How to refuse a job offer politely

Since you’re interested in how to refuse a job offer politely, you’re obviously in the enviable position of having multiple offers. If that’s the case, you should make the effort and call the employer direct rather than replying in writing. You’ll come across a lot more sincerely over the phone and a lot more appreciative of their efforts. You never know, you may want to work for them in the future, so give them a call.

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Call promptly

The timing of your call is really important. Your sincere tone of voice and well-chosen words won’t go down half as well if you wait to make the call. Definitely don’t wait until the day you were supposed to start but make sure that you’re confirmed with the other job before you push these guys away.

What to say

When you make the call, make sure you get in touch with the recruiter or HR rep who made the offer. You should always be polite about the position and those who interviewed you, even if you’re choosing the other firm because you couldn’t stand the interviewer, but don’t overdo it. Get to the point after a few sentences. Time is money, so don’t waste theirs. When you come to the point be clear that you’re not negotiating, you’re calling to say you can’t accept their offer. Unless the firm headhunted you and wined and dined you in an effort to get your signature, they’ll move on quickly and find someone else, so make sure you don’t use a grave tone that suggests the news you’re going to impart includes the death of someone.


Be diplomatic, but give them a reason why you’ve rejecting their offer. There’s no need to go into detail, so say something professional. Maybe you thought the job was way beneath you. If so, say that the job “doesn’t meet your career objectives.” You should make it clear that this was a difficult decision to make and that you’ve weighted up all your options. Again, don’t lay this on too thickly unless you’re talking to an employer about an extremely important job with a six-figure salary.

Follow up in writing

When you end your call, follow up with a letter. This will reflect well on you as long as you maintain the tone and wording we’ve suggested for the phone call.

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