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How to decline a job offer after accepting

career tips job hunting Jul 21, 2022
Woman standing in front of a wall with book covering her face.

 

 

You created a perfect cover letter and resume. You had a great interview. They said you were a perfect fit for the job. You said yes. They emailed you an offer letter. 

You no longer want the job. What now?

Deciding a job is not right for you is normal. Declining after you have told the hiring manager you are going to join the company is when it can seem tricky. 

Should you decline over phone or email? Will you ruin your chances of working with the company again? Will you ruin your chances of working with other companies? How soon do you have to let them know?

There are many factors to consider when declining a job offer without burning any bridges.

But the important thing to remember is that while you may be the best person for the job, you are not the only person for the job. 

Just like there were several of you trying to get this job, there will be several people the hiring manager can choose from when you reject this job. 

You have to focus on what’s best for you – which is why it is important to understand why you are declining the job offer. 

 

Know why you’re saying no

Before you apply for a job, you should know what you want: how you’ll develop professionally, how much you will be compensated, if you have the opportunity to grow in the company…the list goes on.

You should establish what you want and need. But sometimes, the job market isn’t promising and you have to lower your standards. Or sometimes, the job post doesn't tell the whole story. Sometimes you learn everything the job entails when you’re at the interview. 

If the job begins to fall short, you can save your “yes” for something that suits you better, but you need to know what that is. What is missing at this job and will you be able to find it at others?

 

Compensation

If you are in the position to choose between workplaces for better compensation, make sure you weigh your options and choose according to your lifestyle.

It is okay to decline a job because it may not support your rent. It is also okay to decline a job because it may not provide you enough money to support your leisure activities.

Work takes up so much of your life so you should be paid and granted the necessary vacation time you need to enjoy the time you have off.

Limited professional growth

Ask how long it takes employees to be promoted in the company. Ask for specific examples. 

If you do not see that your soon-to-be colleagues are being rewarded for your time, you are well within your right to deny them your employment. 

Unclear roles and responsibilities 

Each job is a formative step in your career. Each job is an opportunity to grow into a better version of yourself.

If the company does not offer skill development budgets, if employees don’t mentor each other, if there are no clear goals for you to achieve so you can improve your resume with what you have learned in this role – say no.

You do not want to waste your time at a place that is not invested in making you a better employee. 

High staff turnover

Look at the company website, LinkedIn pages, and ask around. If people are coming through the company like a revolving door, it is a bad sign.

Saying no could save you valuable time. 

A better offer comes along

If you are torn between this job and a better position elsewhere, do not feel indebted to the inferior option.

Companies will look out for themselves by choosing the best option and so should you. 

The hiring process was not positive

The respect – or lack of respect – you receive during the hiring process could be a preview of how you will be treated when you get hired. 

Are communications slow? Are communications impolite? Are you unclear about where you stand?

You decide if these are working conditions you can be okay with. 

 

The company isn’t as successful as you want 

Looking at the company’s reputation is important – especially if you’re trying to find your place in a competitive industry.

If you need your name in high places and backed by powerful companies, make sure you choose accordingly. 

 

Your values do not match company values

If you determine that you don’t necessarily agree with the company’s values, you should be able to decline a job in good conscience. Waking up to work with a company for the sake of money, with no personal and moral attachment, will get old fast. 

 

You do not like the manager

Some people get to know their manager during the hiring process on their own terms. Sometimes a manager is known by their reputation. If you decide that you can’t deal with a bad boss, it’s better to know that early.

Sixty percent of employees have left jobs or considered leaving jobs because they did not like the manager that worked directly over them. You may as well quit while you’re ahead if you think it’s going to be a deal breaker for you.

It just doesn’t feel right

Go with your gut. It can’t be explained but you may be sorry if you don’t listen to it. 

Once you know why you can’t accept this job offer, you need to decide if this is something you want to share with the hiring manager. 

Once you figure that out, it’s time to put it in writing. Send them a message the same way you would send a cover letter or a letter of resignation. 

Here’s an example:

Source: Word Templates Online

 

Word Templates has several rejection templates for several other reasons, such as deciding to pursue education, choosing another employment opportunity, and personal reasons.

Most reasons are valid, but not all are acceptable in the working world.

 

How to decline a job offer after you’ve already said yes

First, you need to make sure there are no legal consequences to leaving the position. If your email acceptance is the only trace of your work with the company, you are in the clear, but management may not appreciate the sudden switch.

If you have doubts about the job, but you have already started working, your position and your time spent will determine if and when you can leave. 

This lawyer says two weeks' notice is not always sufficient – sometimes you could need to give six months. If your employer takes you to court because they claim your departure is disruptive to the company, the courts will look at your position commitments and responsibilities, your contract term, your salary, and how long it will take for you to be replaced.

That’s why it’s important to have an open and candid conversation with your employer before making any decisions that could put you in a more uncomfortable decision that just choosing to stay. 

 

Can you try to accept the job again once you have declined?

If after everything is said and done, you realize the job you have declined is actually your best bet, you can try to return to the company. 

This really depends on three things:

  1. How you declined
  2. the attitude of the hiring manager
  3. how strong of a candidate you are

 

If you declined soon after you accepted – so early that the company didn’t reach the end of their paperwork – you may have a chance to get the job back.

Make sure you pick up the phone to have this conversation. Make it personal. Make it sincere. Give them a reason to trust you as a dependable employee.

Explain why you declined and why you are returning to accept. Transparency is key.

Their decision to re-offer the position depends on if the hiring manager is forgiving. If they understand that job searching is an uncertain time and that you are sure about your decision to stay, you could be in the clear.

The other side of this is how valuable of an employee you are. You probably won’t know what other candidates are in the talent pool, but you were offered the job once, so you were being pursued.

Repeat why you are the right person for the job. Go over your work achievements, your dedication, and your reason for wanting to work for them. 

Your humility to return to the job, paired with your qualifications and getting on the manager’s good side could be the way back into employment. 

 

Deciding if a job is the right fit for you is an important decision. You’re investing your time, talent, and energy into work that will hopefully shape you into a more skilled worker. 

Don’t make your decisions on a whim. Don’t feel cornered into accepting work that is not for you. 

You risk underperforming, upsetting yourself, and possibly losing out on a positive network and opportunity for a reference.

You can’t control how companies work, but you can control who you want to work for.



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