How to Turn Down a Job Offer but Keep the Door Open (+Samples)

Saying no to a job offer may seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be.

When faced with the situation to reject a job offer, what’s the best way to respond yet also keeping the door open for future opportunities?

Here are some good examples and tips:

Timothy G. Wiedman, D.B.A., PHR Emeritus

Timothy G. Wiedman, DBA, PHR Emeritus
Associate Prof. of Management & Human Resources (Retired)

While I ended my career teaching college courses in Human Resource Management, I initially spent 13 years in the business world and made hundreds of job offers to applicants after conducting thousands of interviews. I’ve been on both sides of the “Job Turndown” scenario.

So here’s my advice:

After completing a thorough interview and receiving a job offer, if you’ve decided that the job (or the employer) wouldn’t be a right “fit” for you, turn down the offer and move on.

But on the other hand, if the problem that concerns you only involves one aspect of a job you’d love to do, that situation requires a different type of response. Say, for example, that a nationwide corporation offers you a position with a stable future that would require you to move to Fargo, North Dakota for a three-year initial assignment.

But you hate cold winter weather. What should you do?

Tell them the truth

Tell the company you’d love to accept their job offer, but you know that you wouldn’t be able to deal with three brutal winters in Fargo; so you’ll have to turn them down. That leaves them the opportunity to modify their offer a bit (i.e., assuming that they want you on board, maybe your initial assignment could be completed somewhere a bit farther south).

But even if no modification was possible at that particular time, as a nationwide company, they might have opening south of the snow-belt at a later date. Thus, you may have left the door open to a future job offer.

So leave them with that thought by thanking them for their offer while reinforcing the notion that you’d love working for them should slightly different circumstances arise.

Large organizations often have quite a few vacancies to fill, so you may well be contacted again at a later date!

Lynn Elting Siegel

Lynn Elting Siegel
Career Strategist and Coach, InterviewMama.com

In this competitive world, turning down a job offer is a happy problem. After doing all you can to sell yourself and wow your interviewers and when you are ultimately offered the opportunity, but don’t want it anymore, for whatever reason, it can be awkward.

But, if handled correctly, turning down an offer can not only be okay, it can be a way to create and solidify a relationship for the future. To leave the door open, the key is to follow the rules:

Be transparent

Throughout the interview process, always be straight forward. Interviewers and organizations assume that high caliber candidates have many options for how and where to work. Your first objective when you’re interviewing is to show your interviewer how you’ll contribute to their mission and make their organization better.

If you’re considering staying where you are, tell your interviewers but also include what it would take for you to leave. If you’re looking at other opportunities, without giving specific names or details, tell them that too.

Tell them why you’re excited about their organization and why you would like to join, but once you see they are interested, let them know what you’re looking for. That way, if in the end, you turn them down, they knew what you wanted from the start.

Be prompt

Just as you’d always be right on time for an interview or would always return an interviewer’s email or call lickety-split, let the interviewer know that you’re declining their offer the moment you know.

If you have accepted another offer or have decided to stay where you are, you want to make sure the person or organization that made you the offer hears it from you, not through the grapevine. Show them that you know their time is valuable and allow them to find someone else for the role as soon as possible.

Be honest

If you are turning down the offer, chances are that you have a good reason. If it’s because you have been offered more money, let the interviewer know. Or if your current company has convinced you to stay with more responsibility, share that as well. By being candid with this information, you are demonstrating that you value their time and appreciate their offer.

Be positive

If you are turning down the offer, most likely you didn’t love everything about the job. Be diplomatic and always say only positive things about the company and everyone you interviewed with. Let them know what you like about the organization and the job.

If you have something negative to say, better to keep it to yourself.

Be appreciative

If you were offered a position, chances are that your interviewer or interviewers took time to meet with you, research you, and maybe even check your references. Thank them sincerely and tell them how much you appreciate them choosing you and offering you the opportunity. Also, tell them what you like about the company.

Be personal

Even though you may have received an offer from an organization, the fact is that a person or people wanted you to join them. Treat your interviewer accordingly. Thank them personally, ideally, with a phone call.

By doing this, you’re showing them that you care enough about them as a professional and a person to reach out, rather than just with an email where you could avoid personal contact.

Be inclusive

Often in your interview process, by the time you have received an offer, you may have met with several people, including HR, your prospective supervisor, or potential colleagues. After you have declined the offer, follow up with each one of them personally either by email or phone. They will appreciate the personal connection.

Be a resource

The chances are that you learned a lot about the company and the role while interviewing for the job. If you know of someone else who would be a great candidate for the position, refer them to the company. If that person ends up being a good hire, you will still be a hero even though you turned them down.

Stay in touch

If you like the company and the people you met with, you want them to think of you for opportunities at the company in the future. Make everyone you met with part of your network. Connect with them on LinkedIn. They will appreciate your wanting to stay in touch even though right now, you don’t need anything from them.

Joel McLaughlin

Joel McLaughlin
Owner, Dataflurry.com

I was offered a position at the wrong time, and successfully kept the door open. When I was 19, I worked for an escrow and title agency for three years and performed well in a niche area (out of state refinance transactions).

Ultimately, I left the position at 22 and was offered an opportunity four years later. I didn’t accept this job opportunity. However, several years later, I obtained a position for a short time with the company once again!

They found themselves needing someone with my skill sets. However, I was building a business of my own at the time, and this was not appealing enough at the time.

Luckily I was able to save the exact copy of the communication. I just pasted the individual message portions crossing out the specific company name and party names – to keep the privacy in place.

Message to me from employer:

Hi Joel,

This is Susan from xxxxx National Title. We wanted to get in touch with you because we were told you had an excellent history with our company and left on excellent terms. I also understand you have a very good understanding and knowledge of out of state refinance transactions when you were working under Tim xxxxx at our Alma School branch.

We wanted to reach out and see if you would be interested in helping us on a fast growing account assisting Megan xxxxx’s downtown Phoenix branch. They are really in need of some urgent help with someone that has your set of skills and has an understanding of the entire process.

If you remember, they run things a little differently over there and the office is ran under an assembly line type of system – but we are needing someone that can attend to each individual area to help pick up the slack. Your position would definitely be busier when someone is on vacation or sick, and I am sure you are aware at month end.

Please let me know if you would be interested! We aren’t sure what you are currently doing – but would love to see if we could get you in here as soon as possible and offer a competitive pay scale.

Hoping this finds you well Joel, we look forward to hearing from you.

Cheers,

Susan

I was extremely impressed they wanted to obtain my skills and get me back in to that company. Unfortunately, It wasn’t the correct time for me to return since I had a growing business at the time.

I focused mainly on expressing my appreciation and stated a valid reason why I can’t make the change currently

Also, I showed interest and didn’t want to lose any future chances.

My response was as follows:

Hi Susan,

Thank you so much for considering me for this position! I am extremely flattered and wish I was in a better position to change positions at the moment. I recently started a small business and it’s keeping me busy lately – so it would be extremely difficult to make this change at this point in time.

However, I am extremely grateful that you considered me for this opportunity and I hope that I can remain considered in the future if anything was to change.

I thoroughly enjoyed my Time at xxxxxx National Title and am definitely appreciative that you gave me consideration!

I hope all is well, and I am extremely glad to hear things are busy. Megan always ran a phenomenal and excellent operation and was impressed with her achievements!

Thanks again,
Joel McLaughlin

Ronee Wagener, SPHR, MBA, CTACC

Ronee Wagener
Owner, Strategic Coach and Business Consultant, Coaching and Consulting by Ronee, LLC

Turn down the offer respectfully

If you make the decision not to accept a job offer, I highly recommend doing so respectfully. You can do this by thanking the employer for the offer, letting them know you appreciate it. You should also thank them for their time. You might want even to add that it was an honor to receive the offer.

I’d wish the company the best of luck in their future endeavors and finding the perfect candidate to meet their needs. Additionally, also share the reason for your decision not to accept the offer. Let them know if it was for a personal goal or a professional reason. Was it due to money, commute, benefits, the work itself, etc.?

Communicating your reason to the employer could be done by email, over the phone with a follow-up thank you. You need to let the employer know of your decision quickly so they can continue their search. However, a follow-up thank you will make a positive impression.

The reason I highly recommend being respectful is you never know what the future will bring. The job you selected might not be a good fit. They might close their doors a year after you start. The hiring manager might start working for the company you chose.

The list goes on and on, but I’m sure you get the point that you don’t want to hurt a relationship that might be helpful in the future.

Josh Cruz

Josh Cruz
Career Coach

Congratulations, you have received a job offer. It’s just not the job for you. What do you do?

As with any relationship, honesty is the best policy

Give a concise reason why you can’t take the position. State it kindly, but be honest.

Mary, it was great meeting you. I enjoyed our conversation and didn’t take your offer lightly. I have accepted a position that offers me a better compensation. It is a better fit for where I currently am in my career. I look forward to staying connected.

If you offer to stay connected, make sure you do! LinkedIn is a great tool; at all points in your career. Comment on the person’s posts and the company’s achievements.

Your paths may cross again, but keep in mind you cannot control another person’s actions. You are responsible for making the best decision for yourself. You aren’t responsible for hurt feelings, and ultimately leaving the bridge open may not be up to you.

Jessica Chase

Jessica Chase
Owner, Premier Title Loans

Hold the Hiring Manager in high regards

It could be a possibility that you get more than one opportunity at the same time, and you have to turn down others to hold one that is more suitable for you.

Keep in mind that the Hiring Manager dedicates their time to shortlist and interviewing potential candidates. Do appreciate them for the reason that they chose you, among others. Show your keen interest in that organization and give them a message that you’re interested in working next for your desired position.

Don’t leave uninformed. Give a precise and brief reason for rejecting the job.

It ends at kind gestures like:

I enjoyed meeting you, and it was good to know that how you facilitate your employees. I like your offer to work from home once a week.

Keep your gratitude alive. Convey to him that you appreciate his time and will be available next for your desired position.

Brian Richie

Brian Richie
Senior Advisor, Labtuit.com

Here are my tips:

  • Thank the company for their time and their offer, and use the name of the person who offered you the position. For example: “Dear (name), I am greatly appreciative of your time getting to know my experience and understand my goals. Thank you for extending me the offer to join your team.”
  • Give your decision. “After careful consideration, I regretfully decline your offer at this time.”
  • Be honest, but grateful when explaining your decision. “While I felt (company name)’s culture and vision are a perfect match for my values, I feel that my skill set can be better utilized in a different role.” (Give an example of what you mean).
  • Keep the door open. “Given my positive interview experience with your company and the nature of (company name)’s goals for the future, I have no doubt I could be a great asset to your team in the future. Unfortunately, per my reasons previously stated, I do not feel it is the best match at this current time. I hope to remain in contact if situations were to change, as I’d love to hold the opportunity to accept a position with your company in the future potentially.”
  • Thank them for their time. “Thank you for your time. I sincerely appreciate it. Sincerely, (name).”

Jessica Salter

Jessica Salter
Talent Acquisition Manager, Best Response Media

Creating a lasting impression on prospective employers is essential if you’re genuinely interested in working for them in the future. The best way to turn down a job offer is to be honest and transparent about the reasons why you are not taking the job.

It could be that you have another job offer that is more aligned with your career goals or benefits that will give you flexibility. Whatever the reason, express your heartfelt thanks for being considered, directly to the hiring manager, if possible.

Your reasons for turning down the job may give them a reason to consider their employee benefits package or to put energy into developing a strong employer brand.

To show the employer that you’re genuinely interested in working for them in the future, ensure to stay engaged with via social media and leave a review on Glassdoor about your positive candidate experience.

Dana Case

Dana Case
Director of Operations, MyCorporation.com

An excellent way to decline a job offer while keeping the door open is to offer to stay connected with the interviewer(s) via LinkedIn. If your rapport together was particularly strong, it’s worth staying connected and touching base later on. Who knows — you might wind up working there in the future!