Your interviewing techniques worked too well and now I have two exciting job offers! Based on your suggestions about how to choose an employer, I have evaluated the people, the product and the companies’ reputations and I have accepted one of the offers. Your advice on how to resign properly was great, too – it went without a hitch.

Now, what is the best way to decline the other offer? I would like to avoid a lot of “why” questions, because my reasons are mostly due to the reputation of the company I want to join, and I “clicked” better with the manager who would be my boss. Thanks for your advice.

Nick’s Reply

decline job offerI’m glad to hear my suggestions helped you win a new job and resign an old one – I love to hear success stories. You’re welcome, and thanks for your very kind words. Congratulations on getting two offers! Nowadays that’s quite an accomplishment.

Your wish to avoid a discussion about “why” you’re turning down a job offer is understandable. Let’s talk about a prudent and safe way to do it.

Decline a job offer via phone

The right way to turn down one of the offers is on the phone, not via e-mail. Despite the cold, impersonal ways most HR departments behave when they reject you, you should cultivate a higher standard.

Make the call to the manager who offered the job, not to the HR department. Awkward though it might seem to you, it’s important to take responsibility for your decision and to tell the manager yourself. This is a manager who wants to hire you and who could serve as a reference for you one day when you need one, or who might hire you in the future. This is the kind of relationship you want to cultivate and protect. So make the conversation personal and as positive as you can.

Decline a job offer concisely, politely and firmly

How to Say It

“I’ve thought about the offers I received very carefully. The opportunity to work with you means a lot to me. However, after careful consideration I’ve decided that another job with a different company is more suitable to my goals at this point in my career. So, I must respectfully decline your offer. But I want to thank you very much for your faith in my abilities. I hope at some time in the future we get a chance to work together.”

That’s it. If they press you, you can decline to discuss details just as politely and respectfully.

How to Say It

“It’s a better fit for me. There’s really not anything else I can tell you. Thanks again for the offer.”

Never disclose where you’re going

The less you say, the better. What if they ask who the other company is? Never disclose that, simply because it’s not their business. It’s rare, but I’ve seen companies try to torpedo job offers from their competitors.

How to Say It

“I’d prefer not to divulge the name of the other company because I don’t think it’s appropriate to do so until I am actually working there. Once I’m settled in, I’d be glad to get in touch.”

If you’re both local, you might even suggest meeting for breakfast or coffee. I’m not kidding — handled deftly, the manager becomes a friend, a reference or even a future boss. I’d never waste an opportunity to form a new business relationship. But let some time pass — get in touch after you’ve been at your new job at least a month.

Be brief and professional

In my opinion, you are required to be polite and professional. It ends there. You are not obligated to explain “why” if you don’t want to. If they get pushy, just thank them again and gently hang up the phone.

If my suggestions sound a bit unexpected, consider what happens when a company rejects a job candidate. The rejection is usually cold and impersonal. The candidate is left hanging and upset because the company does nothing to show respect or to maintain a relationship. That’s why it’s important to rise above the impersonal so you will be remembered positively. I wish more companies would do the same!

There’s one special thing you can do if you’d really like to leave the door open for future contact. If you like the company and manager well enough, even if they’re not right for you, suggest another good candidate. That’s a professional courtesy that goes a long way with some managers.

Enjoy your new job! My compliments to you.

How do you decline a job offer when you’ve got a better one?

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  1. I worked in a college laboratory one summer while taking graduate classes on campus. Because I had good lab skills from working as a clinical chemist, at the end of the summer I was offered an assistantship in that department to pursue a master’s degree. I was not interested in it, as I was pursuing a different program. But I suggested that the person who had replaced me in the clinical position might be interested in the assistantship and provided his name and contact information. Before I could even get home and call my replacement and let him know, the university had already called him (at work!). He accepted their offer and was happy to pursue that program. He had a chemistry degree and was a better fit for it, while I had a different degree.

  2. After I had al=ready accepted my current position, a company that I had applied to offered me a job. I politely declined as I had just started. Even later, I was contacted about a position more than a year after I applied (just about continued interest, not even an offer.) Employers can realy take their time!

  3. Second the advice to decline by email. I once accepted an invitation to discuss a role that was only sketchily described in advance. My hosts did not show up on time and offered only the vaguest of excuses. In addition to other red flags that arose during our chat, it also became apparent that I was way too senior for the role. In an effort not to waste anyone’s time, I attempted to politely decline. I was at a loss for words, though, and my explanation was less than tactful. This resulted in the host issuing some mild insults, in a weak attempt to save face. The tense exchange could have been avoided had I simply declined by email later on.

  4. I like @Tango4Eva bow out. Everything Nick said plus now that you’ve found a good contact, if you can turn it into a mutually beneficial networking move.

    You’d be walking away from that job with really valuable insights on the job, the hiring manager and some idea who’d be a good fit. If that’s someone you know fits run it by them & if they are interested. Connect them to each other. It’s a small world & in the future you’ll have 2 people who may help you.

  5. I am going to agree with most of what you said on this post Nick. However, if an employer extends an obviously bad or pathetic job offer then I would not worry about coming across as rude in turning it down. A lot of employers don’t care whether they are rude to applicants or not and with many of them it doesn’t matter if an applicant is polite to them or not, they’ll try to run roughshod over them. I give respect where it’s due but not simply because of some hiring manager title.

    • @Xstate: I agree. Give respect but expect it, too. There is a line.

  6. I’d just LOVE to know who these Dandies are who are getting multiple offers, and wearing them on their sleeves, while the rest of the REAL world is REELING with unemployment, long-term unemployment, layoffs, jobs stolen by H1Bs, age discrimination, longer-to-long-term unemployment, and the slew of other job search inequities out there preventing the majority of US job seekers from creating the stability and peace-of-mind owed to them by birthright and stolen from them by a corrupt US broken hiring system, corporatocracy, and government. There is nothing on this web site that has EVER addressed the TRUE reality of the preponderence of professionally unemployed silent majority out there.

    Since ~1995, and a geometrical progression moving forward from then, H1Bs have STOLEN jobs, financial futures, lives, and retirements from tens of thousands of US American Citizen/TaxPayer STEM. I have been in IT since 1984 and I have seen AND EXPERIENCED the whole thing unfold FIRSTHAND. I PERSONALLY KNOW white, black, brown, yellow, etc endemic Americans who lost their IT jobs to indians on H1Bs, jobs the Americans had held for DECADES, jobs held at what we NOW know are traitorous treasonous corporations selling out US Citizens/TaxPayers for non-Citizens. I also know, from DECADES of MASSIVE research, IT’ers lamenting being out of work 2, 3, 5, 10, and even more years, while all the while futilely sending out 1,000s of résumés and applying to 1,000s of jobs and collecting the most bizarre interviewing stories but garnering absolutely NO offers. I have also seen, in the same periods, AND KNOW, indians on H1Bs, illegal alien indians, indians scamming the green card system, and multiple other felonious situational indians, being professionally employed in a string of 3, 4, 5 professional jobs back-to-baack while American Citizen/Taxpayers go unemployed and hungry, broke, losing houses, saved retirements, and even marriages. I have seen AND EXPERIENCED this ALL firsthand.

    If you want to see the arrogance and true felony collusion of these job-stealers firsthand, REALLY spend some time on “blind” … .

    … and don’t give me any c/r/@/p about it must be the Candidate and his/her attitude. That line of BS was always ALWAYS false and went out with the eventual realized BS of WHAT COLOUR IS YOUR PARACHUTE.

    You handful of braggerts proselytizing your “multiple offers” is a slap-in-the-face to the preponderence of unemployed American workers who cannot even get the f/u/k/d up broken hiring system in America to allow them interviews, much less offers.

    And shame on you, Nick, for blinding yourself to the silent majority of reality out there. Why don’t you address in your articles THAT?!?!

    Who ARE these people, these anointed ones, that deserve, not one, but multiple offers, and then appoint themselves virtual prolific braggadocios?

    Don’t answer THAT. It is sarcastic and rhetorical, if you’re slow on the uptake.

    I used to think that this site was synergistic to a job search, and that Nick was an outside-of-the-box thinker … and maybe it and he was, at one time.

    Not so any more. Nick censors COMMENTs and never addresses the majority of inequitable revelations in the REAL job market. He’ll probably delete THIS COMMENT. Christ was crucified for remonstrating selfers back to TRUTH.

    And all you sycophants praise Nick and this site instead of challenging both to do better.

    Shame on all of you.

    Make sure you “employed” and “multiple-offer anointed” look around you. There are still plenty of wounded laying on the battlefield right in your own back yard.

    Close your bragging mouths and open your eyes.

  7. I’m one of those sycophants you noted, and am not ashamed.
    I think you’ve defined the reality well as I’ve been in IT also and gone through the same cycle.

    I’ve been following this site for close to 20 years, and it’s not changed at all other than get wiser with experience.

    The primary purpose of this site is to help the individual job hunter(s), not to be a force for changing the system.

    For that, your diatribe needs to go to your elected congress man/woman. That’s what they’re there for. In theory they can effect actions to counter unfair and counter productive practices.

    As to bragging mouths & dandies and shame, that’s a matter of perception. Did it occur to you that there’s a question that is riding on their news..”How did you pull that off?” And most do share. The optimum word is SHARE. and sharing is help, even if it’s only encouragement, that it is doable in spite of the obstacles..
    And that’s what this site aims at. The answer to that question may help people who are struggling, especially, especially in the times you outline . Because like it or not, fair or not that’s the sandbox job hunters and employees face, and deal with every day. Any help is usually appreciated.
    They have to deal with it NOW, while you move the government and corporate bodies to bring fairness into the job world. They could exercise the alternative you infer. They can think “Screw you” I’ll keep my thoughts to myself and leave you squirm.

    While you’ve laid out what’s wrong with our employment world…I see nothing in it to help someone looking for a job. More likely making it harder as you highlight the obstacles in their way. They need help NOW!.

    And speaking of help, let’s hear how YOU help the struggling job seeker.

  8. It woukd be most helpfull if pople were to try to define why they got the multiple job offers.

    Also, when declining a job offer I have found it helpful (and has resulted in offers a year or two later) where I explained that the other company offered much better advancement, better benefits, higher salary, etc. But most of all, the other company offered a true challenge, a clear promotion path and schedule, and a position where I can readially contribute to significant company growth and income.