How to Decline a Job Offer After You’ve Said Yes

By Robert Half on January 13, 2022 at 5:00pm

Have you accepted a new job only to realize before you start that the position, the location or even the company was a mistake? Or, have you said yes to a job offer because it seemed like the sensible thing to do, rather than something you felt passionate about, and now you’re regretting it?

In today’s job market, there’s a shortage of skilled professionals, as reported in the Robert Half Salary Guide, so it's likely you have other choices. But if this new role isn't what you anticipated or doesn't align with your career goals, you need to know how to turn down the job offer.

If it makes you feel better, keep in mind that employers don’t want new hires who would rather be somewhere else. And while breaking this kind of news is never going to be the preferred choice, it’s unlikely to affect your career negatively over the long term, especially if you don’t make a habit of doing it.

How to turn down a job offer

First off, there are some things you can do to exit the deal without having to face any serious repercussions.

If you have signed a contract for the role, you need to read through the entire document with care. Look for any stipulations about rescinding your acceptance or giving a specified amount of notice should you change your mind.

Most contracts won’t have any specific clauses about this sort of thing and generally focus on salary levels, confidentiality clauses and responsibilities. However, while it is likely there won’t be any legal repercussions if you change your mind, it might be pertinent to get some advice from a lawyer or expert.

Read on for more tips on how to decline a job offer with tact and grace after you've already accepted.

Spill the beans as soon as possible

It’s imperative that you let the recruiter or hiring manager know right away. Do not damage your reputation by ghosting the employer.

If only a few days have passed since you accepted the job, you may think you don't need to rush to provide an update, but it’s critical to do so, as the employer has already invested time and money in the hiring process.

What’s the best form of communication? Call them to communicate your decision and apologize personally, rather than sending an email or text message. Speaking directly is the best way to explain yourself clearly. Then follow up your conversation with a letter or email that restates your conversation.

What should you do when you're really ready to say yes? Read The 7 Things You Should Do After Accepting a Job Offer.

Be polite at all times

The best way to come out of an awkward situation, such as changing your mind on a job offer, is to make sure all your interactions with the recruiter or employer are courteous.

Stay positive, and avoid any language that may be construed as unappreciative or reflect negatively on the company involved. Stick to concise – but honest – explanations, such as no longer being able to make a move due to family commitments, or receiving a better compensation package for an unexpected, higher-level position elsewhere that you feel obliged to take.

The employer might try to negotiate with you with a counteroffer to convince you to change your mind. Would you stay for more money? Better benefits? A hybrid work environment? Decide now what your bottom line is and what you want.

When the time comes, know how to negotiate salary after you get a job offer.

Express your gratitude

Be sure to thank the employer for the opportunity to meet and to learn about the company. If there was anything in particular you liked about the company, say so.

It is also helpful to mention your appreciation for the people you met during the selection process. You never know when you might come in contact with them again.

Receiving a job offer is exciting, and sometimes it is easy to miss or overlook important factors that become more apparent after further reflection. But it’s important to carefully consider if the position is truly good for you before accepting a job offer. If you spend time digesting all of the information to fully understand what the position entails, you will be able to make an informed decision before you say yes.

Do you want to continue your job search with the help of a specialized recruiter? We can help!

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