How to decline a job offer without burning bridges


You put a lot of effort into a job search, and it can be extremely difficult to decline a job offer that you spent weeks or even months trying to get. It can feel like a betrayal to go through the process of interviewing, writing thank you notes, and following up just to say, “no.” Unfortunately, there may be a time when you need to decline a job offer, and it’s important to do so with grace so that you don’t burn bridges or potentially tarnish your professional reputation.

Turn down – for what?

Why would someone ever go through the long, agonizing interview process if they are just going to say no to the offer? There are several legitimate reasons you might want to consider turning down a job offer, such as:

  • You were offered your dream job from another company within a few days of the offer and found it impossible not to take it.
  • The offer doesn’t align with the job description, job title, salary, or benefits that you discussed during the interview process.
  • The company will not submit an offer in writing (the reason being that you do not truly know what you’re getting).
  • A number of other red flags; the company has a bad reputation, the communication during the interview process was unprofessional, the work environment seems soul-crushing…if at any point you feel in your gut that something seems a little off, walk away.

Before you can decline with grace, you must be clear about the reasons you are saying no.

The do’s and don’ts of declining a job offer

Once it’s clear that the job is not right for you, use these tips to help you turn it down.


  • Leave them hanging. As soon as you know you’re going to decline the offer, take action. Not responding to the hiring manager screams “unprofessional”; after all, if they were rejecting you, you’d appreciate their reaching out to let you know they’ve passed on you as a candidate.
  • Decline the job via phone, not email
    Don’t send an email! Instead, call to express gratitude and explain why you’re turning the job down.
  • Decline via email. You’ve spent a great deal of time communicating with the hiring manager over the last few weeks or months. Rather than sending an impersonal email, pick up the phone and have a conversation. This gives you the opportunity to fully explain your reasons for declining the offer.
  • Feel guilty. No matter what your reason is for declining the job offer, it is valid to you and the company in question will understand.


  • Express your concerns. If there’s something that’s bothering you about the position, company, or offer in general, have an open conversation with the hiring manager about it. There’s always a chance they may be able to clear up potential misunderstandings.
  • Offer a referral. If you love the company, but the job itself is not right for you, offer to connect the hiring manager with someone you think would be perfect for the job. If you take this approach, however, you must be certain that your colleague is, in fact, perfect for the job.
  • Leave the door open. Before you end the conversation with the hiring manager, say thank you and mention that you would like to leave the door open for the future, when circumstances may have changed. This approach shows that you are simply rejecting the job – not the company.

Finding yourself in the position of turning down a job is almost always awkward. The hopeful upside to having to decline an offer is that there are better offers being extended to you (or your current work situation is okay for now). The important thing about declining a job offer is to do so with grace and maturity as to not potentially burn bridges, especially if you liked the company. Who knows if a position better suited to your skills and career goals will open up in the future? The last thing you’d want is your bruised reputation to ruin any future chances at the company because you decided to decline a prior offer with a sad face emoji in a text message.

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