The Right Way to Turn Down a Job Offer

(U.S. Army/Michelle Gordon)

Question: As I'm getting ready to leave the military, I've received a few job offers and feel excited about the one I'm accepting. How do I turn down the others without offending the employer?

Answer: Congratulations on receiving more than one job offer before you separate from the military. Hopefully, each offer was from a company you had considered joining and contributing your value. Sometimes, job seekers will apply for positions they have no interest in fulfilling but do so to "cover their bases."

This can be troublesome for employers and job seekers alike, as employers might see it as a waste of their time if they offer you the job, and job seekers aren't really taking the process seriously.

When applying for jobs, and especially when proceeding through the interview process, it's important to be clear about what you want and which companies meet your needs. Otherwise, you could earn a reputation as a serial job seeker, and employers might resist taking your application seriously later on.

If you are certain you do not want to accept the offer, and are not seeking to negotiate with the employer (for more compensation or better terms or benefits), consider these steps to turn it down:

  1. Show the employer you are rejecting that you appreciate them for considering your application and offering you the position. You might say something like,

    "Thank you very much for the opportunity to learn about ABC company. I am honored you've extended me this offer to join your team."
  2. Next, it's important to let them know upfront that you will not be accepting the position. In your message, instead of burying that information, be forthcoming. I also find it helpful to assure them you have given their offer serious contemplation and are not just rejecting it haphazardly. You could offer:

    "After much consideration, however, I will not be accepting the position. Again, I truly appreciate the offer."
  3. Then, if you feel inclined to let them know you've accepted another offer, you could write:

    "At this time, I have accepted another position, which more closely aligns with my personal and professional goals."
  4. It's polite to close your message with an invitation to stay in touch. This gesture ensures you remain favorable in their view, should you apply for another position later. Also, remember that hiring managers and recruiters move around in their jobs and the person you build a good impression with today could move to another job where you apply later. You might close your message with:

    "Again, I appreciate having been considered for such an important position within your company, and I hope we can remain in touch in the future."

Rejecting a valid job offer should always be handled with professionalism and grace. The company selected you from among other candidates and felt confident you'd be a great fit for what it was seeking.

Refrain from adding criticism about the company, the interview process, the job or the compensation when you turn down an offer. Even if you didn't enjoy the process, or found the salary insulting, assume they did their best. And if you are moving on to a job you're excited about and feel confident about for your future, focus on that instead of on an offer you didn't like.

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