How To Decline a Job Offer After Accepting Another One: 10 Best Practices

An offer of employment.
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Overview

How To Decline a Job Offer After Accepting Another One

Don't feel like reading? Listen here!

Were you offered a job but then found a better position elsewhere? For whatever reason, you may want to know how to decline a job offer after accepting another one. And you’d want to do this in a way professional way that won’t burn bridges. Let’s talk about it below.

Is it OK to Decline a Job Offer (After Accepting Another One)?

You may accept an offer and then a few days later, get a different one that offers more in salary, benefits, advancement opportunities, or satisfaction.

Maybe you accepted a job before your dream offer got back to you.

The first question to ask is whether it is okay, legally and ethically, to decline a job offer. You can legally decline a job offer right up until the time you have signed an employment contract.

Depending on how the contract is worded, you may even be able to back out afterward, although at that point you may want to consult a lawyer.

It can also be much better to decline a job offer than to end up accepting it and quitting after only a short period.

The latter costs the company more as they have to train and onboard you. You may have to explain such a situation in future interviews.

It’s best to avoid quitting shortly after starting a job unless you have found yourself in an extremely toxic situation.

People’s Experience With Declining a Job After Accepting Another One

Sometimes, your personal situation can change dramatically (imagine accepting a job offer in Chicago and then your partner getting an offer…in Phoenix). Here are some acceptable situations when declining a job offer.

In one case, someone got a job offer but then experienced negative vibes from the workplace before officially starting. The job was misrepresented as the supervisor gave a poor explanation of what it would actually entail. Thankfully, they got a late-round offer from another position and took that one. This proved to be a good move.

Another employee was in a more common situation. They had signed and accepted an offer, then offered a much better position. They personally called HR and explained why the other offer was better. Which brings us to the…

Best Ways to Decline a Job Offer

It’s most important to always be professional and civil. Bear in mind that you may find yourself in the position of applying to work for that company again. It’s a good idea to be on good terms with as many parties as possible. Here are ten best practices when declining a job offer:

1. Respond Quickly

Be sure to notify HR as soon as you know you’ll decline the offer. You might be able to save them the trouble of starting over the search if their second-choice candidate is still available. This is one of the most important things you can do.

Closeup up a laptop and phone device when responding to a job offer.

2. Be Honest

Tell HR exactly what made the other offer better. They might give you a counteroffer if the issue is salary or benefits, rather than company culture and fit. This can put you in an even better position. If not, then they will appreciate knowing your reasons as it might benefit them in the future. Stay away from saying anything negative.

3. Be Concise

Keep your explanation short and concise by stating the main reasons and without rambling.

4. Express Gratitude

You might have decided that this offer is not for you, but make sure to thank them and express anything you liked about the company. This will be remembered. Make it clear it wasn’t an easy decision (even if it was).

5. Know Where You Stand

If they come back with a counteroffer, will you take it? What do they need to offer you? It’s easy to get pulled into employment contract negotiations, so make sure that you know what you are willing to compromise on. If the answer is nothing, then extricate yourself gently. Don’t push into negotiations. You don’t want to pit offers against each other needlessly.

6. Speak Directly if Possible

While you absolutely should send an email for a paper trail, it’s way better if you can make a call or meet them in person. This will help your relationship with them and give you a better opportunity to clarify any additional information.

7. Don’t Emphasize the Costs

Don’t apologize for the money and time they’ve spent on you. Because that’s what is expected of a proper recruitment process. Instead, express gratitude and well wishes.

8. Stay in Touch

Offer to stay in touch, especially if you worked with a recruiter. Continue to network with that recruiter; they may help you find your next position. Then actually maintain the relationship, even if it’s an occasional email.

Closeup of a handshake during the recruitment process.

9. Put Everything in Writing

Write down what you recall of the conversation immediately after. Cover the same points in a letter or email declining the offer. Also, make notes for yourself. Was there a way you could have avoided being in this situation?

Sample Letter

Here is a sample letter rejecting a job offer to give you a better idea of how one should look like:

Ms. Alexandra J. Manager

Human Resources Manager

ABC Company

Dear Ms. Lawrence:

Thank you for the offer to join ABC Company. I am grateful for the opportunity and appreciate your confidence in my abilities and qualifications. I was looking forward to joining your team. However, I must regretfully inform you that I am withdrawing my previous acceptance.

It was a hard decision, but I have received an offer from another organization that more closely aligns with the opportunities I sought throughout my job search.

Thank you again for the offer, and I wish you well with your continued search for the right candidate.

Albert N. Employee

Remember to not include anything negative about the company. You have already explained exactly what made the other offer better. Keep a copy of the letter for your own records, along with your notes on why it happened and how the other company was a better fit.

More on How to Decline a Job Offer but Leave the Door Open

In most cases, your goal should be to retain a good relationship with recruiters. It’s all about keeping the door open to future opportunities. Be honest, don’t be rude, and maintain contact with the recruiters you have worked with.

Visit Lensa for more information, tips, and job opportunities to help you in your career path.

Lensa Insights
Lensa Insights
Work is changing faster than an angry retrovirus. For jobseekers, that means one thing: adapt or die! Lensa Insights is your survival guide, offering actionable career tips to keep your future in focus.

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