How to Say “No Thanks” with Grace

Whether it’s a job offer or internal promotion, you always have the power to say “no thanks.” How you say it will make the difference in whether your relationship stays strong and your reputation remains undamaged.

After all, it’s your reputation, experience, and skills that got you to the point of receiving an offer. Amanda Cardoso, writing for, says that it takes skill to refuse an offer and still retain a relationship with a recruiter or a hiring manager. You may not feel that an offer is right for you right now, (or you might have received two offers), but, she says, you never know what the future will bring.

“You might think that politely saying “no” is enough,” she writes, “but this is actually the bare minimum. The key to rejecting a job opportunity without burning bridges is to communicate this as thoughtfully as possible. Remember it’s not just the offer you’re turning down, but all the time the recruiter invested in you.”

First, thank the person offering sincerely for their time and interest. They believed, after thoughtful consideration, that you were the right person for this role. You may even have expressed strong interest in the role during the process. So you owe them some explanation about why things changed.

Unless the recruiter, hiring manager, or company treated you poorly during the process, you should always seek to maintain the relationship. (This is doubly important if you’re declining an internal offer; you’ll presumably have to live with this person for a while.) Remember how you felt when a company declined to hire you; use empathy in your response when it’s your turn.

You can soften your rejection, but don’t be untruthful. It’s fine to open with something like “I’ve given this opportunity careful consideration, and it’s just not the right fit for my goals at this point in my career.” But I think you should be prepared to tell the recruiter the real issue, as long as it’s not a negative comment about something they can’t change.

Cardoso writes, “There’s no need to list every single detail involved—especially if it’s something that won’t be nice to say or hear, such as ‘I didn’t like what you said about the company’s culture’—but you should demonstrate that you put a lot of thought into it before deciding.”

What if it’s about money, or extra, unwanted pressure? It can be tricky to talk about issues like these without making yourself look like a slacker or a quiet quitter. If you’re dealing with a job offer, you can tell the recruiter that you accepted an offer from another company that closely compared to their job, but with higher compensation. The recruiter might even appreciate knowing that their offer was not as competitive as they thought.

Internal offers are more sensitive, since the hiring manager will know more about your current situation and what is available within the company (and your current manager may know you’ve applied.) Once you’ve received the offer, you should sit down with your current manager and discuss it and why you’ll be turning it down. (We presume that your manager will be relieved and glad.) Then let them know what you plan to tell the other manager in case they follow up.

You can cite any of several reasons, as long as you’re respectful and grateful to be considered. The timing might not be right for you, based on family or other considerations. You might not be ready for a stretch role yet or be as passionate about the skills the new role will require of you or the direction it takes your career path.

You may simply say that you’re happy in your current job, and although you’re always open to possibilities, staying where you are feels like the right thing to do. You can expect the hiring manager to be disappointed; they may even try to persuade you to change your mind. Stay firm with grace, and you’ll avoid burning a bridge. That’s your main goal in the moment. Follow up with a brief thank you email later.

Then go back and do a great job where you are. In a few months, you might have a conversation with your manager about your career goals and ask about opportunities in your own division. Your loyalty and stellar performance will be part of what will be considered.

Published by candacemoody

Candace’s background includes Human Resources, recruiting, training and assessment. She spent several years with a national staffing company, serving employers on both coasts. Her writing on business, career and employment issues has appeared in the Florida Times Union, the Jacksonville Business Journal, the Atlanta Journal Constitution and 904 Magazine, as well as several national publications and websites. Candace is often quoted in the media on local labor market and employment issues.

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