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The tactful way to say no to a job offer

Jobs boom
Knowing the right way to say no could be to your career’s advantage in the future. Photo: Getty
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Job seekers today can pick and choose from a variety of roles, but what happens when they need to turn them down?

Knowing how to tactfully reject job offers amid the great job boom is a skill needed in today’s busy market.

An employer who offers you a job you don’t want now, could offer you one you do want in the future.

What to say

A timely and formal response shows professionalism, said Kirsty Anne Ferguson, SEEK spokesperson, interview coach and founder of Interview Chix.

She said it also helps to provide an honest reason for saying no.

“I like candidates to decline the role formally, adding a genuine reason (if you feel you can) will also be appreciated by the employer as they strive to improve,” she explained.

“Vague or generic explanations such as, ‘the other role was a better fit’ or ‘it was a better package’, are often offered but don’t really mean anything.

“Be straightforward and genuine.”

Jobs boom
It pays to always be polite when knocking back a job offer. Photo: Getty

What not to say

It’s important to avoid burning your bridges.

Word travels fast in industry circles, when you turn down a job offer you want to do so respectfully.

All communications are on record.

Recruiters will always have your email address and previous correspondence, so it’s vital you are professional and honest.

Steer clear of criticising the team or the organisation because it’s just not the place of the job seeker.

And rather than saying, ‘I received a better offer’, Ms Ferguson advises using specific, rather than general feedback so you don’t sound dishonest.

She also recommends not using generic explainers, such as ‘the salary was not competitive’.

“Whilst salary is always important, it is usually not the only reason a job seeker accepts or declines an offer,” Ms Ferguson said.

“A remuneration package is made up of monetary and non-monetary parts, so focusing on salary alone is a slippery slope that singles this out as your sole motivation.”

Keep the door open

Networking is all about good communication, honesty and integrity.

So it pays to always be polite when knocking back a job offer.

Ms Ferguson’s advice is to:

  • Show your appreciation for the offer (‘I feel privileged that you see me as part of your team, even if, in this instance, I have decided not to progress’)
  • Reinforce what you liked about the culture or values (‘The vision you have for this role and its contribution to your business was extremely interesting’)
  • Indicate a willingness to be open to future offers (‘There are areas where I see I may be able to contribute to your organisation in the future and would like to stay in touch’).

For advice and tips on interviews or finding your dream role amid the great job boom, visit SEEK Career Advice.