how to turn down a job offer

You applied, you interviewed, you got the job – and now you want to turn it down. How do you do it? Can you email or do you have to call? Do you have to give a reason? What should that reason be? What if you might want to work with that employer in the future? How do you avoid burned bridges?

Here’s everything you need to know to decline a job offer gracefully, while still preserving the working relationship for the future.

1. You will not burn a bridge just because you decline a job offer.

People often get nervous about turning down a job offer, like they’re somehow not holding up their end of a deal they made when they first applied. But applying and interviewing for a job is in no way a promise that you’ll accept it if it’s offered to you, and employers know that. Candidates turn down job offers all the time — just as employers turn down applicants all the time too — and you’re not going to burn a bridge by politely and professionally declining an offer.

That said, are there some employers out there who do react badly to rejected offers? Sure, there are some! But there are also employers who react badly when you ask for a raise or need a day off or otherwise advocate for yourself in very routine ways. It’s a sign of deep dysfunction on their side, not an indication that you’ve erred in some way. (In fact, it’s a sign that you were right to turn down the offer, because they’re showing you that they’re not an employer that adheres to conventional norms or respects candidates’ and employees’ autonomy.)

2. Tell the employer as soon as you’re sure of your decision.

Once you’ve decided that you’re not going to accept the offer, call or email the employer and let them know right away. Don’t put it off, because that can cause a real inconvenience on their side (which can then turn normal disappointment into frustration that you didn’t tell them sooner). Plus, they probably have other candidates on hold who would be delighted to receive the offer once you decline it.

3. It’s okay to decline the job in an email, but a phone call is better.

People do turn down jobs via email all the time, so if you want to go that route, the world won’t implode. But the more gracious move is to call and speak with the person who would have been your manager (assuming they were the one who interviewed you). That person is probably at least somewhat emotionally invested in you now that they’ve offered you the job.

However, timeliness is more important than connecting on the phone, so if reaching someone by phone would add days to the process, go ahead and send an email. Just add a note like, “I’d hoped to connect with you on the phone, but wasn’t able to reach you and didn’t want to delay the process.”

4. You should give a reason, but it can be vague.

This might seem unfair, since employers turn down candidates all the time without offering a reason why, but you’ll come across better and preserve the relationship for the future if you give some explanation for your decision. Your reason doesn’t need to be a comprehensive account of your reservations about the job, though! It’s enough to say something like, “Thanks so much for considering me, but after a lot of thought, I’ve decided to decline and focus on a few other roles that I think are more in line with the work I’m hoping to do.”

Or, if you have a reason that’s easily explainable in one or two sentences and that is not insulting (i.e., not: “You seem like a terrible manager”), share that! For example:

• “Ultimately, I think we’re too far apart on salary. I’d need $X to leave my current position, and I know that’s far outside your range.”

• “I’ve given a lot of thought to relocating to Chicago, but have decided this isn’t the right time for me to move.”

• “I hadn’t realized until we talked how much admin work that position is responsible for, and I’m really looking for a role more focused on program work.”

• “I’ve decided to accept a position with a different company.”

It’s possible that your reason could spur the company to try to find a way to address your objections. In some cases, you might be open to that — such as if they suddenly increase the salary offer, or say they’d be willing to let you work remotely if location is the issue. But if they offer something that won’t change your mind, it’s fine to just say, “Thank you so much for your offer. It’s not exactly what I’m looking for right now, but I really appreciate you trying to make it work.”

5. Thank them for their time.

When you turn down the offer, say something like, “I really appreciate the time you spent talking with me about the position, and I hope our paths might cross in the future.”

If you really liked the company or the manager and think you might be interested in working with them in the future, try, “I’m really impressed by the work you’re doing on X and would love to find a way to be a part of it down the road, even though the timing (or salary or so forth) didn’t work out this time.”

Originally published at New York Magazine.

{ 100 comments… read them below }

  1. Let's Talk About Splett*

    I agree with the advice to let them know as soon as you know you aren’t taking a job. Don’t avoid calling or emailing to get out of having an awkward conversation, because that actually might make you look not so great. If they know they aren’t in, they can move on to another candidate sooner.

  2. Amber Rose*

    Does the same go for declining an interview? A friend once recommended me to their boss for a job, but it took them a long time to get back to me and a couple days before the interview was scheduled I received an offer for a better paying job. I more or less used, “sorry to have to cancel on you but I have received an offer and decided to take it.”

    I thought that was fairly reasonable and polite but I heard from my friend later that the hiring manager was really angry.

    1. Cube Diva*

      What you did seems VERY reasonable! It’s not your fault or problem that they took took too long to bring you in for an interview, even if they didn’t wait that long on purpose. Seems like the literal definition of “you snooze, you lose.” And they lost.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Completely reasonable. The hiring manager was being irrational; it would have made no sense for you to waste her time if you knew you had already accepted a different job. Bullet dodged.

    3. Bea*

      The manager is way off base. I bet it was due to them feeling like they did your friend a favor interviewing you. However it’s not unreasonable to cancel an interview because you have no intention on taking the job!

      1. Amber Rose*

        I got the feeling they thought I wouldn’t apply for any other jobs while I was waiting for them to get back to me. Which seems unrealistic. I had no guarantee they would hire me after all.

        1. Bea*

          Awww bless their sweet innocence. I wish I knew what it was to feel like my company is ever A Big Frigging Deal like that. Only if Marcus Lemonis tells me he’s got a job in the works I’ll wait it out but still won’t be if I’m currently job seeking to escape hell or the unemployment line!!

    4. Lucille2*

      I think a reasonable manager would be upset if you didn’t cancel the interview knowing you weren’t interested in pursuing this position.

      1. Marthooh*

        But it sounds like they did camcel the interview: “sorry to have to cancel on you but I have received an offer and decided to take it.”

    5. Anne of Green Gables*

      I’ve had candidates cancel on me, including the morning of the interview. (He accepted a job the night before, other offer was in CA, I’m on East Coast, so I was out of the office by the time he got the offer.) I was not annoyed at all. In fact, both time I can think of, I was glad to have the time back and in one case, it meant we could deliberate much sooner.

    6. Liz T*

      I just did that for the first time! I turned down a third interview.

      -In the first interview I found out it would be a bit of a pay cut from my current position. Not a dealbreaker cuz the company seemed cool and fun, and probably the job had a later start time.
      -In the second interview I found out the man I’d be supporting had a “big personality.” I pressed and found out this meant he was a “huge asshole.” (Okay not an actual quote.) Then at the very end I found out it was an EARLIER start time, and the “flexible hours” mentioned in the job posting meant, “you can take sick and vacation days.”

      I confess I waited for the offer of another interview, even though I knew earlier that I’d be withdrawing from the process. I’ve had so many post-second-interview rejections in the last few years, I wanted to be able to say I’d definitively made it past that round!

  3. AdAgencyChick*

    The burned bridge comes in if you rescind an accepted offer more so than if you decline an offer, and sometimes not even then.

    I’ve had to rescind an acceptance only once — I knew I’d be burning the bridge, but the information I got after accepting the offer was simply too alarming not to act on. And even then, the recruiter, after she moved on to another agency, tried to get me to come over there. I think she knew that the place she was working for before was crazytown, and that that’s why she didn’t decide I was a flake based on rescinding an acceptance.

    1. Doug Judy*

      I rescinded a job offer in college. I interviewed for a receptionist job at a radio station. I didn’t get it. Almost a month later I got hired for a retail job. The very next day the radio station called, the person they hired didn’t work out, and they wanted to hire me. I took it. I called the manager at the retail job to let her know I had a very unexpected offer from the radio station and was declining her position. She went on a tirade how unprofessional I was and “this was going to haunt me forever”. I said the other job paid nearly double, no nights, no weekends, I had to do what was best for me.

      Spoiler alert, no ill effects from declining that job have come up.

      1. Bea*

        Anyone who reacts to you being “unprofessional” by screeching and demeaning you is in no place to ever judge professionalism. I’ve been pissed off at people for doing “things” that were unprofessional and never screamed at them for it. Professionalism is about the high road, folks.

        Also giggling that quitting a retail job will ever destroy your life somehow. Unless you live in one of those towns with One Employer. Geez.

          1. Bea*

            I can imagine she’s still managing that store and has so many people to ruin…you gotta wait until she gets to your name.

          2. Cobol*

            You say no ill-effects, but do you ever notice you don’t have the best cell phone reception, or the price of milk is increasing?

      2. Important Moi*

        I can assure you there are many managers who feel that they can “haunt you forever” if you leave their supervision or place of employment

        1. Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves*

          I was told I was stabbing my previous boss in the back by leaving that crappy job for one with much better pay and hours because I didn’t tell him I was looking. Considering how I was gaslit and treated like they would take away my stapler and put me in the basement at any moment I wasn’t going to give extra notice.

      3. AdAgencyChick*

        Ah, the delusional power-mad retail manager. Thankfully it’s been a very long time since I reported to one of those!

    2. Kat in VA*

      I just did this – rescinded an accepted offer. After searching for five months, I accepted a job offer on a Thursday…only to be offered my old contract job back – full time and permanent – at a company I absolutely! unreservedly!* loved! literally the VERY NEXT DAY.

      I felt terrible, and I apologized in my email (I don’t speak on the phone unless I absolutely have to, speech impediment), thanked them for giving me a chance, and thanked them for their time. I may have burned a bridge – I hope I didn’t, and I hope my email was kind enough that they weren’t cursing my name. The reply email was professional and polite – along the lines of “Thank you for letting us know, and best of luck in your new venture” kind of thing.

      I still feel a little bit bad but that’s outweighed by OldNewJob, which I love to bits!

      *unreservedly except for the commute. The commute is, frankly, balls. It was the one thing that Rescinded Accepted Job would have had in spades over OldNewJob, but I’m resigned to the fact that in the DC area, 1 to 1.5 hours each way isn’t considered anything but a normal commute for a lot of folks. That, and I’m biiiig on known quantities, and everything here is a known quantity – the bosses, the workload, the processes, the coworkers, the insane vacation (five weeks at the start of every year!), the pay (quite a bit more than the rescinded offer), and a ton of perks.

  4. NW Mossy*

    Oh, #1 brings back memories! I once had an employer extend a verbal offer that came with one big string attached: they insisted that I tell my current employer I was leaving before they’d send me a written offer. I was pretty green back then, but even as a total naif, that felt wrong to me – what would stop them from yanking the offer after I’d already given notice, leaving me jobless? So I went back and explained that I wasn’t comfortable with the risk they were asking me to take, and reiterated my request for a written offer.

    The hiring manager/owner blew a gasket – screaming at me, accusing me of insulting his integrity, and a healthy dose of “well I never!” thrown in for good measure. I made some kind of conciliatory noises, removed myself from consideration, and counted my blessings for having dodged a bullet. At the time, I was looking to leave my current employer because I hated the anger and mistrust that was soaked into the culture, and this would have been a frying pan/fire situation for sure.

      1. NW Mossy*

        The fig-leaf explanation I got was that the owner of Hiring Company knew the owner of Anger Company socially, and Hiring Company didn’t want to be accused of poaching me. This was ridiculous for many reasons. Poaching is not a concept that exists when you’re talking about entry-level admin assistants, and the two firms are not remotely in the same industry. WHUT is right!

    1. Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves*

      I had a potential job offer fall through because the owner wanted me to apply for a $250 license on my own dime before giving me an actual offer. I very politely declined ($250 was a LOT of money on my salary) and they offered it to someone else.

    2. No1CatParent*

      I had a similar situation but didn’t make the wise choice you did. I put in my two weeks… Then there were delays in getting me the letter, and more delays, and more delays. I ended up being out of work a full month (missing a month of pay and a quarterly bonus I would have gotten from my old company) before starting at the new place. It really was a huge sign of how things work at that company and I now know to absolutely insist on a written letter with a start date. I’d had several jobs before that one but that issue had never come up so I did not know to worry about what, we’ll get your offer letter to you AFTER you submit your two weeks, could end up meaning.

      1. many bells down*

        Something similar happened to me. I had two part-time jobs and one offered me full-time hours starting that summer. So I quit the other job and then discovered I wasn’t even on the schedule for the next three weeks! When I asked about it, they said “well enrollment is really low” (childcare facility.)

        So I went out and got a new job the very next week. Six months later, I had to go back to the old job for some paperwork and they said “oh the director’s been looking for you she wants you to come in.” Uhhh, no, thank you.

    3. it_guy*

      I had a similar incident one time when I was offered a job as government contractor. The hiring company wanted me to give notice and then the government agency would start the background check. I couldn’t start until after the check was complete. I was told in the interview that the reason I should wait until I had the background check done before I gave notice.

      A month and a half went by and they called me with an offer. I found out that I was their second candidate. The first candidate got tired of waiting for the background check to complete and he had already burned through his two week notice and was unemployed. He went with another company instead. I told them I would give notice after the background check was complete and stood my ground. They weren’t happy.

      The background check took 7 weeks. Totally dodged that bullet!!

  5. Akcipitrokulo*

    I really burned some bridges a few years back due to inexperience and panicking… I know I really irritated with toing and froing.

    I interviewed with a few companies. I’d just been made redundant on return from maternity leave… son was 10 months old. Got 3 offers; first I would have taken if it were the only one, but with others on table, was able to call quickly and thank them forntheir time… they were disappointed, but fine, and all on good terms.

    Company A had made a higher offer, but company B was a lot closer… but required late nights at least once a month, and I was still nursing. They did say would make arrangements for me to leave early on those days so I could go home, feed baby and come back, but I wasn’t sure.

    Then Company B increased their pay offer, and increased holiday offer. I explained to agent for Company A… he said let me talk to them, and came back with a matching offer.

    So I accepted Company B, called Company A’s agent to withdraw. They were also disappointed, but at that stage, all was OK.

    Then came the red flags. First, they had agreed on a start date at the beginning of December… then they moved it to the start of January to avoid bank holidays. Then they pulled their increased offer unless I could prove that Company B had actually made their offer. And a couple of other things…

    And the agent for Company A was horrified by the request for proof, but helped get it for me. Then got back to me a couple of days later to check I had got what I was asking for from B… and was I sure I wanted to work for a company that treated people like that?

    I said I wasn’t sure, so he called Company A (with my permission) and confirmed their offer was still on the table.

    So I was stressing and getting serious anxiety symptoms… and I thought should go for A but the late nights… and OH was also worried about that…

    … and a couple of days later I fjnally accepted B.

    Biggest professional mistake I ever made. They were even worse than the red flags had indicated.

    And Company A really had no interest in ever looking at me again for any role.

    So. Yeah.

    Learning outcomes?

    – pay attention to red flags
    – don’t change mind once people have gone out of way to make tbings work for you
    – don’t feel so guilty abput hurting a hiring manager’s feelings you get paralysed and can’t say no thanks earlier.

    1. Akcipitrokulo*

      OK, got As and Bs all mixed up, sorry!

      Nearby company increased offer first.

      Far company increased to match.

      I accepted Far.

      Far started being dodgy and asked for proof .

      Nearby was horrified but gave me something I could use to get offer.
      Nearby then tried to get me to come to them due to Far’s bad faith.

      And I should have said yes or no straight away but did rabbit in headlights thing until when I did turn Nearby down, they were pissed off with me.

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      I’m kind of surprised that Company A was willing to spend more of their time on an offer that they knew you would not be accepting. There is no way our HR would spend staff time on an offer package that we knew someone was just using to counter with. That was pretty generous of Company A.

  6. Lil Fidget*

    I had to turn down a job and I felt incredibly lousy about it. They flew me out and because it was a nonprofit I knew that they probably could have used those other funds. I flew out in good faith and I feel like I turned it down in good faith but I still felt terrible. On the other hand, it would have been worse to take the job knowing it wasn’t going to be a good fit, and then flake out in like one year.

    1. Greg NY*

      You did act in good faith. The only other alternative in that situation would be for you to take the job out of feeling bad that the spent funds flying you out, and that wouldn’t have been good for either you or them. Even for a nonprofit, interviewing carries costs and they have to be incorporated into the budget.

      1. Lil Fidget*

        Yeah, I think they were a little frustrated because they felt like they should have been able to anticipate the miss-match on the phone. But there are some things you just don’t know until you confront them in person. I just keep reminding myself that I really was doing my best to be honest and transparent, I wasn’t leading them on, etc. And I told them as soon as I made my decision. Even if it resulted in some maybe-hurt feelings, I can’t really blame myself and had to let it gooo.

    2. Bea*

      Hiring costs money. We budget for recruitment! If they offer to pay expenses, it’s like if you accept a date. Me buying you dinner doesn’t mean you owe me a commitment of any kind.

      1. all the candycorn*

        “Me buying you dinner doesn’t mean you owe me a commitment of any kind.”

        Except a lot of men think it does, so it’s not a stretch that employers would either.

        1. Bea*

          So what? The point is you don’t owe them, regardless of what they think you do. You shouldn’t feel pressure or feel bad because /some people/ are disgusting and dysfunctional.

          1. Lil Fidget*

            It’s funny that the language I used (both now and at the time) is “I don’t want to lead them on,” which is usually used in a dating context!

  7. irene adler*

    For the one job offer I turned down, I used the phrase so often used in rejection letters: not a good fit.

    The interview with the owner became a gripe session (entirely on his end) about how auditors”‘just don’t understand” and -repeatedly- cite him for infractions that “just aren’t true”. I gather he wanted me to argue as to why he wasn’t out of compliance with what ever regs he was required to follow. The industry: food supplements.


    1. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

      I’ve used this one too. I knew early in the interview that I wouldn’t be accepting the job – the person in the interview who I would have worked most closely with made a comment about “changing [something] like you change wives”. I’m obviously and visibly female, and I was wearing wedding and engagement rings in the traditional place on the left hand.

      I didn’t know how to leave the interview, so I continued with it, and figured I could’ve gotten on fine with everyone else in the company. But that one guy, who I’d have to work with daily, he completely blew the company’s chances of hiring me.

      I had no idea how to tell the company I’d never take a job that would have me working with Sexist Dude. I got a good offer from them, and I turned it down with “It’s just not a good fit for me.” Company came back with a better offer. I gave them the same turn down.

      In retrospect, the only thing I’d have done differently was tell them exactly what Sexist Dude said during the interview and how that comment by itself was enough for me to rule out the job.

  8. Captain Vegetable (Crunch Crunch Crunch)*

    I was offered a job with a former employer that I declined because the pay was too low. A year or so later, a different position opened up that they really wanted me for, for which I was able to negotiate a reasonable salary. Unfortunately, they are still hiring for other positions at a wages that were bad five years ago, and wonder why they only get desperate people who leave as quickly as possible, or just really awful workers.

  9. Database Developer Dude*

    I turned down an offer one time because it was verbal, and they wanted me to make a decision *right then and there*. As I was leaving their offices and walking to the Metro, they called me. I had other irons in the fire, and I still wanted to consider their offer, so I told the guy I’d let him know by 5pm the next day.

    He balked at that, asking me why I couldn’t give an answer right then and there, and so I caved and said “okay, what about 5pm today”…he still pushed, and I asked for an hour to consider, and he still pushed. At that point, I turned it down because that was a big red flag for me. When I turned it down, I explicitly cited the fact that I couldn’t have any time to consider the offer at all as a big red flag for me, and the guy then turned it around on me, saying they were yanking the offer because of my unreasonable demands. LOL WHUT? An hour’s time to consider a verbal offer is unreasonable?

    1. irene adler*

      It’s nice when the red flag is so big it covers the sky.
      I have to wonder though, in general, what would happen if you accept this offer, and then simply don’t ever show up? I know, reputation tarnished. But really, would you ever want to work at such a place as this?

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      I would consider that a bullet dodged. We usually ask for an answer within a few days, no more than a week, but everyone has to have time to consider all the factors of the job. It doesn’t me any good to have someone make a rush decision and quit two months later. I did have a candidate ask for a month once, which I couldn’t do, but we try to be as accommodating as we can without derailing our internal timelines.

    3. FD*

      When I turned it down, I explicitly cited the fact that I couldn’t have any time to consider the offer at all as a big red flag for me, and the guy then turned it around on me, saying they were yanking the offer because of my unreasonable demands.

      That’s like the interviewer equivalent of, “YOU CAN’T FIRE ME I QUIT!”

  10. Free Meerkats*

    I’ve turned down two job offers, both for location-related reasons. One was a company that put out in the magazines that they were opening an office in Seattle and I was looking to relocate there. I applied, interviewed, and was offered the job; but it turned out they weren’t going to be opening the Seattle office for about a year, in the meantime I would have been based in TN. Bullet dodged, the Seattle office didn’t open for almost 3 years.

    The other was a mid-size OR city along I-5. After getting the offer, my wife and I talked about it and decided we’d rather be closer to salt water and I turned it down. A few months later I accepted a job just north of Seattle.

  11. Doug Judy*

    Maybe similar to this: How do you buy more time on an offer without making it seem like they are the runner up on The Bachelor? I am nearing the final stages of two jobs. Job A is an amazing opportunity and in an industry I have wanted to be in for a long time. I had my final interview Monday and it went very well. The CEO likes to at least talk to everyone they are considering hiring at the end of the interview process (small company) but the leadership team is at a conference all week so it would not be until Monday at the earliest this would happen, but I would expect by the end of next week to have their decision.

    Job B I have my final interview on Thursday morning. I know they are looking to make a decision quickly, so my fear is they will make the offer first. Job B is fine, and if I didn’t get Job A I would take Job B for sure ( I need to get out of my current job asap) I’m not crazy about the company but it puts me on a better long term career path than where I am currently.

    IF that happens (and I know I might not get offers from either) how do I buy more time with Job B without making it seem like “Yeah, I’d settle for you if I had to”?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      You can usually get up to a week to think it over. In this case, it sounds like unlikely that you’d get a job offer before Friday, and it’ll probably be later than that, especially if they want to check references — more likely is next week. When they make you an offer, say that you’re really interested but want to think it over to make sure you’ve asked all your outstanding questions, run the numbers, etc., and ask when they need your answer by. Then you immediately call Job A and tell them you have another offer and Job A is by far your first choice, but you need to get back to the other company by X, and is there any way they can work within that timeline. If Job A really wants you, they’ll try to do that.

      You’re lucky in that these sound close enough that there’s a good chance it’ll work. It’s much harder if their timelines are many weeks apart.

      1. Doug Judy*

        Thanks! Job A is very responsive and HR has been checking in with me throughout the process, so they do know I am interviewing elsewhere, but they are unquestionably my top choice. The only thing I could see extending the process beyond next week is if they are still interviewing other candidates, but at this point I can’t see that being more than one other person.

    2. Cordoba*

      If Company B gives you an offer first I recommend your Step 1 is to ask for all the details of the benefits and time to review them. This isn’t unreasonable – the specific benefits package and related policies are an important part of your compensation and of course you want to understand them fully before you accept.

      IMO this is an important step that people should do even if they aren’t trying to buy time. I’d never accept a job without going through the medical/relo/vacation/whatever benefits in detail.

      Then you of course have to ask questions for further detail, and perhaps negotiate some of these things, get their final offer, and then discuss it with your family.

      All of this could easily take a week or two. If an employer treats it as unreasonable or tries to rush you through it that’s not a good indicator.

      1. Doug Judy*

        Good point about asking about the benefits. That has not been discussed in depth, other than they have them. It would give me time without having to tell them I am waiting on Job A.

        And I totally agree everyone should carefully vet the details of the benefits. At TerribleJob I asked for information on the health benefits, the cost for a family plan, deductible, etc. and the HR rep acted like she had no idea why I was asking for that. It was a red flag and I ignored it. Everything about that job ended up being terrible. I won’t make that mistake twice.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        One tweak I’d make to that is that a lot of employers will expect paragraph 1 and paragraph 2 to happen at the same time, in order to keep things moving.

        1. Cordoba*

          That’s fair. I was thinking that it usually takes a potential employer a few days to even get the benefit details to me; and of course I can’t ask questions or negotiate anything until that happens.

          Sometimes they act surprised that I’m even asking and it can take more than a week to get the information.

          Serious related question: Is it common for non-desperate professionals to accept jobs without knowing what their specific health coverage or travel policy is going to be? This seems unbelievable to me, but the reactions I get from employers makes me suspect that it happens often.

          1. all the candycorn*

            In every job both my husband and I have had, we were not informed of employee benefits until New Employee Orientation. Because he works in academia, we usually can pull the generic, standardized benefits comparison charts off the public-facing employee benefits website. For his current job, the generic “compare between our three plans” chart left off whole categories of care (it said birth was covered but made no mention of any other women’s healthcare) and we did not see what services were covered to what degree until we enrolled in a plan and created a login to the insurer’s customer portal.

            1. Cordoba*

              Would the employer not provide this information even after you asked for it?

              I’ve had potential employers act surprised when I asked for further details of the benefits, but none of them have ever actually refused to give the specifics once I brought it up.

    3. Minocho*

      I had a similar situation.

      Job A was in a close location. Job A would be steady work in a busy, high pressure field. Job A looked good for the first two interviews, the but third introduced to me the people I’d be working with, rather than the people I’d be managed by, and the information I got from that interview made it clear that the job description for Job A was…a little misleading. It was listed as 100% technical. I found through interview 3 that it would be 20% technical, 80% herding unhappy customers. Job A gave me a very monetarily attractive offer.

      Job B was three interviews in, and I was awaiting an offer. It was much further away, it was a boom or bust industry with a lower pressure average work load (and the industry was currently in bust mode). But the work was obviously going to be as technical as promised.

      When I received Job Offer A first, I asked for 72 hours to consider. They agreed. Then I contacted Job B and let them know I had an offer on the table, with a 72 hour limit, but I was VERY interested in Job B, if they could get an offer to me in time.

      They did, I accepted, I turned down Job A.

    4. ThatGirl*

      When I was in a similar dual-offer situation, asking for a written offer along with complete benefits details not only bought me enough time for Company B’s offer, it also revealed that Company A did not have their act together – the “benefits” letter was basically “yep, we have health insurance,” whereas Company B gave me a complete packet with PTO and insurance options and premiums and so forth. I had been leaning toward Company B but that pushed it over the edge.

      1. ThatGirl*

        Oh, I should note that also got Company B to get their act together, because I did let them know I needed an offer promptly.

        And I gave some genuine feedback to Company A that lack of information on benefits wasn’t helpful.

  12. Robbie*

    I had to turn down a job offer last year. While on my internship, I did Skype interviews with a number of churches (I am a minister). One church was lovely, and I would have had a permanent, full-time call. But I would have had to move out of the city, which my husband was unable to do at the time, or do a two-hour commute to make it happen. I thought about every conceivable way I could make this work, and finally realized I could not ask someone who was dying to wait until the highway cleared enough I could safely drive the two-hour trip.

    It broke my heart, and I hope that they find someone wonderful. I am glad I did it over the phone, but I definitely did cry afterwards, since I know how emotionally invested we are were by that point. But it was a good lesson for me- only apply to church positions I am reasonably willing and able to get to, whether with a commute or a move.

  13. Vendelle*

    I once applied for a job and was first told by the owner of the company that the vacancy had already been filled. An hour later she called to schedule an interview anyway. I accepted, because I was curious.

    The interview was not bad, but I still had a bad feeling about it, so the next day I decided to call and tell them I had accepted a job somewhere else (this wasn’t true, but I had talked it over with my parents who suggested saying this to fend off any questions). I called, got voicemail and left a message saying I was sorry to cancel via voicemail, but I was going to have to step out of the hiring process and I cited accepting a job elsewhere.

    An hour later, I got a phonecall from the owner, telling me “Congratulations, I’ve decided to hire you!”. When I told her about the voicemail I left her only an hour before she became very upset, saying: “You can’t do this to me! I already sacked the other person, you’re putting me in a very difficult position now.”

    I apologized, but stood my ground, but she became so abusive and loud that my mother (who had been sitting next to me during the phonecall as I lived with my parents at the time) told me to finish and hang up (she quickly wrote a text for me to say, lol!). I did as she said and hung up after a last “I’m sorry you feel that way, but my mind is made up, so I will end this conversation now.”

    To this day, I have the idea I not only burned a bridge there, but also dodged a bullet!

      1. Vendelle*

        I believe both bullets here were of a similar size. I actually read your comment with my mouth hanging open!

  14. anon because of specifics*

    I turned down a job offer once because when I went to the in-person, one of the managers said they were really LGBTQA+ friendly…..and then said that when people had to travel, they made sure straight and LGBTQA+ people were in separate rooms so no one was uncomfortable, and also made a comment about how she’s worried about her straight children going to LGBTQA+ events as allies because LGBTQA+ adults at events with children present is sketchy (she was specifically talking about pride parades in this instance). So much for being LGBTQA+ friendly.

    When I declined, I said it wasn’t a fit, but a few years later and I do wish I had said something about how that one manager was one of those “I’m an ally, but I’m making homophobic comments and perpetuating negative stereotypes” people (which are pretty frequent imo). But I didn’t say anything because I’m conscious of being a queer women in a straight white male industry and being seen as “that person”, unfortunately. I did end up leaving a Glassdoor review about it eventually.

    1. Anonym*

      Whoa. Thank you so much for leaving that review. That’s definitely something I’d want to know about a potential employer.

    2. Doug Judy*

      Ugh. Yes some companies say “We’re LGBTQA+ friendly!” Meaning: “We will hire LGBTQA+ because we aren’t allowed to discriminate.” No Karen, that is not what LGBTQA+ friendly means.

      1. anon because of specifics*

        To be honest, I find a lot of people who do genuinely think they’re allies also tend to perpetuate negative stereotypes or who don’t see things as not wanting to share a locker room with a LGBTQA+ person as homophobic. I think these instances are harder to fight and callout than outright homophobia because they come from people who do think they’re on our side, but get defensive when called out because no one was ever accused them of homophobia before. It’s a sort of broad liberalism where they accept the mainstream view of an issue, but not the deeper, more personal views (however internalized and unrealized that lack of acceptance may be)

        1. Bea*

          Ah yes. They’re similar to the “I’m not racist! Look at all my workers, they’re so diverse!” and then go on to spit out how stereotypes and how they recount only certain cash drawers that conveniently happen to be the people who are of a different national origin.

          1. anon because of specifics*

            Yes, that’s in the same vein to me as calling someone your “gay friend” or “black friend”. You’re labelling someone based on their identity instead of, you know, just calling them your friend. No one wants to be referred to ask the Token Friend.

            But I’m also talking about people who don’t believe the stereotypes they’re perpetuating are bad stereotypes. Such as believing that all gay men are effeminate or that are lesbians are butch. It doesn’t seem like a harmful stereotype on the surface because so much of popular culture depicts them this way, and allies who aren’t super involved or educated in the community don’t realize that there are support groups for people who don’t fit those stereotypes and who feel erased from the community because other people believe the way they look and act means they can’t be considered queer.

            It’s a subtler type of bias and much harder to callout because to people outside the community, it honestly doesn’t look like bias. I know a lot of good people who pull the “I didn’t know they were gay because they didn’t look/sound/act gay” and I’ve found it’s a struggle to teach people not to say or believe these things because they honestly don’t understand why it’s harmful. They’re not bad people, they’re just a victim of their own internal biases and mainstream society’s depiction of LGBTQA+ people.

            But I think I’m derailing at this point and maybe it’s a convo better left for the weekend open thread!

    3. Database Developer Dude*

      Does this manager know that the A in LGBTQA+ means ‘Ally’?? So she’s going to put people who, while straight, have no issues with non-straight folk in separate rooms because what, having an opinion is going to make someone else uncomfortable?

      As a straight, cisgender, black male, I have no issues with LGBTQ+ folk. Love is love. If it’s a problem for you that I have this attitude, it’s your problem, and I refuse to own your problem. If you’re also a straight male, and you have issues sharing a room with me because I have no issues with LGBTQ+ folk, that’s also your problem.

      And yes, I have had to address this…I was active duty military and low ranking, and required to share a room in the barracks.

  15. Anon for this*

    I was a manager at OldJob helping co-managers hire by participating in interview panels and hiring decisions. We had an open position we were having difficulty filling due to its specific mix of specialized skills. An offer was made to a candidate who was arguably a little overqualified. The position required a great deal of travel and restrictions on PTO use, all of which were clearly outlined in the interview process. The candidate graciously turned down the offer – they were iffy about the travel schedule and PTO restrictions due to personal family obligations. Also, the offer did not quite meet salary expectations, but they were appreciative of our time.

    Hiring manager was PISSED. Emails went back and forth internally calling the candidate a diva, too good for us, etc. The same manager felt betrayed when employees left the company to pursue other opportunities and proceeded to badmouth anyone who had the audacity to leave. In a nutshell, a manager who feels you owe it to them to accept their offer is a red flag. Burning that bridge despite professionally declining for good reason is actually a bullet dodged.

  16. Nonyme*

    I’m currently between jobs and have already decided I will be declining any further contact with one possible employer.

    Application process was … difficult. Instead of just sending a resume, they made you type all the information in to their website (with separate boxes for each previous employer, and your name and address, and references, and etc. and with formatting stripped out, so you couldn’t just cut and paste), and then the website immediate launched you into assessments. There was no indication how long the assessments would take, and according to the instructions on the website, they had to be done within 4 hours — you could not return the next day and do them.

    Assessments took two full hours to conclude, including an hour spent on multiple “personality assessments” that you had to pass for the job.

    And THEN they checked my references before I ever had an interview, and without asking for permission. (Good thing I’m already fired and between jobs because another employer blabbed to the boss that I was job hunting, I guess?)

    Once I passed the background check, they called me for an on-the-spot phone interview. No warning. No, “Would this be a good time?” Just a random call that I answered while in traffic because I thought it might be from an employer offering me a job. (I’d just left an in-person interview and they said they would get back to me within hours. That other employer, incidentally, has never called me back and is now ghosting me.) The interviewer was annoyed because I told them I would call them back in five minutes after I found a good place to park that was safe. However, phone interview went well, and she advised me, weirdly, of what salary they would be offering me based on my experience (I have loads of experience and skillz that they are looking for), which was … acceptable, if not particularly high for the industry.

    And then they decided, after THAT phone interview, that they would need to do ANOTHER phone interview with another person … and scheduled a time and told me to make sure my phone was charged because the second phone interview would be a conference call with multiple people and would a full hour.

    And … then they never called.

    If I wasn’t so desperate for a job, and if this wasn’t for a potential work-from-home opportunity, I would have quit playing sometime around the hour-long personality assessment. I’m definitely done with them now. Glassdoor reviews for the company seem to indicate that the red flags are correct, too; lots of employees complaining about unreasonable expectations on their time, and lack of work/life balance, and general inconsiderate behavior. Forget turning down a job, I’m turning down any future interviews.

    1. sheworkshardforthemoney*

      Several years ago I applied for a job with Bakery/Cafe Corporation. I met every criteria and applied on-line. It was the only way they accepted applications. I spent several hour filling out their forms and doing an hour long personality test. It was all submitted successfully and that was the last I heard from them. Because I love their products I still visit their stores and the employee turn-over is high. I covertly watched them train people and it was painfully obvious to me that many of them weren’t qualified. (The manager warned a trainee not to put his fingers in the bagel slicer). Good product, bad recruiting.

      1. Bea*

        Having dealt with a man who had to be reminded to stop reaching over guards and into sawblade territory…after he had already had multiple amputations. Yeeeeeah, don’t put your hand in the bagel slicer brings back all the memories.

        1. sheworkshardforthemoney*

          If you have to tell someone NOT to put their fingers in the bagel/food slicer then just let Darwin do it’s work.

  17. Small but Fierce*

    I’ve been working full-time for 3 and a half years, and I’ve already turned down job offers twice.

    The first time, I was trying to leave my first job due to a variety of issues, but I wasn’t desperate to jump. I told the external recruiter that I needed $X ($10k more than what I was currently making) to consider interviewing at the new company. After being told that was not a problem, I had multiple interviews (for which I took a day of PTO) only to get offered exactly what I was already making – plus longer hours and commute! It was so frustrating, but since I already invested so much time in them, I tried to get them up just $2k to consider it. Their VP called to try to convince me, but they wouldn’t even give me that since their current employees with similar experience couldn’t make more than that. But why interview me in the first place if you knew that from the start? I had no qualms politely telling them that they knew what my expectations were from the start and that this was not a match. I got exactly what I asked for when I interviewed at my current job a few months later.

    The second time was a month ago. I’m relocating to a different city across the country this month. I was lucky enough to score a job offer before I even moved. However, I learned at the same time that my current company decided to let me work remotely. While the other job paid a lot more, I told them I decided to honor my original commitment to my current company and stay since I am generally happy here otherwise. I still have a bit of regret about it, but I’m hopeful I’ll appreciate the flexibility I’ll have with remote work.

  18. B*

    I completely forgot this until just now. When I was looking to leave my first post-college job, I interviewed at a place that eventually told me that it was down to me or another candidate, and they would give the job to whomever accepted first. Which my APPALLED parents explained was a way for them to give the job to whomever negotiated the least.

    I believe I said something like “Given the fact that you don’t seem to know what you want from an employee, this doesn’t seem like the right next step for me,” and went on my merry way.

    1. irene adler*

      Nicely done!
      After I completed the interview, I was told to call back after 5 pm to see if I’d be hired. Clueless me does exactly that -at 5 on the dot. The HR lady at the other end takes my name and number and says she’ll get back to me in about 20 minutes.

      And she did. I was hired.

      Come to find out later she had multiple positions to fill. She simply hired the first six who phoned in.
      And they wondered why their turnover was so high.

      1. Nonyme*

        Sometimes it does work out for everybody– as a college kid, I applied at a temp agency, and at 5pm on a friday they offered me a job to start the following Monday at “a call center.” The description led me to believe I’d be doing telemarketing for an insurance company but I was hungry enough (literally) to accept. Pretty much, I would have taken anything at that point.

        It turned out to be an inbound call center doing customer service for a very credible insurance company with some of the best benefits in the state and an excellent work environment. Oh, and I was making $2 an hour more than the temp agency had told me, LOL! I was there fifteen years before they were bought out by an evil competitor that slashed our benefits, cut the work force, and expected the survivors to work 70 hour work weeks if we wanted to keep our jobs. I concluded I didn’t want the job that much and moved on.

  19. sheworkshardforthemoney*

    Last year I was working Job A, it was part-time but enough hours for me and I loved it. Then corporate head office cut hours across the board and it wasn’t enough for me and other co-workers. So I looked for another job and found one that was almost the same but with more hours. I told my manager at Job A and he said that if I stayed he could give me full-time hours because another co-worker was leaving in 2 months. I wavered but then accepted Job B. It turned out to be the right choice because Job A co-worker took six months to leave. Job B is with a non-profit and I was pleasantly surprised at how healthy and functional the workplace is considering the number of non-profit horror stories that come up on AAM.

  20. Butter Makes Things Better*

    Wow, I was just wondering about this exact question yesterday, because years ago, I know I didn’t handle turning down a chance to return to OldCompany in the best way possible.

    Alison, does your answer change if the company customized the job for you specifically? I ask because these stick out as mistakes I made or possibly made (my memory of the interaction is fuzzy because it happened more than a decade ago):

    1. I think I told OldCo I wasn’t accepting the offer because NewCo matched the offer — Given that this was a job tailored for me, I’m guessing this was my No. 1 faux pas.

    2. I didn’t tell OldCo why I’d become disenchanted with the prospect of returning — Looking back, I probably owed them a more detailed explanation for my no. Would any of the following concerns/issues I had with them been advisable to share when I turned down their offer?
    a) The interview process took well over a year. They would go months without contacting me, before starting up again;
    b) The process was so disorganized that one boss-type flaked and didn’t show up for my scheduled interview with him. He also never sent an apology email (himself or through an admin) even though I had to take personal time to meet with him and he was the only person at OldCo I was meeting with that day;
    c) The job description kept changing; and
    d) They had me meet with so many people with conflicting views on what my trajectory would be or could be once I returned, which left me feeling like I’d be a ship without a harbor if I came back.

    3. I probably didn’t convey enough gratitude for their spending resources courting me and honing this position for me.

    I’m sure I made other mistakes too. (*Cringe*) Needless to say, that was a bridge singed if not totally burned.

    1. Lisa B*

      I… disagree. If I’m reading all your subpoints in 2, I think OldCo burned their bridge with YOU, not the other way around. I free you of further cringing.

      1. CM*

        Yes, assuming that you said something like, “I appreciate the work you’ve put into considering this position for me, but given the uncertainty I’ve decided to accept another offer,” I think you are 100% in the clear and they are to blame. Even if you just accepted without a word, I don’t think you were the one who burned the bridge — if months passed without you hearing from them, it doesn’t seem like you could count on them making you an offer.

        1. Butter Makes Things Better*

          I hope I said something along those lines! Where I get tripped up is that I didn’t accept another offer, I accepted a counteroffer that came about only after OldOldCo gave me the offer letter.

      2. Butter Makes Things Better*

        Huh, I never looked at it that way before. Thanks for the new perspective, Lisa B — I feel better now!

  21. Anon for this*

    This is great advice. I recently struggled to decline a job offer that I thought I really really wanted. It was a company I’d previously worked for and thought was very supportive; I’d left on pretty good terms to pursue additional training they didn’t have on-site, and was very much planning to return (and made that clear as I left).

    However in the year-and-change I was away, there was turnover at the leadership level, and a mass exodus of many of the junior and mid-career people — close to 25% of the department left or retired in a few months’ span, and the ones that were left were burning out fast. They didn’t seem to be able to hire anyone new, and they were dragging their feet with me. Despite that massive red flag, I was still very enthusiastic and excited about the possibility of returning “home,” and we sketched out broad strokes of what the job would look like, pending HR/leadership final approval. I started looking at houses online.

    While waiting for Hometown Company to complete their end of the process, I got a surprise dream job offer from Company #2, except that the salary was at the 25%ile of market rates for the region. I am in a secret closed online group for “Women in [STEM field]” and asked for advice there about how to approach negotiation in a general sense — no numbers or locations mentioned. Well, one of the women employees at Hometown Company “accidentally” showed it to the male chair (I’m not sure how you accidentally show someone a post from a secret group, but she had pulled this Mean Girls attitude when we worked together before, so I guess I should have been a little less naive….), who then called me and yelled at me on the phone for about 10 minutes about how published market rates were wrong and I shouldn’t listen to anyone but him. Meanwhile, Company #2 was honest and professional about negotiations, and when I pointed out the salary discrepancy, raised their offer by $10k.

    It really was a no-brainer at that point, but I struggled emotionally with that final decision for about a week. After I formally accepted the offer at Company #2, I called and told the chair and my primary mentor/would-be division chief at Hometown Co. I was so distraught after that latter call that I lay on the couch and sobbed for several minutes, and for weeks afterwards had to keep running to the bathroom to cry. It’s still a little distressing to think about.

  22. The Vulture*

    I declined my first job recently! I was wondering about the “offering a reason” part – I interviewed knowing it was an hour away and likely not more money, and honestly their offer came way closer than I thought it would – but ultimately it was still an hour commute, not a pay increase, not better work or benefits, and ultimately that outweighed my desire to change jobs – I was still worried about the reason I gave – I pretty much said we were too far apart on salary, as I would personally want a pretty significant increase to make the commute worth it – but even after I did it I was wondering and feeling like I should’ve explained more, which I rationally know isn’t really necessary, but explain like, I really thought I’d probably be willing to take an offer like what they gave me, but the timing wasn’t right due to circumstances in my life (which happened to be, partner got a job in same town as me & where we live, making a commute or move even less attractive/likely, and my horrible boss who was the biggest driving factor in my leaving got another job, making my current job more attractive)

    1. Butter Makes Things Better*

      Sounds like you handled it exactly right. Salary discrepancy is a solid reason to decline.

    2. Database Developer Dude*

      You did well. Any employer who hears “We’re too far apart on salary to make the commute worthwhile for me” and balks at that is not an employer you want to work for.

  23. EAS*

    What about applying for & then declining an *internal* job offer? Are there different norms/standards in that case?

    I’m considering applying for an internal position (a promotion, basically) at my current job, but I’m not entirely sure that I’d want it if offered. Because it’s internal, and because we’re a federal agency so the job is pretty standardized, I don’t expect I’d learn anything substantially new & different about the position in the course of interviewing. So in a situation like this, would it look really bad if someone applied and then ended up declining the offer? I work in the same department now so I definitely don’t want to burn any bridges or leave people thinking I’ve lead them on and shouldn’t be trusted.

  24. Amy*

    I once went all the way to the final round of an interview only to be turned down on the basis of there being another candidate with a better match, BUT here was the catch: they told me they weren’t sure if this person would take the job or not as he was still unsure and that they would get back to me if he didn’t! I was very surprised that they were so willing to take a bet on someone who was not sure when i was ready to quit my current job and start with them.
    Anyway as Karma would have it, the guy turned down their offer 2 – 3 weeks later and they came back to me , I had already gotten another job at that point.
    Guess the joke was on them!

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