I’ll Pass: How to Properly Turn Down a Job Offer

It may not seem like a big deal, but how you decline can affect future success

black woman shakes hand of another black woman

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Did you know that Denzel Washington turned down the role of Curtis Taylor Jr. (played by Jamie Foxx) in Dreamgirls? Even further, Will Smith turned down the role of Neo (played by Keanu Reeves) in The Matrix and Angela Bassett turned down the role of Leticia (played by Halle Berry) in Monster’s Ball.

At some point in your career or job search, you may be forced to face the unbelievable: declining an offer. Whether you’re stuck between competing offers or just didn’t think the job was a great fit, it’s important to refuse the offer professionally. You never know when another opportunity could arise or who you might work with later in your career. Here are four tips on how to bow out gracefully:

Make the Call: Once you’ve made your decision, it’s important to contact the company and let them know you’re declining right away. Waiting until the last minute may hold up the process of the company making an offer to another candidate. Keep in mind that hiring managers may also interact with other hiring managers, so be conscious of courtesy.

Kindness is Best: Even if you are certain you would never work for the company, always remain polite and professional. Don’t bash the company or its employees. You may be turning down this position, but you might want to be considered for future opportunities. Savvy job seekers use every possible chance to network, so thank each person with whom you interviewed and wish them and their company continued success.

Be Diplomatic: Whether you interviewed for your “dream” job and it seemed more like a nightmare or just didn’t feel the vibe between you and your prospective boss, you might wonder if you need to explain your reasoning behind the let down. In most cases, the answer is no. You don’t need to go into specifics about your decision. However, if the job sounds great but you got a better offer elsewhere in terms of compensation or benefits, maybe there’s a chance to be competitive by negotiating for those benefits.

Write a Letter: It may be a little old school, but the hard part is over. After calling the company to decline the job offer, be sure to follow up with a formal written letter. Yes, I’m talking paper, a pen and a stamp. Keep your letter polite, professional and short. Again, leave the door open for future possibilities of working with the company.

Have you ever had to decline a job or internship offer? If so, how did you do it? #SoundOff and follow me on Twitter @JayNHarrison.

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  • James Walker

    I’ve had to decline offers before and this is really solid advice!