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How to Turn Down a Job Without Feeling Awkward or Burning Bridges

Do you remember the last time you sold the hiring manager in an interview? They loved your credentials, experience, and damn near wanted to offer you a position on the spot.

But while walking down the hall, you start to think to yourself, “I don’t think I want this job. I’ll just turn it down if I get it.”

A few weeks later, you get a voicemail from the hiring manager that says, “We’d like to offer you the position…and you have to make your decision within 3 days…”

At first, saying “I’ll just turn it down…” seemed easy. Now you have to deliver the bad news to the department that’s eager for you to start.

How do you let them down easily without burning bridges?

What do you say?

Why you feel anxious.

Since childhood, we’ve all been trained to follow the rule, “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Unfortunately in this situation, you don’t get to have that luxury.

Time and money has been spent on making a decision for you to be in this position. If you want to keep your good name and reputation intact, you have to let the company or department down easy.


Agonizing over what to say and how to say it say it can cause your heart to leap from your chest every time you think about it. If you love the company, but don’t want to work for that department, it’s important that you don’t burn any bridges.

Think About It First

The first thing you need to do before turning down job offer is to be absolutely certain that you don’t want the job. Is your gut telling you that this job is not the right fit for you? Don’t like the hours? The team? The responsibilities? There will be no going back after you’ve announced your decision to turn down the job offer. Hiring managers almost always have a backup candidate when extending job offers.

Meet Face to Face When Possible

Although it may be extremely awkward, let the hiring manager know as soon as possible and in person. If you’re unable to meet in person, an email or quick phone call will do. Above all, be polite and sincere when you do meet in person. It’s simply good manners, and those will cost you nothing.

If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

Plan the conversation or email ahead of time. Jot down a few talking points. This will help you plan for the best and worst during the conversation. Hopefully, you won’t have to deal with anything other than seeing the disappointment on their face or hearing it in their voice. It’s unavoidable.

Don’t damage your credibility.

When you talk to the hiring manager, be tactfully honest. For example, don’t say something like, “Well, I got a better offer from another company…” unless you have proof. The hiring manager might see this as a scheme on your part to get more money. Be sure to have the other company’s offer letter in case it’s requested. If you don’t, you can kiss any future opportunities with this company goodbye.

Be appreciative.

As a hiring manager, I know that lots of time and deliberation went into extending you an offer. Thank them for the opportunity.

Follow the advice here and maintain respect with the department or organization you’re turning down. It’s best to be polite so you can make sure you’ll get the chance at something better in the future with this department or company.

How will you implement the advice shared here the next time you have to turn down an opportunity?

Are you wondering, “How do I get multiple job offers so I can use this advice?”

View this article: Why You’re Not Getting Called for Interviews (and What to Do About It)

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