How to decline a job offer during a pandemic

 

By Steven Starks, Sr. Manager of Career Counseling Programs and Operations

2.26 min read

Caregiver holding a senior woman's hands

Challenge and uncertainty are a part of any job search. You can invest a lot of time and effort into the process, but there’s no predicting when or if you’ll hear back from an employer.

The COVID-19 pandemic has simply intensified ordinary job search struggles. Unemployment has skyrocketed and social distancing has not only changed the way we live and work, but also the way companies hire. Job seekers have the added stress of dealing with virtual interviews, limited access to resources, and delayed responses from employers operating under pandemic conditions.

Given the circumstances, turning down a job offer is likely to feel counterintuitive or risky. Some job seekers may even feel guilty for declining an offer during this time when simply having a job offers a sense of stability in the midst of so much change. Nevertheless, the decision to accept or decline a job offer should never be made out of fear, but rather a thoughtful evaluation of the pros and cons. Ultimately, if it’s not the right next step for you, here are some tips on how to decline an offer.

Always show gratitude

Receiving a job offer means the employer is confident that you are the best-fit candidate among all others. It’s an honor to be chosen, so be sure to say, “Thank you very much for the offer.” Also, the hiring process usually involves multiple rounds of interviews, which can be time-consuming and expensive for companies to coordinate. Include a statement that acknowledges the effort: “It was a pleasure to connect with you and the (insert company) team and get to know you all a bit during our conversations.”

Be crystal clear

Avoid ambiguous phrases like “It doesn’t work for me” or “I’m going to pass on this right now.” These statements can be misinterpreted as being open to discussion. To avoid any misunderstanding, just say “I’ve decided to decline the offer.”

Provide closure

Don’t be overly specific about why you’re declining the offer but provide a brief explanation to help bring the situation to a close. Perhaps you’ve accepted another offer or decided to stay with your current organization. You can preface your statement with a phrase like “It was a difficult decision, but…” in order to soften the blow.

Don’t burn any bridges

Consider any interaction with an employer as a potential new relationship. If you truly had a horrible candidate experience and have no interest in maintaining a relationship, you can say “Again, I appreciate your time and consideration and wish you all the best.” However, if you want to maintain the relationship, you could say something like “I would like to keep in touch with you on LinkedIn, so keep an eye out for my invitation to connect.” If this opportunity wasn’t quite right, but you want to communicate that you are open to other opportunities in the future, add a statement like “I would be eager to hear of other opportunities in the future.”