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After weeks or months of sending out resumes and going on interviews, you've finally been offered a job – but you realize it's not the right fit. Or maybe you're lucky enough to have multiple job offers at once.
Whatever the specifics of the case, the question is: How do you decline a position without sounding rude and ungrateful or burning a bridge?
Turning down a job can be stressful, but it doesn't have to result in hurt feelings or a ruined reputation. Here are four tips for making sure your "no" is well received:
1. Be Prompt
Time is of the essence. While you can (and should) take time to mull over an offer, you shouldn't deliberately delay declining because the conversation may be uncomfortable. As soon as you've made your decision, let the company know. It has a position to fill. The sooner the employer knows, the sooner they can extend an offer to another candidate – before it's too late.
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2. Be Personal
As tempting as it may be, don't inform the hiring manager of your decision via email or text. A phone call is the most professional approach. Taking the time to pick up the phone makes it clear you understand and appreciate the time and effort the company spent recruiting you.
3. Be Honest
Don't be afraid to share why you're rejecting the offer, whether it's because the pay or benefits weren't adequate or the job duties weren't challenging enoygh. Sharing your reasons for rejecting the offer can help the company identify areas for improvement.
That said, it's important to be diplomatic, not insulting. Rather than saying, "The pay is lousy," for example, try something like, "I've accepted an offer with a higher salary." Or instead of "I think I'd be bored here," you could say, "I'm looking for a position that offers more potential for growth."
4. Be Grateful
Always end your rejection by thanking the hiring manager for their time and for the opportunity to learn about the company and the position. There's no need to be over the top, but a sincere "thank you" goes a long way. Bonus points if you take time to also send a handwritten thank-you note. Taking this extra step will set you apart from many other applicants they've encountered.
You never know what the future holds, and your path may one day again intersect with this company or this hiring manager. Sending a thank-you letter is a great way to keep the door open for positive interactions down the road. Also, send a personalized LinkedIn invitation to anyone you met during the hiring process, and then treat them like everyone else in your network, checking in on them periodically.
Jodie Shaw is the chief marketing officer for The Alternative Board (TAB).