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Declining a Job Offer? 4 Tips to Avoid Burning Bridges

It’s a position you might have thought impossible until it happens to you: You’ve gone through the interview process, met with a company, and maybe even really enjoyed all the interactions you’ve had with people there, but ultimately when a job is offered, it doesn’t feel right to you. Whatever the reason, you need to turn down the offer. But at the same time, you don’t want to leave things badly, with hard feelings or unkind words, because you never know what the future holds.

Here’s how to politely decline an offer without burning a bridge.

Don’t avoid an awkward situation.

Again: You never know what the future holds or who you might run into again in your professional life. Therefore, it’s critically important to step up, be an adult and turn down the offer. Whether you choose to do that over email or phone is up to you, but do close the loop. Ghosting someone is really bad, and you risk being remembered for all the wrong reasons.

Show appreciation and thanks.

Right away, thank the company’s representative for the opportunity and the offer. Especially if you’ve been through a lengthy interview process in which a lot of time was invested in conversations, whether in-person, online, or over the phone, there might be some affection felt between you and the people you’ve been working with. Honor and acknowledge that and thank them profusely for all their time and, most importantly, the offer. People remember those who are gracious and show gratitude.

Be honest, to a point.

You don’t need to divulge your whole life story when turning down a job offer. You might be pressed on why you’re saying no, but you can keep it short and sweet. The other position was just a better fit is a fair thing to say; the commute was better, the benefits were a little more robust, the overall compensation package was higher, etc. You don’t need to go point-by-point; if asked why you’re not going to join their team, have an answer ready but remember, simple is swell.

Offer to stay in touch, and then do it.

Make it clear that if things were different, you’d be thrilled to join the company. Reiterate how much you’ve enjoyed the conversations and what you’ve learned about yourself and the company through the interview process. If you decide to decline the offer in a phone call, follow up with a thank you note, either through the mail or via email, to express your thanks. Being polite is never the wrong way to go.


Ready for a new start but not sure how to get going? Sterling Personnel can help!

You might feel a little awkward and guilty about having to turn down an offer. That’s understandable! But you owe it to yourself to take the job that’s the best fit for you right now and for your future, and you can do so without burning a bridge or leaving anyone feeling poorly about the interaction. Congratulations on the new job!