Step 1: Show Your Appreciation

First and foremost, it’s important to thank the hiring manager for the offer and for and his or her time. Yes, interviewing potential candidates is part of the job, but this person likely spent several hours reading your resume, trolling your social media profiles, and sitting down with you for interviews. He or she also may have gone out on a limb to talk you up to other members of the team.

So, a heartfelt—and specific—thank-you for that time and effort will go a long way. For example:

  • Thank you so much for the offer for the Marketing Manager position. I so appreciate you taking the time to consider me and for answering so many of my questions about the company and role.
  • Thank you again for the interview last week—it was great to meet the team and see the offices. I enjoyed learning about the Operations Director position, and I appreciate this generous offer.

Step 2: Give a Good, Brief Reason

Especially if you’ve spent a lot of time interviewing, it’s the right and respectful thing to do not to leave a hiring manager in the dark about why you’re declining the position. That said, there’s also no need to go into detail about the red flags you saw in your would-be-boss, spill about the amazing perks at the job you did accept, or moan that you’ve spent the past week agonizing over your decision.

The best approach is to be brief but honest about your specific reason for not accepting the position, saying something like:

  • After careful consideration, I’ve decided to accept a position at another company.
  • After much thought, I’ve decided that now is not the best time to leave my current position.
  • While this position seems like a great opportunity, I have decided to pursue another role that will offer me more opportunities to pursue my interests in marketing and social media.

You can elaborate to the extent that it makes sense—for example, at one point, I had been referred to a company by a friend and gone through three interviews before getting an offer and felt that I owed the hiring team a thorough explanation. I expressed how much I enjoyed getting to know the group and why the position was so interesting to me, but shared that I had another offer that would ultimately point me more in the direction of my career goals.

But if the position seems terrible and the only real reason you have is that you’d rather stand in an unemployment line than accept it, a simple, “It’s not quite the right fit for my career goals at this time” will suffice.

Step 3: Stay in Touch

The job search world—especially in certain industries—is small. So offering some small pleasantries before you sign off is always a good idea. If you can reference something you discussed, like an event or conference you’re both attending, do so. Otherwise, you can make a simple mention that you wish this person all the best in the future.

  • I hope to see you next month at the conference we’re both attending.
  • It’s been a pleasure getting to know you, and I hope that we cross paths in the future.
  • Again, thank you for your time and support, and I wish you all the best.

Turning down a job offer— no matter how sure you are that you don’t want it —never feels great. But remember, it’s an inevitable part of starting the job of your dreams.

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