How to Decline a Job Offer You Already Accepted

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What should you do if you accept a new job, but then you change your mind? You might change your mind about a job for a number of reasons. Perhaps a family emergency has changed your situation, or you have gotten a dream job opportunity that you just cannot turn down.

Turning down a job offer after you have already accepted it can be an uncomfortable experience. However, as long as you have not signed an employment contract with the company, you are legally allowed to change your mind. And depending on the contract, you might still be able to turn down the job without any legal consequences.

It's better to decline the offer than it is to take it and quit shortly after. By turning the job down quickly and politely, you (hopefully) can maintain a positive relationship with the employer.

How to Turn Down a Job Offer You Accepted

Think it through. Before rejecting the job offer, make sure you are 100% certain you do not want (or cannot take) the job. Once you turn down a job you previously accepted, there is no going back. Therefore, think carefully about the pros and cons of rejecting the job.

Read your contract. If you have already signed a contract, read through it carefully to make sure there will be no legal repercussions to you rejecting the job. For example, some contracts say that you have a certain window of time during which you can reject the job, or that you have to give a certain number of days’ notice. Check with a lawyer or employment expert just to make sure there will be no legal consequences.

Don't wait. Let the employer know as soon as you realize you no longer want to accept the job. The sooner you let the hiring manager know, the sooner the employer can start looking for your replacement. He or she will appreciate your swift communication.

Be honest but tactful. Let the employer know why you changed your mind, but do so without insulting him or her, or the company. If you realized that you don't think you will get along with the other employees, simply say that you do not think you would fit in with the company culture.

If you found a job that you are much more interested in, explain that you were offered a job that is more in line with your skill set. Do not say anything negative about the employer or the company.

Be concise. No matter what your reason for rejecting the job, keep your explanation brief. You do not want to go into all the details of your family emergency, or all the reasons why another job is a great fit for you.

Express gratitude. Be sure to thank the employer for the opportunity to meet and to learn about the company. If there was anything in particular you liked about the employer or company, say so.

Explain that turning down the job was a hard decision. You do not want to burn bridges with the employer – you never know if you might want to work with them in the future.

Know your bottom line. The employer might try to negotiate with you to get you to come on board. Before speaking with the hiring manager, decide what your bottom line is. Would you stay for more pay? Better benefits? There are some benefits and perks that are negotiable. If you decide you do not want to negotiate, be clear about this with the employer. If you do opt to negotiate, know what would entice you to accept.

Keep in mind that the hiring manager may not be thrilled that you want to counter offer after you already said "yes" to the first offer.

Choose the right form of communication. Speaking with the employer directly (either on the phone or in person) is the best strategy, because it allows you to explain yourself more clearly and increases your chances of maintaining a positive relationship with the employer. You should then follow up the conversation with a letter or email confirming your conversation.

If you are nervous about speaking with the employer directly, or if you are worried you will not be able to fully explain yourself over the phone, you can send a formal letter to the employer. However, a conversation in person or over the phone is the best way to personally explain and apologize.

Learn from this. In the future, try to avoid situations where you accept and then reject a job. For example, for your next job offer, you can ask an employer for more time to decide. You might also work on your negotiating skills if you felt you did not get the salary or benefits you wanted.

In the future, try not to let your excitement about a job offer cloud your judgment. Think carefully about the pros and cons of any job offer, negotiate a contract you are satisfied with, and then say yes (or no) to the job.

Sample Letter Turning Down a Job Offer After Accepting

Firstname Lastname
123 Walnut Dr.
Barrington, IL 60011

Date

Melissa Peterson
Financial Manager
ABC Financial Group
456 South St.
Chicago, IL 60612

Dear Ms. Peterson,

Thank you so much for offering me the position of Financial Analyst at the ABC Financial Group. It has been a pleasure speaking with you and learning more about your company.

Unfortunately, after giving a great deal of thought to this career opportunity, I have decided that it is in my best interest, as well as the company’s, to turn down your gracious job offer.

I have recently decided to accept another position that I believe is a better fit for my abilities and skill set. I am so sorry for any inconvenience my decision may cause.

I continue to be impressed with ABC Financial Group’s role in the international marketplace, and particularly with the great work you have done as manager of the company’s Midwest branch.

I wish you all the best in your future endeavors. I hope to see you at the upcoming Financial Management Conference in October.

Sincerely,

Firstname Lastname (signature)

Firstname Lastname (typed)