Saying no with style

How to turn down a job

Job seekers can spent a lot of time agonising about how to get that plum job, but sometimes the angst can be caused by a different problem altogether — when and how to turn down a job offer.

In an article on, compensation professional Erisa Ojimba says a job offer can tell job hunters a lot about a potential employer.

“An offer can reveal how serious the employer is about the offer, how valuable you are to the company and most importantly, whether you should make the move.”

Ojimba advises job seekers to respond to a job offer within two to four days.

The article suggests several things for those looking for a new job to assess when deciding on an offer. The first is job titles — the title should tell someone what is expected of them and thus minimise surprises after starting a new job. The names and titles of immediate supervisors should also be covered in the offer.

“Most likely, you have already met your supervisors during your interview and have gotten acquainted with them," Ojimba says.

"You'll be working with your supervisors every day, so it's important to feel comfortable around them. Knowing how many supervisors you have also will give you a better idea of the amount of work involved in your job,” she says.

The salary is also a big factor and information should include things like when it will be reviewed (and whether it will be tied to a performance review), bonuses and benefits such as health insurance, she says. Job hunters should also analyse any perks offered, she says.

“With today's labour shortage and the emphasis on having a work-life balance, more companies are offering perks to some or all employees. These benefits include daycare, reimbursement for parking or commuting fees, and health club memberships. More creative perks such as personal concierges —someone to take care of your dry cleaning, walk your dog and make dinner reservations so you can concentrate on work — are becoming popular among employers.”

Holidays are another important point to check out, as is the start date, which might be able to be negotiated if more time is needed.

If a job hunter decides after all this deliberation that they want to turn down a job, it’s not always easy. Writing on business and technology news website Carolina Newswire, John O’Connor says most people who want to turn down a job offer don’t respond properly because they don’t know what to do.

“Even if you feel a job offer is beneath you or somewhat of an insult, you must take the high road and respond properly and positively.”

O’Connor points out that hiring is an expensive business for any organisation and those doing the hiring need to know quickly whether someone will take the job.

“By saying no quickly, they can move on to another candidate. Remember, someone else may be waiting for an offer that impacts their family and livelihood. Don’t let either the employer or the potential candidate hang, wait and wonder.”

O’Connor believes that any letters people send should have a thankful tone because they may come across people in the company again and don’t want to burn bridges.

“You do not have to let the offering company or organisation know about any other offer you are considering. Briefly mention why you feel you need to continue to look for a match that suits your career objectives.”

There are many sample letters online for turning down a job offer (check out, for example, Quint Careers' suggestion).

Finely, has a list of creative ways of turning down a job. My favourite:

“The overtime required would infringe on my ability to make and distribute records for female barbershop quartets.”

Mills is a Dunedin writer. Contact her at

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