How to Decline a Job Offer After Accepting


how to decline a job offer after accepting

You complete an interview. You receive a job offer. You’re excited and you accept it.

But after the initial excitement wears off, you find that you’re starting to have second thoughts. Maybe it doesn’t feel like as great of a fit as you first thought. Or possibly your current employer came back with a strong counter offer that’s compelling you to stay.

However it happened, you’re likely reading this article because you’ve decided to decline a job offer that you previously accepted.

To help you with that in that process, this article offers some tips for how to decline a job offer after accepting. The goal of this article is to help you resign professionally, and with minimal negative impact on the company that offered you the role.

Can You Decline a Job Offer You Already Accepted?

thinking person

The first question is that you’re probably wondering is if it’s even possible for you to decline a job offer that you already accepting.

The answer is yes, you can decline a job offer that you already accepted.

The reason is because most jobs are “at will,” meaning that the employer or employee can terminate the relationship at any time. 

In general, “at will” employment also applies to job offers as well, meaning that either party can terminate the relationship even at the job offer stage. 

Note that is true from the company’s perspective as well. In general, they can choose to withdraw a job offer that you already accepted. Company job offer withdraw is discussed further here, and the legal ramifications are reviewed in this article.

How to Decline a Job Offer After Accepting

1. The Sooner the Better


Once you’ve decided to decline a job offer that you previously accepted, it’s best to let the company know as soon as possible. 

The longer you wait, and the closer you get to your start date, the more you increase the chances of the following:

  • The company investments time in prepping for your onboarding
  • The company invests resources in getting you equipment
  • The company has informed the other candidates that they’ve filled the role

To the greatest extent possible, you want to avoid the company having to do those things if you’re not going to join. It costs them time and money and, ultimately, you want to minimize the negative impact to the company that offered you the job.

So let them know as soon as you know that you won’t be joining.

2. A Call is Better Than an Email

phone call

Generally, if you’re declining a job offer, it’s fine to do so via email. However, when doing it after having accepted an offer, I would recommend rejecting the offer via phone.

If you’ve received a job offer, you’ve likely built some strong relationships at the company. Additionally, there has been a good investment of time from both parties.

And when you’re managing relationships and needing to have difficult conversations, actually having a real conversation is the best way to go.

Now, you don’t necessarily need to call in all cases. If it was a quick interview process, and you made the decision quickly after accepting the offer, an email may be fine.

That said, in this situation, I generally think a call is the right gesture.

3. Provide a Reason

business meeting

When you’re declining an offer after accepting, that means that something changed for you after your initial acceptance. And the company that offered you will want to know what has changed between then and now.

The truth is, you may have just gotten cold feet. And in a situation like that, you may not want to be fully transparent. But you do need to provide some sort of at least high-level reason for why you’re declining the offer after you originally accepted.

4. Express Gratitude

thank you

The last tip is to make sure that you express gratitude. The company invested a great deal of time into you and choose you over multiple possible candidates. 

And even if you don’t end up going with the job offer, make sure to let the company know how much you appreciate their time, and the opportunity.

Sample Letter for Declining a Job Offer After Accepting


Included below is a high level script that you can use to decline a job offer. The script can be used as a starter template for a call, but can also be modified to be a sample letter for declining a job offer after accepting.

As I recommended above, I think a call would be generally be the appropriate thing in this situation, but I recognize there may be some use cases for an email.

Hi {First Name},


This is {First Name} {Last Name}, who accepted the offer of {Job Title} at {Company Name}.


I’m {calling or emailing} to let you know that I’ve decided that I will not be taking the position after all.


After further consideration, I realized that {reason for change of mind} and not taking the position is the best move for me at this time.


I wanted to call to personally let you know of my decision and thank you again for all of your time and the offer of the wonderful opportunity. 


Throughout this article, we provided some high level tips for how to decline a job offer after accepting.

While you generally want to avoid this situation, ultimately it does happen and removing your name before starting can be the best thing for both you and the company.

So follow the tips in this article to do so professionally. And continue on in your journey in finding the right role.

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 writes to share content, tools, and resources to help people discover and thrive in their own best fit work.

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