How to Turn Down an Offer and Leave the Door Open

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Declining a job offer doesn't have to spell the end of your opportunity to work for that company in the future. Many employers understand that prospective employees may decline job offers for a host of legitimate reasons. By speaking to the employer in a timely manner, explaining why the job doesn't currently suit your needs, and expressing a desire to keep in touch, your phone could be ringing again before long.

Brainstorm Your Reasons

  • Once you decide to turn down the job offer, make a list of the specific reasons for your choice. It's respectful to share these reasons with the prospective employer, so be honest, but not to a fault. For example, geographical factors, family considerations, compensation and personal issues can all be legitimate reasons for your decision. Write down your thoughts about these in a professional tone; this approach can help leave the door open for a future job offer. For example, instead of complaining that the salary is too low, write that you're seeking a higher level of compensation at this point in your career. Having a clear understanding of the reasons you've chosen to turn down the offer helps you approach the employer in a respectful, professional manner.

Reach out by Phone

  • Place a phone call to your prospective employer as soon as you've brainstormed some honest and professional reasons for declining the job offer. Making a phone call shows more professionalism than simply sending an email, which casts you in a positive light. Start the call by expressing your appreciation for the opportunity. Note, however, that you've decided to decline the offer and explain the reasons. You don't need to go into lengthy detail; be clear and concise. Use the latter part of the call to express that you hope to keep in touch. Express interest in a future collaboration, if possible.

Follow up by Email

  • Follow your phone call with an email reiterating your appreciation for the offer and the reasons you aren't able to accept. Note that you would love the opportunity to work together in the future and ask for the employer to keep you in mind for future job postings. You can also stress that you'll be in touch if a factor that influenced your decision to decline the offer changes. A 2011 Harvard Business Review article notes that clearly making a point of leaving the door open can lead the employer you consider you in the future.

Make an Effort to Reconnect

  • Initiate contact with the employer in the months and years ahead to help him remember you and show that you're potentially interested in working together. Seek out the employer at industry events, ask how her business is going and make general, networking conversation. This demonstrates to the employer that you're interested in the possibility of working together, and provided you act in a professional manner, your continued effort to keep in touch can firmly plant you in the employer's mind the next time she plans to hire someone.

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