How To Decline A Job Offer

The dreaded decline of a job offer ​is something every recruiter fears. But they shouldn’t, and here’s why.

The truth is, they probably know it’s coming, or at least they should do if they are half decent. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise unless you completely blindside them with something never before seen or discussed.

This morning I researched the most commonly asked recruitment questions, and ‘how to decline a job offer’ featured high on the list. Here is my take on how to do it and how not to burn bridges in the process.

Undertaking a job search can be a lengthy process. It can take weeks or months to get to a point whereby the contract lands in your inbox and you finally have the opportunity to review everything you and your future employer have spoken about. But your gut feeling isn’t right. Something doesn’t sit well. You want to decline the offer.

Here’s one question you can ask yourself to quickly work out a way forward: can the concerns, questions and problems you have be dealt with through a further conversation or meeting with your potential future employer or through changes to the contract or employment terms? If yes, then do that. Be clear, honest and transparent about your concerns but in equal measure highlight your desire to actually do the job.

If the answer is no, then this sounds simple but just say so.

As a recruiter, one of the most frustrating parts of the job is trying to fix something that ultimately was never going to happen in the first place. You spend lots of time working with the candidate and the client to bring a resolution to the surface and then when those boxes are ticked, it’s still a no-go. In my experience, this usually happens with people I have had a gut feeling about from the beginning. I’ve always known they aren’t 100% committed. They’ve always known it. But we have ignored it, in the hope that it will go away.

As a candidate, if you receive an offer or even attend an interview that isn’t right for you, my advice would be to just say so. Who can ask for fairer than that? The job market is so broad and has so many opportunities that you should never feel pressurised into anything. Your recruiter will appreciate your feedback and will ultimately learn what doesn’t work for you, and the hiring company will appreciate it because they can move on. The same applies if you receive a counter-offer that is simply too good to turn down (the debate on accepting a counter offer can be saved for another day), but again, maintaining transparency and honesty keeps things nice and clear for all parties.

If you don’t want to burn bridges, my advice would be to act professionally but assertively. State clearly that it isn’t the role or business for you and explain the reasons why. You may expect some questions from your recruiter but ultimately this should be to understand not to coerce you into accepting the offer. At the end of the day they want to offer feedback to the hiring company, so the more information you can give them, the more open they can be with their customer.

It would be great to hear your views on this. If you have found this helpful or if you need any advice then just drop me a line at [email protected].


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