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How to Turn Down a Job Offer

How to Turn Down a Job Offer

Sometimes we luck out in our job hunt and have multiple offers on the table simultaneously, so it is important to know how to turn down a job offer when you need to.

More than likely, you don't have the time, energy, or intention of taking both positions and working yourself to death, so having an exit strategy can save you a lot of time and energy while keeping the connections you've made intact.

Whatever the reason may be for you turning the job down, handling of the situation is strikingly similar to dating in that you need to stay prompt and respectful in canceling the deal. The employer has gone to great lengths to search for candidates, filter through the mass amount of applications, and boil down the results to, ultimately, select you as the ideal candidate for the job opening. You are their chosen one, and although it will be undoubtedly upsetting to them when you decide to take another path, knowing how to turn down a job offer with grace and poise can have a great effect on your career in the long-run. We've taken the time to outline some potential reasons to decline a job offer, showcase how to turn down a job offer, examples on how to turn down a job offer through an email, and common pitfalls to avoid.

Potential Reasons To Decline a Job Offer

Unfortunately, every job you hold throughout your career won't be a fit, and you can often eliminate the hassle of having to go through bad jobs or jobs you're not interested in during the offer stage. There are plenty of reasons as to why you should decline a job offer that you've received, but it primarily comes down to ensuring that you're truly interested in the opportunity and it aligns with your personal and professional goals. We've outlined some of the most common signs and reasons that you should decline a job offer you've received.

1. Few Opportunities To Advance

One of the biggest reasons that you should turn down a job offer is if there are few opportunities to advance in your career. Nobody likes to sit in one job for the rest of their career. Especially those individuals who are just starting their careers, the prospect of staying in that same position for the next 30 to 40 years can be overwhelming. As more individuals are interested in climbing the career ladder, finding and pursuing job opportunities that offer that opportunity are important. If you find that the job offer you've received doesn't have a clear career progression pathway or provide you with significant opportunity to advance your career, then you should turn down the job offer.

2. Workplace Culture Doesn't Seem Like a Fit

The next potential reason to consider turning down a job offer has to do with the workplace culture of the place you're interviewing with and considering. There are plenty of different ways to identify what workplace culture is like. It might involve getting in touch with current employees to hear what they think about their job and the organization, interacting with specific individuals during a walkthrough, or even getting a feel for the organization through an observation period.

In other cases, you can identify what a workplace culture might be like based on the organization's mission and values. Sometimes it's best to decline an offer if you can't get behind what the company is striving for and what they deem is important as part of their social mission and values.

3. Job Doesn't Pay Enough or Provide Decent Benefits

Compensation and benefits are two of the biggest deciding factors for any job offer. In competitive industries where there is a significant talent shortage like the healthcare industry, compensation and benefit offerings increasingly play a role in whether or not a candidate will accept a job offer. If you find that the job offer you've received doesn't provide you with reasonable compensation or solid benefits, then it's time to turn down the job offer.

Nobody is going to fight for your compensation or benefits package for you, which means that you need to stand your ground and fight for what you believe is fair compensation and benefits. You should get what you deserve. If you've received the job offer but haven't gone through a negotiation process to see if they'd counter-offer at a more reasonable rate than you need to do that first. If you've already gone through the salary negotiation process and the offer you have is final, then it's time to consider other offers. Make sure that the offer you've received is reasonable with our healthcare salary data in our Healthcare Job Trends.

4. Your Gut Says No

Another telltale sign and reason to turn down a job offer is that your gut is telling you no. We've all been in a scenario where both our mind and heart are playing tricks on each other. We rationalize that we need to accept a job offer because of all the things the job provides, but then our gut and heart are telling us that we should turn it down to consider other options. It's important to remember that sometimes our minds can play tricks on us, and that oftentimes we should trust what our gut is telling us.

5. You're Not Thrilled About the Position

Another reason to consider turning down a job offer is that you're not thrilled about the position. Going to work each day means that you're going to have to put up with a lot of stuff, especially in the healthcare industry where patients and patient family members are going to expect a lot of you in their trying time. This means that you should wake up and be ready to tackle the challenges that lie ahead each day. If you find that you're not overly thrilled about the position before you even accept and start the position, what do you think is going to happen six months down the line when you realize that you've been dreading going to work for a week?

This reason comes with a caveat though. There will be plenty of times throughout your career where you're initially hesitant about the career and job opportunity before you accept the offer and start. In most cases, it's because we don't know enough about the job opportunity yet or we have questions that still need to be answered. If that's the case, make sure that you do all your due diligence and get all the information you need to make a sound decision before automatically declining a job offer. If you have all the information you need and you're still not thrilled about the position, then it's time to turn down the job offer.

6. You've Received a Better Offer

In a competitive industry like the healthcare industry, healthcare employers cannot find enough talent to fill the job postings as they become available. This means that at any one point as you're going through your job interviews and entertaining potential openings, you might have the luxury of receiving multiple job offers at any given time like we've mentioned earlier. One of the best ways to evaluate whether or not one offer is better than the other is to create a comparison table where you can write down what each job offer has and what the job might provide you with in your time there.

Things that you can consider include compensation, benefits, career opportunities, job routine, job duties, and more. If you have received a better offer definitively that you'd like to pursue more than the job offer on your table, then you should pursue that one and turn down the job offers that you're no longer interested in.

How to Turn Down a Job Offer:

1. Be Prompt in Notifying the Employer

Just as if you were canceling plans with friends, family, or a spouse, you want to be prompt in your notification. Let them know as soon as possible after you've made the decision and let them know why you've chosen to go another way. It may be due to another, better job offer, or it could be the circumstances you currently face, either way, they want to know what they can do to improve their hiring and retention in the future. Try to avoid being overly critical and/or brutally honest if the reason revolves around something that could damage the connections you've made at the company.

2. Provide a Brief Reason

One important thing you want to do when you're turning down a job offer is to provide a brief reason. You don't need to elaborate and provide an encyclopedia of reasons as to why you're turning down their job offer. You want to make sure that you are brief but provide some specific reasons as to why you're not going to accept the job offer and take the job.

Some quick examples of how you can be brief in your explanation as to why you're not accepting the job offer include:

  • After careful consideration, I have decided that I am not ready to leave my current position.
  • After deep thought, I have decided to accept a position at another company and decline the offer.
  • While I am deeply appreciative to receive the job offer, I have decided to pursue another role.

3. Show Your Appreciation

The last thing you want to do is turn down one job for another position, just for that other position to fall through and you're left with nothing. Avoid burning bridges and stay polite and appreciative when giving the news that you'll be heading another direction. Employers hate wasting time as much as you do, so don't make them feel as though giving you the time of day was a mistake on their part.

If you're working in a specialized industry, word can travel fast among hiring managers or HR departments, so it's important to protect your reputation within the community by avoiding negativity and bad-mouthing. A good option is to write a letter and deliver it in person. Explain how appreciative you are for the opportunity and that if circumstances were different, you'd be taking the job.

Another way to demonstrate your appreciation in the job offer is to let them know what you liked. You can bring up details about how you appreciated the facility tour, interaction with interviewers or potential team members, and their commitment to helping others. Letting them know what you liked about the opportunity also gives them ways to potentially source future candidates and identify ways in which they could convince future job seekers to pursue an opportunity with the organization.

4. Follow Up with Key Connections

Obviously, some people you meet when searching for a new job are more influential on your future than others. Recruiters and hiring managers are the gatekeepers of their organizations, so stay on their good side by following up with them about the position. Although they may be upset with your decision, they will appreciate the personal, human contact and the fact that you took time out of your day to explain the situation to them.

5. Point them in the Right Direction

If you're planning on turning down a job offer, maybe you can still help fill the position with a connection of your own. Networking in any industry is key, and it costs a lot of money to fill a position, particularly those that are highly specialized. So, if you can make the recruiter's job easier by offering them a valuable connection who's looking for a new job, it will ultimately save the company a lot of time and money. This goes a long way to make up for any time you may have potentially "wasted" (from their perspective), and can end with you having built strong connections with the employer for the future.

6. Keep it Honest

Stay honest, but not too honest. This primarily applies to more personal reasons that you may not take a position like the attitude of the hiring manager, or anything else that may offend hiring managers or HR reps. If your reasons are personal, keep your explanation short and to-the-point. Instead of criticizing every little thing wrong with the company you're turning down, pick a few key things that may the other offer more attractive.

Maybe the job you're taking better aligns with your overall career objectives, maybe the culture of the company doesn't closely align with your own, or maybe it's just a financial issue and you've received an offer that pays substantially more than the one you're turning down.

The best way to approach a situation like this is to cite personal circumstances that make the position wrong for you or the other position you decided to take right for you. Offer any constructive criticism you can think of that can't personally offend anyone.

7. Decline the Job Offer by Phone or Email

There are two ways that you should decline your job offers. The first and most recommended way to decline a job offer is to call the individual who offered the job to you and decline politely. How you go about letting them know that you're no longer pursuing a job opportunity or accepting the offer will say a lot about your professionalism.

It takes a lot of courage to talk to someone directly over the phone instead of writing an email. This is due in large part to the personal nature of extending a job offer. When an employer or organization extends a job offer to you, they're essentially offering you a chance to become a large part of their organization's family. Therefore, it's recommended that you respond to their kind gesture by being professional and giving them the news from a personal phone call.

In the event that you give them a call and you cannot reach them or they are too busy, then letting them know that you're going to decline the offer via email is sufficient.

8. Keep The Door Open for Future Opportunities

It's always a good idea to plant seeds for future opportunities whenever they come around. One of the best ways to do this is to attempt to keep the door open for future opportunities with the employer and organization by informing them that you hope to work with them in the future in some capacity. You don't want to burn any bridges when you're declining a job offer, and informing them that you might be interested in a future opportunity down the road once again showcases that you appreciate their interest in hiring you and will consider future opportunities as they come along in your career.

Pitfalls to Avoid:

1. Avoid Confirming Multiple Offers

Avoid confirming multiple job offers at the same time. Instead, let them know that you have things to consider and get back to them as soon as you've made your decision. Accepting a position only to turn it down later is akin to being a flake, and who likes a flake?

2. Don't Ignore Offers

Don't avoid an offer that's put on the table. If the company is going out of their way to extend an offer to you, be courteous enough to respond quickly and let them know what's going on with you. They want to fill the position and move on, so in the interest of building bridges, notify them.

3. Avoid Negotiating If You're Not Serious About the Offer

Avoid negotiating the job offer if you're not serious about potentially accepting it or your heart is set on another one. Unless you think there's a solid chance that you'll change your mind if the offer is revised, avoid negotiating over it. It further wastes the time of the employer and will damage your reputation if you don't end up taking their offer. Be decisive in your choice.

If they offered you the position with stipulations that it would be their final offer or that the compensation and benefits packages would be firm in the offer, then there is no reason to negotiate or attempt to negotiate. In addition, if and when you went through the interview process and they consistently let you know what their compensation and benefits packages and they turned out to be much lower than your expectations, then you already know that negotiating with them will be a waste of effort and time. Avoid negotiating with them if you believe that you're not going to accept their offer even if they slightly increase their offer.

4. Don't Bank On A Future Offer

Don't bank on a better or future offer to come through. Unless you definitely don't want the position, for whatever reason, avoid turning down an offer in the hopes that a better one will come along soon. It's better to confirm that multiple offers are on the table and to make a decision based on those, rather than turning one down to "hold out" for something better in the future. Of course, this point revolves around your personal circumstances, so take everything into account before choosing.

5. Don't Badmouth Anyone

The next important pitfall to avoid when you're ready to decline a job offer is to avoid badmouthing anyone. It's important to remember that you need to be professional in all scenarios, and that includes when you're informing someone that you're not accepting their job offer. It might seem easy or helpful to elaborate on your reasoning as to why you're not accepting the position because of something someone did or said that you disliked. It might even seem helpful to tell them what you disliked about the organization and how that ultimately played a role in your decision.

While it might seem helpful to do those things, it only serves to send a bad signal and leave a negative taste in the mouth of the individual you're informing about your decision. Another thing you want to avoid doing is badmouthing anybody on your own time or in a public forum. In the event that you consider employment with them in the future, your consideration won't be considered if they find out that you were spreading nasty rumors or comments about certain employers or the organization. Avoid badmouthing individuals or the organization altogether.

6. Don't Expect Declined Offers To Remain

One of the worst things that you can do when deciding and choosing between multiple job offers is to accept a job offer and then have it pulled out from underneath you when the organization decides they don't want to hire you. This might leave you scrambling with the hopes that you can go back and accept the earlier job offer that you declined. Unfortunately, you should not expect the offers you decline to stay there weeks or even months later. Employers and organizations cannot wait for you to decide weeks or months down the line that you're willing to accept their offer

The reason for this is that they've already invested hundreds to thousands of dollars sourcing candidates, interviewing those candidates, and coming up with an actionable game plan to get someone up to speed. The moment you decline their offer, you're extending their timeline which costs them more money, and they have to settle with another candidate. In addition, even though it's a natural part of the job search process when an organization is turned down on an offer they've extended, some organizations can feel offended that you didn't take their offer. Over time this will naturally dissipate but it will be in their minds initially when you try to reach back out to them at a later date.

Make sure that you're decisive in the offer you accept and that it won't be rescinded upon you by accepting. In the event that it does get rescinded, you shouldn't expect a job offer that you've previously declined to remain open and available to you.


Regardless of the reason(s) you've decided to turn down a job offer, keep in mind that the networking bridges you build throughout your career are one of the most important resources for opportunities in the future and it's vitally important that you maintain them. Most hiring managers and HR departments will understand your reasons for turning them down if you following the above steps.

When learning how to turn down a job offer, aim to keep things professional and honest without being overly critical and you should be fine. If you can think of any way in order to shorten their search to fill the position, make it known to score some points with both the company and the individual you recommend.

Advance your career. Change your life. - HospitalCareers

( Article / Content Updated 2019)