COLUMNIST

How do I politely turn down a job offer? Ask HR

Johnny C. Taylor Jr.
Special to USA TODAY
When declining a job offer, let the employer know verbally and then prepare a written response as quickly as possible, Johnny Taylor Jr. advises.

Johnny C. Taylor Jr. tackles your human resources questions as part of a series for USA TODAY. Taylor is president and CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management, the world's largest HR professional society and author of "Reset: A Leader’s Guide to Work in an Age of Upheaval.”

The questions are submitted by readers, and Taylor's answers below have been edited for length and clarity.

Have a question? Do you have an HR or work-related question you’d like me to answer? Submit it here.

Question: I have recently declined a couple of employment offers. It felt rather awkward and uncomfortable – especially so if I like the company. What is the best way to turn down a job offer?– Riley

Johnny C. Taylor Jr.: The best way to turn down a job offer is verbally to the recruiter or hiring manager first and then put it in writing. Your written response should be professional, polite and include a brief statement for the reason you are declining the offer. While the process may seem awkward and uncomfortable, a definitive response is expected even if the response says, no thank you. 

There are a few steps to consider when declining an offer:

• Make a timely definitive decision on the employment offer

• Thank the employer for the offer

• When declining, let the employer know verbally and then prepare a written response as quickly as possible 

• Provide a brief reason for the decline

• Offer to be considered for future opportunities

Be prepared to share why the position is not the best fit for you and, should your reasoning be financial, be ready to receive a counteroffer. Take care in communicating your reasoning. Common reasons may include acceptance of another offer, preference of a current employer, or a position’s responsibilities. However, you may want to steer clear of communicating critiques that may burn any bridges and prevent future considerations. A great amount of detail does not have to be provided. 

Typically, two or three short paragraphs are generally sufficient for your written response.  Again, keep the door open for further opportunities within or outside of the company. As you may be aware, recruiters and companies often have broad networks.  So, consider your actions taken to decline an offer that are unprofessional, rude, or inconsiderate could negatively affect other opportunities outside of the offer you are declining. 

Hopefully, you find the perfect role for you and will get out of the job market!

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Q: I receive work emails over my personal phone. My manager regularly sends late-night and overnight emails. When they “ping in,” I get stressed wondering if he might want an immediate response. It can sometimes feel like I never leave work. Should I address it with him? If so, how? – Troy

Taylor: Unless you are in an essential role or working on an urgent assignment receiving late-night and overnight messages can generate stress. We are accustomed to responding quickly to emails during work hours. However, it can be difficult to shut off this impulse outside of work.   

Receiving an email doesn’t necessarily imply that you need to respond. Speak with your manager to verify your manager’s expectations in sending after-hours emails. Clarify his expectations for a response time when he sends them. Does he expect you to respond right away or is the next business day sufficient? He may just be catching up on his own emails and off-hours are more convenient for him.

If responding the next day is OK, you may be able to mute your email notification outside of work hours. Your manager may be able to follow up with a text or call you when sending an email requiring an immediate response. Most phones and email applications usually feature a setting to notify you of high-importance emails only. Consider applying this setting to reduce the number of late-night “pings.” Many email applications offer the option of delaying email delivery. Your manager could schedule late emails to be sent the next morning.

In the event your manager wants you available 24/7 and your position doesn’t warrant it, it may be time to reach out to Human Resources to discuss what is considered reasonable working hours. There may even be a workplace policy you could review as well.

Hopefully, having an open and honest conversation with your manager will help you clarify expectations, and you can enjoy reduced stress moving forward.