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Let’s face it – interviewing for a role, being offered the job and then declining is a bit awkward. It might be tempting to try and fast track the rejection process by providing a curt “no thank you”. However, when declining a job offer you really want to avoid burning bridges. Here are the two key reasons why:

  1. Your reputation is at stake
  2. There may be opportunities at the company in future

If you’ve been offered a job, you’ve obviously made a great impression. The people interviewing have become emotionally invested in you and there is a high expectation that you’ll take the job. So what is the best way to decline a job offer without burning bridges?

1. Provide an explanation

It’s business, but it’s also a kind of break up – a rejection of the company. A rejection without any explanation will make it harder for the people hiring to understand your decision. 

Explain in a clear and concise manner your reasons for turning down the job offer. Make sure you keep it professional and polite. Avoid saying anything overly negative about the company or position, even if this is a contributing factor in your decision. 

It’s not necessary to elaborate at length on your reasons for declining but it’s important to provide them with context and a logical reason, something they can empathise with or relate to. For instance, if the role does not fulfil your career progression aspirations, you might say something like “upon much reflection, I have come to realise that the job responsibilities of the position aren’t in alignment with with my career ambitions. I feel that another opportunity would better align with my career goals.”

Your focus should be on maintaining good relations and protecting your reputation. You don’t want the hiring manager to feel like you mislead them and wasted their time. Never say that you were just exploring options so that you’re in a better position to negotiate a salary increase with your current employer.

2. Gratitude

It’s very important to express gratitude to the hiring team for the time and effort they invested. If you come across as not being appreciative then this will lower their impression of you. Furthermore, if you’re curt and ungrateful, then you’re reducing the likelihood of being considered for future opportunities with the person hiring and/or the company.

3. Stay connected

Oftentimes the company will ask if they can keep you on file or stay connected in some way. Maintaining good relations will almost always work in your favour. You may not have been interested in working for the organisation now but it’s good to keep the door open to working with them in future. If they don’t suggest staying connected, you might want to. You could say something like, “although this job opportunity hasn’t worked out, I would appreciate staying connected if you would like to. I have enjoyed getting to know you through this process and I’m interested in the ongoing success of [Company name]. Should there be future opportunities, I would be interested in exploring them.”

Ultimately, if you want to decline a job offer and maintain good relations, it’s entirely possible to do so with the key ingredients of professionalism, gratitude and a concise explanation around your decision.