Turning down a job offer in a polite, appreciative way
March 13, 2016 11:34 AM   Subscribe

I had a job offer that was really attractive and appealing but after lots of thinking, conversations, and a pretty bomb negotiation with my current employer, decided not to take it. How to turn it down in a way that shows my respect for the organization and doesn't burn any bridges?

If it matters, the jobs in question are Clinical in nature and involve a lot of patient/client contact. The reasons I am turning down the job include: a worse commute (which I didn't really realize until I drove out for the interview), a different type of caseload, and then a raise and path for more responsibility/a promotion at my current job. Also, some minor yellow flags at the new organization (extremely quick turnaround for my response, that kind of thing). It was a very difficult decision, though. Any thoughts on a script for turning it down?

Should I do it by phone and e-mail or just phone? Thanks in advance.
posted by Ideal Impulse to Work & Money (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I think the best way to show respect and not burn any bridges is to be truthful, but also to not get into any details that would be construed as critiquing the organization or passive-aggressive negotiation. Be direct, but only tell them what they need to know. Don't invite them into your thought process.

Some variation of the following is fine:

"Thank you for your very attractive offer. However, after a great deal of consideration and reflection, I have decided to pursue another opportunity that is more closely aligned with my goals. Good luck in your search; I am sure you will find a great candidate for this opportunity."

Email is fine.
posted by AndrewInDC at 11:44 AM on March 13, 2016 [3 favorites]

Should I do it by phone and e-mail or just phone?

You should do this by phone if you want to show your respect for the organization. After the phone call, an email is not required; the HR contact/recruiter will take care of the rest. Although this is not visible to you, a significant effort has been expended by the organization just to get the point of an offer. At one point, I had estimated that the cost of a job offer at my organization was 2-3 weeks of effort, which can easily cost $10K-$15K depending on an organization's labor rates. For what it's worth, I usually expect that about a third to a half of job offers will be declined, so this is not an uncommon or unexpected phenomenon.

Any thoughts on a script for turning it down?

Keep this as short as possible and with as few reasons as possible. If it becomes too long, your HR contact/recruiter will (correctly) guess that you thought a lot about this decision and that there is still some negotiation to be done. The more reasons you provide, the more openings the HR contact/recruiter has to try to keep the job offer under consideration ("the commute is too far" - "well, we can do telecommuting!", "I got a raise at my job" - "I can match it"!).

My suggestion:

"Thanks for your consideration. XYZCorp has an exciting future, but at the moment, I'll have to pass on your job offer. I've been thinking about this for quite awhile, and I don't think the job offer is the best choice for me. Good luck filling the position."
posted by saeculorum at 11:47 AM on March 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

Medium: stick with the primary medium you've been using thus far. If you've been talking over the phone with the hiring manager/recruiter, then phone is best. If it's been email, then that's fine.

I would just express appreciation for the offer and respect for the work they do, but say that you have decided to stick with your current position. As others have said, don't talk about the negotiations or the reasons you're turning it down, because they might take that as an opening for a negotiation with them.

If they press you about reasons, it's fine to list them, but make it clear that your decision is final.
posted by lunasol at 11:59 AM on March 13, 2016 [2 favorites]

On the other side, they're going to be trying to attribute their failure to close you. I do think being specific is helpful and respectful to them. For example, if we lose a candidate to a local competitor in exactly the same role, it's a big deal and causes lots of introspection. If we lose a candidate to a role across the country on a totally different career path, we feel fine. It does open you up a bit to bargaining behavior, but if you're firm it will be very short. In your case, this will be a painful loss to them and they will probably be thinking deeply about what they could have done differently, and demonstrating that you're sympathetic to that and giving them some foundation for an explanation (a surprising opportunity arising at your current company is the easiest angle) will give them closure.
posted by heresiarch at 12:05 PM on March 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

"Thank you so much for the opportunity but owing to an change in personal circumstances I'm not going to be able to accept the position."
posted by stackhaus23 at 3:36 PM on March 13, 2016

Just totally cop-out...."after discussing it with my family/SO, I've decided that now isn't a good time to make this change." There's no blame for anyone in their organization, no further explanation or call for negotiations, and you're not closing the door to future opportunity.
posted by bonobothegreat at 4:42 PM on March 13, 2016

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