decline a job offer


To decline a job offer you’ve already accepted feels bad no matter how right the decision is. It is uncomfortable for you when you know you are going to make a number of people unhappy: the hiring manager, HR and your executive recruiter. Typically people decline a job offer you’ve already accepted for four main reasons: you are taking a counteroffer, you changed your mind. a family crisis or your dream job came through

Try to avoid the counteroffer and mind change scenarios. A well thought out job search and assessment of the position you accepted should have happened BEFORE you accepted the offer. Remember 70% of people who accept counteroffers end up leaving the company within one year anyway. Changing your mind, while it does sometimes happen, seems unprofessional and insulting when just turning down the job in the first place would have been far less dramatic.

If you are working with an executive recruiter, they may be able to extend your start date to accommodate a family crisis. If you still want the job, but you are just unable to start on the previously agreed upon date, you don’t have to assume the job can’t still be yours. If the family crisis means you can’t relocate for the new job, then better to decline a job offer as soon as you can.

Your dream job coming through is probably the most common reason people subsequently decline a job offer you’ve already accepted. It is the best reason to perform this uncomfortable task of declining an accepted offer. Hopefully the dream job came through before you started. Resigning after you’ve already started makes this even more onerous for everyone involved.

Here’s what to do when you need to decline a job offer you’ve already accepted:

Be Sure

In some cases you are in this position because you didn’t think it through. Make sure you do that before declining. No matter how well you decline a job offer, there is a high probability you will make this company mad and negatively impact your chances of working there in the future, so, be sure you don’t want this job now or in the near future.

Know Your Bottom Line

It is possible the company you are trying to walk away from will increase/improve your offer to induce you to still come. Make sure you have thought through whether any improvement in the offer would affect your decision. THIS IS NOT A NEGOTIATION TACTIC, but you want to be prepared if they don’t want to take no for an answer.

Decline In-Person or Live on the Phone

This is not an email, text message or voice mail task. As hard as doing it in-person is, it reflects your respect for the company and your professionalism. If in-person isn’t possible, get the hiring manager or the HR person on the line.


You need to prepare what you are going to say. You want to be grateful, tactful and honest, and you want to do all of that in just a few sentences. Sharing the real reason you are declining is important but you also don’t need to give them every detail that went into your decision. Too much information on a family crisis or how excited you are about your dream job will not be well received. Be concise.

Learn From This

This will not be the worst thing that ever happens to you. In fact, declining one offer to go to your dream job will probably be a good thing for your career, but you do need to think through the consequences. The individuals involved in this offer will remember you. They may move to another company you want to work for in the future, or you may want to revisit this company. Neither may be possible. If you decline a job offer professionally, and hopefully before you’ve started, you should be able to repair any damage down the road, and you’ll have improved your skill set by taking that dream job.  Here are two blogs tht could help you avoid this problem in the future:  How to Negotiate Multiple Job Offers and a slideshare on How to Lose a Job Offer in 10 East Steps.

Interested in a job change? Contact the recruiters at Smith Hanley Associates or visit our job board,

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