How to decline a job offer without burning any bridges

When it comes to careers, nobody likes to burn any bridges – especially when the connection can come in handy in the future.

By Shekinah Kannan 

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According to Forbes, COVID-19 pushed about 80 million US citizens out of work since it the outbreak began. Today, as the job market gradually rebounds and as aspects of life gradually return to normalcy, an increasing number of companies are also hiring.

If you’re a job seeker who has multiple job offers on hand, chances are, that’s not a bad problem to have. The thought, however, of narrowing down your options can be challenging and stressful. This invariably leads you to a situation in which you have to decline a job offer – or several. 

Assuming you’ve studied every role offered to you and determined which excites you the most, or perhaps you’re holding out for something more suitable – saying “no” after an interview can be difficult for both parties. 


Despite a potentially awkward or difficult situation, it’s best for both parties to avoid burning bridges as you’ll never know when you might encounter one another in the future.

That said, declining a job offer with grace, tact, diplomacy, and gratitude can put you in good stead. Here’s how you can do it:

Decline the job offer ASAP once you’ve made a decision

Much like how you wouldn’t like to wait for a response, employers wouldn’t appreciate a candidate sitting on a decision for days. That said, the second you’ve come to a conclusion, be sure to convey it via email or the phone. 

Different communication methods have their benefits and drawbacks, but the best way to turn down an offer is by using the same method that was used to extend it. Even though emails can be nerve-racking to write and delivering bad news on the phone can be just as difficult, a polished response will leave a good, lasting impression. 

Express your gratitude

Regardless of how you deliver your rejection, do it graciously.

Start by thanking the hiring manager for the offer and the time they put into seeing your application through to an interview.

Sure, it’s part of their job, but chances are they’ve spoken about you to their bosses on numerous occasions and did everything in their power to communicate your ability to add value to the role or company.


Explain your reasoning

It’s not necessary to go into detail or to elaborate on any red flags you picked up at your interview or doing your research of the company. However, any employer would love to know why a candidate has changed their mind. 

Whether you’ve found a better position, rethought your career goals, disagree with the salary offered, lack confidence in executing certain tasks, or if you simply aren’t looking forward to the commute – your honesty could be appreciated if done tactfully. 

For instance, you could briefly say that while you appreciate the job offer, it isn’t the right fit for you at this time.

Offer to stay in touch

End the conversation on a positive note. For instance, you could ask the contact person if they’d be open to staying in touch, such as connecting on LinkedIn

This pleasantries are important as you’ll never know when — and if — you’ll cross paths in the future.