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How can a candidate politely reject a job offer after a lengthy interview process?

To help you decline a job offer with grace, we asked HR specialists, recruiting professionals, and business leaders this question for their best insights. From being empathetic to keeping it professional, there are several actionable strategies that may help you reject a job offer during your job search. 

Here are 13 ways to politely decline a job offer: 

  • Keep Future Options Open
  • Be Empathetic Towards the Recruiter
  • Show Respect and Gratitude
  • Respond Politely and in a Timely Manner
  • Don’t End Everything With One Dry Email
  • Show Your Appreciation
  • Keep It Professional
  • Be Honest With the Employer
  • Thank Them for the Opportunity
  • Share Your Feedback
  • Be Proactive as Soon as You Decide
  • Reply in a Medium That’s Most Comfortable
  • Refer Someone More Suited for the Job

Keep Future Options Open

The first thing to do is to write the email or make the call as soon as you have finalized your decision without delaying it to avoid an unpleasant conversation. Keep the interaction or message short and to the point. 

If you don’t feel like it, you don’t have to mention the reason at all and can say, “After much consideration, I have decided to not accept the position.” Be sure to thank them for their time, interest and be earnest in your praise of the company or hiring manager. 

If you can, give some feedback about the interview or hiring process and what you liked about it, but don’t go overboard and make sure it is genuine. Keep future options open and end the conversation or email by stating you would like to work together in the future if the opportunity arises.

Joe Flanagan, VelvetJobs

Be Empathetic Towards the Recruiter

Lengthy interview processes are often the result of many different factors, such as the complexity of work scope and required skills or the inability to make an informed rejection decision. Often those matters are outside of the recruiter’s discretion being imposed as internal standards. 

Avoid blaming the lengthy process on the recruiter. Instead, approaching them with respect can help to cease in the best way possible. We may receive valuable feedback, useful recruitment information, or even be fast-tracked to the later-stage interview for another role in the same firm or managed by the same external recruiter.

Michael Sena, SENACEA

Show Respect and Gratitude

Turning down a job offer after going through a lengthy interview process is very difficult and also uncomfortable. It does make one feel like their word doesn’t mean much and that the people on the other side can lose respect for the candidate. 

My best advice in this scenario is for the candidate to be honest and transparent. Set up a meeting with the person you’ve accepted the job offer from and let them know exactly why you are turning it down. 

A great tip is to write down all of the points that led you to the decision and explain them in detail, especially if the reason for your rejection has to do with something that happened during the interview process. Thank the person for their time, apologize for any inconvenience, and show them the respect they deserve by being honest and sharing constructive feedback.

Jessica Ulloa, MyPerfectResume

Respond Politely and in a Timely Manner

When declining a job offer, be sure you are giving your response in a timely manner. You don’t want to leave the company waiting for too long, especially if you want to preserve the ability to apply with them again in the future. 

You should be polite and professional and provide a clear reason for why you are declining the offer. It might be that they are unwilling to meet you at a salary level you are comfortable with, you may feel that the company’s culture is not the right fit for you, or you might be accepting an offer from another company. 

Whatever the reason may be, be sure you are responding quickly and providing a reason for declining the offer.

Courtney Buhler, Sugarlash PRO

Don’t End Everything With One Dry Email

We should keep in mind that the business world is small, and we shouldn’t burn bridges behind us. A proper rejection is a crucial part of a good business manner and helps us build a professional image in contrast to breaking off contact with the employer. 

If you decide to reject a job offer, contact the recruiter as soon as possible -— over the phone if it’s possible. You’ve already had a lot of opportunities to talk to the recruiter during each step of the recruitment process, so it’s a good style not to end everything with one dry email. 

Don’t feel obligated to give a reason for your decision, but constructive feedback is always highly appreciated and speaks to your business maturity. Thank the employer for the offer and express hope for mutual understanding and possible future collaboration. 

Try to leave the best impression possible — you never know what can happen in the future and who you will be working with.

Ewelina Melon, Tidio

Show Your Appreciation

When it comes to declining a job offer after a long interview process, it’s best to be polite. Let the interviewer know via email or a phone call that you appreciate all of the time and effort they put into interviewing you. Be polite, honest, and clear when you tell them that you are turning down a job offer. This way, you have hopefully not burned any bridges with that company.

Remon Aziz, Advantage

Keep It Professional

No matter how long the interview process has been, rejecting a job offer should always look fairly similar. Stay cordial, grateful, and professional.

Sending an email sincerely thanking the interviewers for their time, consideration and the job offer is always the right thing to do. You might go into the reasons why you’re choosing to decline, but that, of course, is not mandatory. Still, it’s a classy touch that can give them a tad more information with regards to your thinking process and what got in the way of you joining the company.

Ultimately, it’s about infusing a bit of humanity into the process without going overboard. Almost everyone has been there before, and understandably the sharper the candidate, the more in demand they will be but can only choose one offer.

Peter Bryla, ResumeLab

Be Honest With the Employer

The best policy is, to be honest with the employer. If you have specific feedback to share regarding why you are choosing not to accept the job offer, it would be great to share that with the employer as well.

Ed Stevens, Preciate

Thank Them for the Opportunity

Showing gratitude is important in your personal as well as your professional life. For this reason, it’s important to thank the employer for the opportunity and let them know you plan to move on to consider other offers. 

You don’t need to be too specific. A general email response can suffice.

Evan Zhao, Revela Health

Share Your Feedback

If you are polite and honest, you may still frustrate the recipients, but you will do so without tarnishing your reputation. Whether the reason for your rejection is a lack of benefits, location, personal reasons, or a better offer, honestly communicating this with the business will produce honesty in turn. 

Additionally, this type of communication can help spread the word of your authenticity, and in some cases, even lead to the company offering better benefits for you to reconsider your rejection.

Kashish Gupta, Hightouch

Be Proactive as Soon as You Decide

Procrastinating and putting off a tough conversation for later won’t be beneficial for you or the organization. The sooner that you can let them know of your response, the faster they can get back on track and start the search for another candidate. 

Chances are, they already have a list of candidates waiting to hear back. It may be a difficult conversation to have, but it’s better than rejecting a job and getting back to them late, which could leave a bitter taste in their mouth.

Krista Haws, Dripped Coffee

Reply in a Medium That’s Most Comfortable

Rejecting a job offer, especially one that involves a long interview process, can be difficult and confusing for a candidate. You want to ensure that you communicate things in an effective and polite manner without going off-topic or saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. 

For this reason, it’s best to stick to a medium that makes you comfortable so that you can get the message across in the best possible way. For example, many would prefer sending a detailed and polite email over a phone call since the latter is bound to bring about some apprehension or nervousness.

Chris Thompson, Backdoor Survival

Refer Someone More Suited for the Job

A great way to turn down a job without burning bridges is by leveraging your network and referring another professional who matches the requirements perfectly. Any recruitment team would be happy to receive a new lead which effectively saves them time from finding a replacement candidate. At the same time, you’ll be helping out a fellow acquaintance land a great opportunity.

Suzanne Bucknam, The Montessori-Minded Mom

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