Declining a job offer can be a nerve-wracking ordeal, and even more so if you’re declining because of the salary. When it’s just not enough, you have no choice but to eventually let the hiring company know your hard-thought decision of rejecting the offer.
But how do we approach the subject?
We asked 8 experts to explain how to decline a job offer due to salary.
CEO, Prosper Consulting
Getting a job offer is such a great feeling after going through multiple interviews, doing your company research, and answering all of the questions the right way. But when the offer comes with a salary that is less than you expected, it is disappointing.
Of course, you can do your homework and find out what you are worth on websites like Glassdoor, Salary.com, and PayScale. Then you have to get the courage to talk about what those websites publish for the role you’re going to perform. It certainly feels like all the power is on the side of the employer instead of the candidate.
When the job and the company are right, but the salary isn’t, what do you do?
Try to negotiate
You ask for more and negotiate. You take that deep breath and talk about the value you can deliver to the company and how you can help them reach their goals. And then you hope that they realize that they should offer you more
so you can sign the offer letter and plan for Day 1 on the job.
But what if after all of that, they don’t increase the salary to what you want?
Decline but maintain the relationship
You have to figure out how to decline the job offer but maintain the relationship because you never know when you’re going to be looking for your next job. And given the ease in which people in your profession and industry can talk on LinkedIn and email, you know you have to do this the right way.
And if you don’t, the consequences can cause bad for your career opportunities and work relationships in the future.
Here is an example of what you can say:
I’m excited about the job offer and have been pleased with what I heard during the interview process. Unfortunately, we couldn’t agree about the pay. You offered $X, and I need $Y given my expertise and how I can help you meet your business goals of A, B, and C. While this didn’t end the way we both would have liked, I would like to stay in touch. Would it be okay if I connected with you on LinkedIn to make that easier?
Wait for their response then say, “Thanks, I wish you well.”
Plan how you will respond. Practice. Be brief when you share your decision and recognize that this process is preparing you for interviews and job-related decisions you will make in the future. Be proud of your ability to know your walk-away point and focus on maintaining your abundance mindset.
The right offer will come along as long as you continue to take action each day toward your job search goals.
Angelique Hamilton, MBA
HR Practitioner | Diversity Consultant | Founder, HR Chique Consultancy Group
As an HR Consultant and Coach, I can offer some best practices to decline graciously. The goal for candidates is not to burn bridges and decline properly.
Instead of declining, counteroffer without mentioning salary
Thank you, XYZ Company, for the job offer. I have considered the job offer in great detail. After further review, I will have to decline the offer. I thank you for considering me for this role and the time spent learning about the organization. I welcome any potential discussions about how we can mutually agree on the offer terms.
Decline and mention salary
Thank you, XYZ Company, for the job offer. I have considered the job offer in great detail. The offer doesn’t meet the provided salary requirements. I regrettably will have to decline the offer. I thank you for your consideration. It has been a pleasure working with you throughout this process.
It has been a great opportunity learning more about the ____ position and how my talents can best support XYZ Company. After careful consideration, the position does not appear to align with my personal and professional goals at this time. I will regrettably have to decline the position. Thank you again for your time.
Business Innovator | Co-Founder & CEO, Cleverism
Declining a job offer because of the low salary is a little bit tricky task as you have to be assertive and polite at the same time. However, by taking care of these three factors, you can write a short, simple, professional, and compelling letter/email to decline a job offer.
- Logical reasoning
- Future opportunities
By adding one line for each factor, you will come up with a short and simple letter/email. I am adding a template for your convenience. You could modify this according to your needs.
Dear [interviewer name/HR representative],
I sincerely appreciate the job offer for [job title] at [company name]. The offered salary package makes us about [amount difference] a month apart, and not enough to meet my current financial needs. So, I am declining the job offer. I hope it does not impact our future relationship, and we get the chance to meet again. Thank you.
Retired Associate Prof. of Management & Human Resources, Doane University
Don’t sell yourself short
In the middle of my management career (after taking a 21-month sabbatical to complete a master’s degree), I was a candidate for a position as a District Manager at a growing nationwide retail chain. My primary contact was an HR staffer at corporate headquarters nearly twenty-three hundred miles away on the West Coast.
After a phone interview to verify my background and continued interest in the position, the staffer answered numerous questions that I had about the company, its philosophy, its plans, and the compensation system. At that point, I felt that this job would be an excellent opportunity, and I agreed to drive 170 miles to their closest major regional office for a first-hand look at one of their operations.
I passed muster with the top manager at that regional office, so shortly thereafter, the firm flew me 350 miles to another large city for an interview with the regional manager who ran that territory for the company (and who would ultimately become my boss). This outfit was fairly decentralized so that the regional manager made the final hiring decision.
Just before noon on the day after I flew back home, that regional manager called with a job offer.
I was quite surprised when the salary offer was more than thirteen percent below the minimum of the range that I had discussed with the West Coast HR staffer. The corporate staffer had said that the company was growing quite rapidly and was looking for fast-track types—experienced managers with solid educational credentials (thus, my master’s degree in business was a definite “plus”). So I questioned the regional manager’s low-ball salary offer and mentioned the salary range that I’d previously discussed with the corporate staffer.
The regional manager said that a higher starting salary would not be possible because it would put me above the wages of the current district managers working in his territory. When I asked about their credentials, he admitted that (on paper, anyway) I looked stronger than any of his current district managers. But out of consideration for the rest of his staff, he said that he could not offer me any more money.
I responded that if that was his final answer, we probably had nothing more to talk about. Then I politely thanked him for his time, consideration, and hospitality during my interview, and then I hung up the phone.
About two hours later, I received a call from the corporate HR staffer. He said that I had been considered a perfect fit for their company, and he wanted to know what had gone wrong. So I mentioned the wide discrepancy between the salary figures that he had quoted and the offer that I had actually received. And I said that either he had misled me, or that the corporate recruiters and the regional hiring managers were not on the same page. In any case, I could not accept the salary that was offered.
He asked if I could stay by the phone for the rest of the afternoon, and I agreed to do so.
Shortly after 4:00 p.m., the regional manager called with another offer. It was seven percent higher than before and would make me the highest-paid district manager in his region (or so he said). Further, on a pro-rated basis, I would be immediately eligible to participate in their bonus plan (rather than suffering through the company’s normal waiting period until the beginning of the next fiscal year).
The company would also cover all of the relocation expenses for my 350-mile move. Since I was single, didn’t own a home, and had generally lived in a rental of some sort, my relocation expenses would be fairly modest. Still, I felt that they’d made a reasonable compromise, so I accepted the revised offer.
I had a rocky relationship with my new boss until I proved myself, but I did hit the fast track with three promotions (each accompanied by a salary increase) during my first five years with the company. And since all of my raises were percentage increases, my higher starting salary paid off year after year!
The upshot? Don’t sell yourself short!
An initial salary offer is just that—an offer. And very few initial offers are actually “final.” So if you can make a solid case for a better starting salary, this will likely be your only chance to present your argument.
Successful organizations want to hire good people, so they won’t rescind a job offer simply because you asked for a reasonable starting salary upfront!
HR Manager, Checklate
Give it a thought
Before declining a job merely because of a lower pay scale, you should really give your decision some proper thought.
While you may be getting paid less in a new role, there may be other elements of the job which compensate for less pay. Maybe the office environment is far more positive than your current workplace; perhaps taking a pay cut for this job is worth it in the long run as it will provide you with some much-needed experience to get your dream job.
Maybe this is your dream job.
You should also research the average salaries of the industry this job is in. If you are going to work in certain fields, it is a general acceptance that some will pay more or less than others. What do the salaries for competitive roles in your industry look like? Are they similar?
Contact the person who offered the job
If you have made a final decision to decline a job offer because of the salary, you should contact the person who offered you the job.
I believe the best way to decline a job on this type of grounds is in an email; when confronted with someone on the phone, you can panic and phrase your rejection in a way that might sound guilty, harsh or ungrateful. Carefully crafting your response by email will allow you to go over what you want to say and ensure itis professional, polite, and clear.
If you do choose to decline in person or over the phone, follow up with an email, so it is in writing.
Ensure you show your appreciation for being considered – the last thing you want to do is sound entitled when there are so many people out there who would kill to be offered the position. Make sure they understand that this was not an easy decision for you to make.
Be honest and concise with your reason
Most importantly, be honest about your decision, but be clear and concise when explaining. You don’t need to disclose your current salary or what you would like to be paid; merely state that:
‘Unfortunately, the starting salary for the position is not feasible for me at this time.’
You may find that they ask you if there’s any way you can change your mind, at which point they may make you a larger salary offer. From then, it’s up to you as to whether you think the new offer is worth it.
If you liked the business and feel it appropriate, stay in touch with those you’ve spoken to during the recruitment process. You may find that they list the job of your dreams, at an impressive salary, in just a few months.
The best way to decline a job offer is through email
It is better than phone calls; here’s why:
You can’t review phone calls
Phone calls just happen. A conversation is a spur of the moment kind of thing. There’s a chance you will forget, skip, or leave important details that you can’t go over again once you hang up.
Unlike emails, you have the luxury of time to organize your thoughts, choose your words, and review your letter before hitting the send button.
It disrupts workflow
Taking phone calls eats valuable time. Just imagine the hiring manager doing some critical work only to be interrupted by your phone call saying you’re rejecting their job offer.
With email as your method, it’s time to move on to the contents:
Just keep your email short and professional
An email between 3-4 paragraphs is enough. You don’t want to write a novel like a piece full of flowery words. Remember, you’re not writing to impress (you’re already done with that part). You are writing to deliver a decision. Making it straight to the point will save you and the hiring manager time, energy, and effort.
Make sure to say something nice
Show your thanks and appreciation. After all, the recruiter spent some time reading your resume and interviewing you. You can say something like:
Thank you for sending me the offer of employment. The fact that you consider me an adequate candidate for the role means so much to me.
Be honest with your reason
If you think the salary is too low, then don’t be afraid to state this concern. Say something like:
As much as I like to grab this opportunity, I’m afraid the salary does not align with my needs and expectation at this time.
Never forget to include the ‘opportunity caveat statement’
You’ll never know if your paths will ever cross again. But if you did, you want to be in good terms with them. You want to remain open to opportunities. You can say something like:
It was a pleasure meeting you and learning about your company. I wish you continued success and hope we will have the opportunity to work together in the future.
And you’re done! Rejecting an offer or saying no to a job doesn’t have to be nerve-wracking. As long as you stay professional and honest, then you’re good to go.
HR Manager, Maple Holistics
Just be honest
If you’ve decided to turn down a job offer due to salary, the best way to break the news is by being honest. Simply say something like:
I’m incredibly flattered by your offer, and I’ve been very impressed by your company. However, another position has offered me a higher salary, so, unfortunately, I’ve decided to go in a different direction.
Being honest gives the company an understanding of why you’re declining their offer without offending them. It allows you not to burn any bridges in case you should want to work for the company at some point in the future.
Also, if the company realizes that money is the reason you are not jumping on board, they might come back with a counteroffer that you can’t refuse.
Founder, Money Life Wax
List out pros and cons and let them know
I recently had a friend who was exploring leaving her current job for a job that offered a better work environment and life balance. That being said, when push came to shove, the salary was not at the correct level for this person’s experience and expertise.
However, instead of shutting the door, they asked if they could at least match their current salary, and they used points to explain why such as commute time, toll tags, and more gas.
Unfortunately, the offering company simply could not swing the salary match, so my friend was forced to let them know she could not take the job. Naturally, the recruiter involved tried to spin it.
In the end, my friend let them know she would not be accepting their offer using a pros and cons list she had generated.
Listing out a few of the pros and cons lets her know she made the correct choice, but it also lets the offering company know areas they can improve on. It also leaves my friend in good standing in the future!
Letting them know both good and bad ends the process on a positive note!