Economy & Jobs

6 Tips for Turning Down a Job Offer Without Burning Bridges

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For the past few months, you’ve been searching high and low for a job. You’ve sent out countless resumes and have been interviewed a dozen times. Then, suddenly, your phone rings: You receive an offer!

After the initial excitement fades, however, you learn more about the position and realize that it’s not the best fit for you. Maybe the salary isn’t what you’d hoped, or the benefits aren’t very competitive. Perhaps the job would force you to relocate to a state with higher income taxes. After all, two identical jobs in California and Texas with identical salaries will yield different paychecks depending on where you live. With the tough job market, you might be tempted to accept anyway. But just because you get an offer doesn’t mean you should take it.

Turning down a job offer can be tricky. You don’t want to offend anyone and thereby close the door to future opportunities. With that in mind, here are six tips for turning down a job offer the right way.

1. Don’t Wait

As soon as you’ve decided that you’re not going to accept the job, let the recruiter know. The worst thing you can do is sit on your decision, forcing the company to wait; that’s valuable time they could use to find and hire someone else.

2. Pick up the Phone

Because Millennials grew up in the Internet age, making phone calls can feel intimidating. It’s much easier to type difficult things than to say them out loud. But in this situation, a phone call is the most polite course of action. Take it a step beyond e-mail (and do not send a text message) by calling the recruiter when turning down a job offer. Enduring this awkward conversation will surely earn their respect.

3. Be Honest

You don’t have to explain all of your reasons to the recruiter, but you should be honest about why you’re turning them down. For example, you don’t want to tell them you’re not interested in that particular industry, and then accept a job with their competitor. If you don’t have a good reason, you could say that you don’t fit in with the company culture, or that you’re looking for more room to grow.

4. Refer a Friend

If the job you’re offered is competitive, you probably don’t need to worry about this. But if the recruiter is struggling to find a new employee, try referring a friend. You may have unique contacts within your industry that would benefit their company. Not only will they appreciate the gesture—so will your friend!

5. Send a Thank-You Note

About a week after you’ve turned down the offer, follow up with a handwritten thank-you note. Though it’ll only take you a few minutes to write and send, it’ll make you stick out in the recipient’s mind for years to come. Thank them for their time and understanding, and express interest in staying in touch.

6. Stay in Touch

Once you’ve said you’ll maintain contact, be sure to do so. Every few months, send the recruiter a friendly e-mail or tweet and ask how they’re doing.

Throughout this entire process, keep in mind that relationships are the key to career success. This recruiter clearly liked you—they offered you a job, after all—so take advantage of the opportunity and nurture your relationship. Who knows where they’ll be working, or what positions they’ll be hiring for, a few years down the road?

Though turning down a job offer isn’t easy, following these tips helps turn a difficult situation into a new and potentially rewarding connection.


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