having a clear idea of why you’re declining this job offer is the first step to take. Being firm and not feeling pressured while still being polite is one of the things that’ll make you look good.
You may want to decline a job offer for several reasons. These are some that could be happening to you:
- Because you’ve already accepted another position
- Because it doesn’t pay what you need it to.
- Because you’re pivoting careers and applying to that job was the last gasp of your old self
- Because it doesn’t match your ambitions (also known as — “it’s not remote enough!”)
These are all valid arguments. Now, will the HR professional like them? It’s not up to you, but you should still give it a try and share it with them. It’s best to strike a balance between being genuine and being polite, and to open up: “I’m turning yours down, and this is why.”
Should you explain why you turned down their offer?
Yes — it's nice to provide a brief explanation of why you’re declining, even though it’s not necessarily required. This is one of the details that will make a good impression, especially if you’ve been in contact with the hiring manager for an extended period of time.
There's no need to send an apology letter the length of a novel, though. Moreover, you don’t have to say nasty stuff, even if it’s the truth (don’t tell them “I turned yours down because you were my plan Z,” or “You don’t pay a dime.”). Just keep in mind that what you write needs to be reasonable and relevant to the position you were offered.
You don’t have to go too far — just either open up or close a door to a new conversation. You’re networking here. That’s the deal with explaining: you’re potentially creating a new revenue stream, now or in the future.
These are some ways to turn down job offers and explain to the company why:
1. Telling them you already secured a job
For example, if you have already scored a job at a company that you like better, you could send this concise note vaguely explaining why and positioning yourself as a company champion, even if you’ll be off their payroll. Check how you’re offering them help and proposing that you connect over LinkedIn, signaling that you’re willing to keep the relationship going,
I hope this email finds you well. Thank you for offering me the position of Director of Sentient AI at OpenAI. I appreciate all the effort you and your company have invested in considering my application.
Unfortunately, I have decided to decline the offer. This decision was not easy. I have recently been offered an exciting opportunity at another organization — Skynet LLC — that is better suited to my current career goals and aspirations. It requires an immediate start.
Let’s keep in touch via LinkedIn. With your permission, I’d like to bring forward some candidates who I’m sure could help you out. I have one specific name in mind. Would you be interested to meet her?
Thanks again for this opportunity.
2. Being grateful and subtly mentioning the salary issue
If you’re slightly mad because their offer was underwhelming, maybe you would rather not get into details. Moreover, if you’re mad, and you don’t want them to know your next steps (it’s alright to be private), the best thing you can do is recognize the work that was invested in your application process and silently drop a reference to the low-balled salary.
Still, try not to make it about you. Show the hiring manager that you appreciate their time on this, and be specific about what you’ll praise. Some examples of specifics you might appreciate from them are:
- The chance to learn more about the company you applied to,
- The chance to meet their employees,
- The feedback you received during the interview process,
- How transparent they were about the salary
- How transparent they were about the not-so-good stuff of the job
Mentioning their strengths and good practices also indicates that you made the decision with good information at hand. Moreover, an email like this could help the HR team explain their “failure” to hire you to the executive team, thus alleviating an otherwise disappointing outcome.
This letter is especially useful if you would rather not sound coarse. It’s not always HR’s fault that the pay was underwhelming, but they should have still offered a very clear salary range from the job ad onwards.
Thank you for the offer. It was a tough decision, but I'm going to have to respectfully decline the offer on the role of Captcha Engineer at X.
I value your recruitment process transparency. Still, ultimately, I received another offer that was better suited for my current career goals and my salary expectations.
Thanks again for the opportunity. I would have loved a different outcome for us. I’ll be keeping an eye on your moves on social networks.
With this letter, you’re slightly opening the door for an over-employment opportunity. We’ll talk about that later on. Still, keep in mind you’re not asking for a raise that will make you accept the job. If you want to do that, change the last part a bit, so you offer yourself to sort the last thing that is missing: adequate pay. If you notice they come back to you, make sure you prepare yourself to negotiate.
3. Explaining that you’re no longer a developer
We encourage honesty, but this model could work all too well if you want it to be off your radar. You could have reasons for that: maybe you realized that the hiring manager for your current job and this job know each other, and you don’t want them to know you’re an intransigent job hunter, always seeking the best cash score. When you drop a message like this one, you’re essentially saying: “Leave me out of your pool — I just can’t code anymore.”
Career changes do happen. Many developers started at coding boot camps in their early 30s, suggesting that they were working on entirely different things before; careers are not forthright. Moreover, perhaps you applied for a full stack role, but by the time you got the offer, you had already felt a hunch telling you that, from now on, you should focus on the frontend side of things.
Or, as we explained, you could just be using this model as a shenanigan, so you’re no longer living rent-free on their minds.
Thanks for the offer for the VP of Engineering position at Apple. A bit of a pivot, but I'm moving away from dev roles and diving into boot polishing. Odd, I know, but it’s my next step. I hope you find the right fit for Apple.
My kindest regards,
This brief message does not offer help, does not offer an alternative, and does not offer a second chance or next step. It’s an all-out “leave me be.” So remember that if you send it, you will really be off their hook.
4. Telling them you expected more remote work
Dropping this explanation could be a dealbreaker for the relationship-keeping because you’ll be basically acknowledging negligence. Remote working is so relevant in 2023 that it’s probably featured in the job description. It’d be incredibly rare to get to the final stages of an interview process, get the offer letter, and only then realize that “Wait, is this happening in downtown Belgrade?” while you shop for groceries in Riga, where you’ve been accommodating in an Airbnb for five months.
So, it’s quite probable that if you’re setting them loose because they don’t offer remote work, and you wanted that from the start, then you either didn’t read the job posting and just sent your resume, or they’re actually terrible at hiring. Sure, you can always steer and tell them your situation has changed, and now you require more remote work, but, hey, why didn’t you say that last week when you met the CEO?
It seems to be a very impractical explanation for a pass-up. Still, there’s one fundamental reason to come off with this model: If you’ve already secured a job, and you’re tapping them for over-employment, also known as having more than one job, then it might be a good next step.
Dear Ms. Gates,
Thank you for extending the offer for the Lead Developer position at Gates Ventures. After careful consideration, I've realised the importance of a predominantly remote working arrangement due to my current circumstances.
If there's potential flexibility in this aspect, I remain genuinely interested in joining the team. Regardless, I hope we can explore opportunities together in the future.
My kindest regards,
You’re not being really transparent about already having one job. You’re not giving them a hard decline. You’re sending them your vision of a different way of working. In any way, you were about to say no, so you don’t have too much to lose, besides, well, the reputation fallout of being so unpredictable.
If your strategy works out, then you’ll be in a sweet spot to negotiate other aspects of your new job, such as your salary.
Should you decline an offer if you already have one job?
Just a few years ago, this question had a single answer: a straight “Yes, decline it. You can’t work two jobs at the same time.”. However, the rise of remote work has made over-employment — holding more than one job — something feasible and sustainable.
Developers share their testimonials and call each position J1 or J2, with some claiming they’ve stacked up numerous pay cheques while working from home. So, if you’ve been considering giving over employment a try, don’t decline — accept and see how it rolls. First, make sure you prepare for it.
It's time to decide
For the best possible effect, skim through company reviews and get the inside scoop. The more you know, the sharper your messages will be. In most cases, you’ll want the HR team to keep you in the candidate pool for future job openings. Good luck!