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Can You Decline a Job Offer After You Accept It?

Uh-oh. So this happened? You had your heart set on a job – you charmed the hiring manager – you smashed the interview process, and you were offered the position. Of course you took it! You worked hard to get that job! Everything is rosy until something entirely unexpected happens and suddenly you are not in a position to take that job.

Firstly – don’t stress. This happens all the time. Consider the following scenarios:

  1. You were turned down from your first pick, but then received a phone call from the hiring manager, explaining that the candidate they chose was no longer available…and now they want you.
  1. You randomly stumble across a job advertisement that sounds WAY better than the job you’ve just been offered…you interview with them for the hell of it, and it turns out they want you too.
  1. A big life event happens and you either need to change location, or just career direction, fast.
  1. You find out more about the role or the company and you’re not so keen anymore. Maybe you hear the boss is a slave-driver from hell, or the company is performing really poorly.
  1. You have a mid-life crisis, an any-time crisis or an unexpected epiphany – and you realise that this job is just not right for you.

Whatever the reason, turning down a job you’ve already accepted is never fun. Who likes letting people down? But it needn’t be stressful, or even a big deal. Sure, the hiring manager might be upset or inconvenienced for a short while – but that’s nothing compared to how you being stuck in the wrong job can impact your life.

If you know you can’t follow through, there are ways to turn down the offer and hopefully still maintain a positive relationship with the employer. The following tips and sample letter will allow you to make the whole experience as smooth as possible…and maybe even turn it into a positive.

Don’t Wait – Let the employer know as soon as you realise you no longer want the job. The sooner you let them know, the sooner they can start looking for your replacement. If only a few days have passed since you accepted the job, you may think you needn’t bother, but it’s definitely common courtesy to do so, as the employer has already invested time and money into trying to help you.

Be honest but tactful – Let the employer know why you changed your mind, but do so without insulting them, or the company. If you don’t think you’ll get along with the other employees, simply say you don’t think you would fit in with the company culture. If you found a job that you are much more interested in, explain that you were offered a job that is more in line with your skill set. The best way to come out of an awkward situation like this is to make sure all your interactions with the hiring manager are polite, so don’t say anything negative about the employer or the company.

Do it in person or over the phone – Ok, so in person can be kinda scary, so if you’re more comfortable with a phone call, that’s fine. Just don’t use email or social media to inform them of your decision. Own your decision and express your regret that you have inconvenienced them. It’s also helpful to mention some of the positive factors you noticed in the company or during the recruitment process, and mention your appreciation for those. Explain that turning down the job was a tough decision. It’s best not to burn bridges with any employer – you never know if you might want to work with them in the future. Once you’ve told them face to face or over the phone, you may want to follow this up with a formal letter (template below).

Know your bottom line – The hiring manager may try to negotiate with you to get you to stay. Before approaching them, decide what your bottom line is. Would you stay for more pay or certain benefits? If you decide you do not want to negotiate, be clear about this with the employer if they start to steer the conversation in that direction.

Can you reject a job offer by email? 

Yes, you can, although most managers would appreciate a phone call. The interview process is a lengthy one for hiring managers. First, they need to advertise, then shortlist the best candidates, followed by multiple interviews, before they have the pleasure to offer the job. If you do decide to turn down a job offer by email after you have accepted it, here is a sample to use:

Sample email 

Dear Ms Jones,

Thank you so much for offering me the position of Marketing Manager at Smith Industries. It has been a pleasure speaking with you and learning more about your company.

Unfortunately, after giving a great deal of thought to this career opportunity, I have decided that it is in my best interest, as well as the company’s, to turn down your gracious job offer. I have recently decided to accept another position that I believe is a better fit for my abilities and skill set.

I am truly sorry for any inconvenience this decision may cause. I continue to be impressed with Smith Industries growth and standing in the marketplace.

I wish you all the best in your future endeavors. I hope to see you at the upcoming Marketing conference in June.

Kind regards,

Your name

How to reject a job offer over the phone after you have accepted the job

Turning down a job offer after you have accepted it over the phone can be a massively daunting experience, but it doesn’t have to be. We have put together a script of how you should start the conversation, as well as answers to any questions or remarks the hiring manager might express:

 

Hi Mr. Dargie,

I just wanted to say thank you for the time you spent interviewing me and telling me about the company. This isn’t an easy conversation to have, but, I have decided to turn down the job offer.

Mr. Dargie: But you have already accepted the offer. This is really disappointing.

Response: Yes, I did accept the offer, and I completely understand your disappointment, however, after careful consideration I cannot move forward in the position. I am very grateful to you for the opportunity and I hope you can offer the position to someone in a better position to accept the job.

Mr. Dargie: Why are you turning it down?

Response: (Just be honest here, it is always the best approach.) I have been offered another job that is more suitable. Once again, thank you for considering me for the position. If I know of anyone suitable for the role, I will be sure to refer them to you. Best of luck.

 

Last but not least, you shouldn’t feel bad about your decision. The amount of money the company has invested in you so far is insignificant compared to the amount of money it would have invested, had you left after a few weeks of induction and training.

Think positive and stay honest. If you have a good reason, the hiring manager is likely to understand. Do your best to leave on good terms and keep a handy contact in your network.