How to Decline a Job Offer Without Burning a Bridge

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Getting to the end of an interview process and receiving a job offer is an exciting accomplishment.

However, just because you received a job offer, it doesn’t mean that it’s the right fit for you. And, ideally, you want to be interviewing in a place where you can be selective about what offer you take to try and find the perfect fit for you.

So if you find yourself in a position where you received a job offer that you need to decline, but want to maintain a good relationship with the offering company/hiring manager, then this article is for you.

Below are four tips for how to decline a job offer without burning a bridge. I also included a sample email template at the end that you can leverage to decline the offer.

Let’s get started.

Tips for Declining a Job Offer Without Burning a Bridge

1. Actually Respond to the Offer

The first tip should go without saying but I think it does deserve mentioning. Even if you intend to decline a job offer, you do need to actually respond to the offer. 

Yes, saying no isn’t pleasant. And yes, the company may follow up with calls and emails to understand more about your reasoning (which may be uncomfortable). But, ultimately, the company invested time in interviewing and offering you and you owe them the professional courtesy of a response.

2. Respond Promptly

Once you’ve received a job offer, my advice is to send some type of response within one business day. If you know at that point that you’re going to decline the offer, then you can go ahead and decline the offer in your initial response. 

However, if you’re not sure whether or not you’re going to accept or decline, a response of some sort within a business day to establish a mutually agreeable timeline on a decision is a good step.

3. Express Gratitude

Communicating your gratitude for the opportunity is an extremely important way to decline an offer without burning a bridge. Again, the company invested time in interviewing you and are giving you an opportunity that they could have offered many others.

So be sure to be thankful, and express gratitude for both their time, and the opportunity.

4. Give a Good, Short Reason

When declining a job offer, in general I would recommend providing some guidance as to the reason that you’re declining. And being that you’re trying to decline the offer in a way that won’t burn a bridge, that reason should be positive and professional.

If it’s a fairly black and white reason like the offer doesn’t align with your compensation goals, then you can go ahead and communicate that in your decline email or call.

However, if you’re declining for something related to culture or personnel, say you didn’t get a good vibe from the hiring manager, then you’ll want to approach that one more delicately in the way that you communicate. That’s a case for a more short and generic reason like “concerns over alignment about the approach to x,” or you’ve “decided that you’re looking for a working environment environment that offers more Y.”

Email Template

Up to this point, I’ve provided some high level tips on how to approach declining a job offer without burning a bridge. Now I’d like to make it more concrete and provide an actual email template that you can leverage.

Take a look at the email template below and feel free to customize it to your needs.

Dear {Hiring Manager},

 

First and foremost, thank you so much for the generous offer of {position name} at {company name}.

 

I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to get to know you and the team and have really appreciated all of the time that you put into this process.

 

That said, I wanted to let you know that I’ve decided to decline this offer. After further consideration, {this offer unfortunately does not achieve my compensation goals} or {I’m concerned about our mutual alignment with regards to the approach to X, and think there may be better candidates that fit what you’re looking for} or {I’ve decided that a Y environment isn’t the best for more, and I’m looking for Z}.

 

Best of luck in finding a great candidate to fill this role.

 

Warm regards,

 

{First Name}

Conclusion

Declining a job offer is not a fun thing to do. But if you approach it well, and follow the tips above, you can maintain a good relationship even when delivering bad news.

About the author

Dan Slocum

Dan is the founder of Best Fit Work and is a business professional with over 10 years of experience. He has been a hiring and people manager on multiple occasions, and has also gone through the hiring process himself at a variety of different companies. Dan serves as a career counselor on the side. He writes to share content, tools, and resources to help people discover and thrive in their own best fit work.

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