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5 Ways to Turn Down a Job Offer Without Burning a Bridge

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You are one of the lucky ones. You’ve done your networking, polished your résumé, honed your interview skills, and you are now deciding between more than one job offer. This is the best news ever. Except, now you have to turn someone down.

Don’t worry. You can do this without burning a bridge.

But it can be tricky. Turning down a job offer that leaves the almost-employer with a good impression of you is possible, maybe even leaving the door open for future work and likely leaving you with a bigger network and an ally in your field. It’s all about keeping your relationships in good standing.

Do It Quickly

First of all, do it quickly. When you know you have to turn down a good job offer, don’t delay the inevitable—the faster you make the call, the better it is for everyone. If you wait a long time to let the employer know you aren’t interested or, even worse, don’t tell them at all, they’ll waste a lot of time waiting for you and maybe miss out on another candidate. This is the last thing you want to have happen. If you’re going to end the process in a positive way, you have to give the company a chance to make a successful hire.

Formally Decline the Job

If you want to show the organization that was recruiting you that you respect them and want to remain on good terms, you need to call to reject their job offer. For one thing, if it’s an issue of money or negotiable points, this gives them another chance to try to lure you. But mostly it shows integrity, respect, professionalism and maturity. Call the recruiter or hiring manager, let him know why you’ve chosen to accept another offer (without speaking negatively about his organization), and then express your appreciation for his time and efforts on your behalf. Then, if there were other people in the company that you met with, send them a thank-you email. Finally, follow up with the recruiter in an email to thank him again and let him know how to contact you in the future.

Be Honest

When having your “here’s why I can’t accept your job offer” conversation, remember to be honest about your reasons. If it’s because of non-negotiable terms of the job, the hiring manager will understand that you have to do what works for you. This is much easier if you’ve been upfront with yourself and the organization about what you would need in order to accept a position, so start the honesty early in the process. If you’re rejecting the offer because the job doesn’t fit what you see to be your career path or won’t provide the opportunities you need, be open about that because you never know when something new with the company might open up and be more suitable for you.

Finally, if you’re saying no to the job because you don’t feel the organization is a good fit for you, it’s okay to be a bit vague (but stay honest). It’s very important that you don’t speak negatively about the organization or any of the people you came in contact with along the way. Always remain positive and polite.

Keep Quiet

An easy trap to fall into without knowing it is to be vocal about your job offers on social media. Of course you’re excited to have two or more offers to choose from, but you need to keep quiet about it at least until you’ve got everything lined up with the job you are accepting. It’s rude and can be embarrassing for the organization with the competing offer if you’re blowing up Twitter and LinkedIn with how much better another offer is. And you don’t want them seeing it on social media before they hear it from you.

The best way to keep your relationship intact is to avoid mentioning multiple offers at all and just show your excitement when you start the new job. Voice your appreciation for everyone involved in the process and how smooth it was for you. Don’t forget that if you post it on the Internet, you might as well be writing it on a billboard: someone will see it.

Maintain the Relationship

Again, the most important thing you want to do when declining a job offer is to maintain the relationships you’ve built throughout the process. If they offered you a position, the people in the organization clearly think highly of you, which means you’ve successfully expanded your network and opened up new opportunities for yourself. If you end the process respectfully and with sincere praise, you will walk away with strong contacts in your field. Follow up your final phone calls with thank-you notes, either by mail or at least via email.

When you’re settled into your new job, contact the recruiter you worked with, and anyone else you came into contact with along the way, to provide them with your new contact information. If you haven’t already, connect with them on your professional social media sites like LinkedIn so they can stay in touch with you and follow your progress. It’s a small world. You never know when you’ll run into any one of those people again down the road. When you do, you’ll want them to remember you as being professional and an asset to any team.

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