Dear Matt: After a layoff, networking like crazy and numerous interviews, I was offered four jobs in the same week. I met some great people who I want to remain in contact with. How do I turn down job offers without burning bridges?
Matt says: Congratulations! Your hard work, networking and aggressive approach worked. As much as you are worried about it, recruiters know not every job is the right fit for each individual. But if you’re not prepared, declining the offer can be uncomfortable or awkward, says Jim Greenway, Executive Vice President, Marketing and Sales Effectiveness for Lee Hecht Harrison (lhh.com), a global career transition and outplacement firm.
“Communication must be handled deftly, with diplomacy and courtesy, or you could lose valuable networking partners and possible future opportunities,” says Greenway.
Here are a few tips for declining an offer without burning bridges, says Greenway:
Break it to them gently. Let the hiring manager know that you while you believe it’s a great opportunity, on careful consideration you feel it’s not the best fit for you. Start with “Unfortunately …” then explain your decision, “I’ve accepted an offer (or I’m continuing to look) for another position that is more closely aligned with my career objective.” For a compensation issue, “Unfortunately, I wish we could’ve worked out the salary issue, and I appreciate your efforts to that end; however, I need to be at a higher compensation level. I’m sure you understand.” No need to go into more detail. If you’ve accepted another position, it isn’t necessary to name the company.
Don’t delay. Let the employer know as soon as possible so they can extend the offer to another candidate or get the hiring process started again.
Show appreciation. Begin by thanking the person who made the offer. Show respect for the offer by communicating your appreciation, highlighting the positive attributes of the organization and referencing any courtesies extended to you.
End on a high note. Thank your contact again and express your interest in staying in touch. Wish them luck with the hiring process and extend best wishes to the person and the company.
Follow up in writing. If you’ve declined the offer by phone, follow up with a letter or e-mail, restating your appreciation. Keeping the dialogue positive will also keep the door open.
Nurture the relationship. Once you’re settled into your new job, send your contacts customized invitations to join your LinkedIn network. Nurture the relationships by offering assistance and sharing information.
“Employment circumstances can change quickly,” says Greenway. “The employer you decline today may be highly desirable down the road. Keeping your network strong is a key means to career sustainability.”
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