Respectfully Declining a Job Offer

by Sarah Deringer, former Head Editor, INALJ Mississippi

Respectfully Declining a Job Offer

Sarah.DeringerUprightThere are times when you cannot accept a job offer. Whether it is because you do not feel like you fit into the culture, the job does not fit into your life goals, or the salary or benefits are not enough, you need to know how to respectfully decline a job offer. You don’t want to burn bridges when you decline; you just want to say, “I’m sorry I can’t accept.” It can be difficult for those, like me, who do not like being put into situations where you could hurt someone’s feelings. So, here are some tips on declining a job offer without stepping on toes, burning bridges, and breaking hearts.

First of all there are four ways to communicate your rejection: phone, email, letter, or in person. Each of these ways has positive and negative aspects. Choose one that fits your personality and would make you feel most comfortable. In any of these mediums of communication, follow these guidelines:

  • Thank them for the offer FIRST. If you don’t thank them for the opportunity and another job becomes available through their company or library that is of interest to you, they might not give you another chance. So thank them now!
  • Respectfully decline, “I’m sorry, but I won’t be able to accept your job offer.” This is not the time to tell them that their benefits package isn’t what it should be. Just respectfully decline.

For phone and in-person:

  • Answer questions that they have. Be honest but nice. Again, don’t burn bridges. Don’t get defensive or aggressive. Just explain.
  • Thank them again before hanging up or leaving. Showing gratitude goes a long way.

When you need to decline a job offer, just remember to say thanks first. For more information on writing rejection letters, see these great articles:


previously published 7/24/13 & 6/30/14

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