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Learn how to decline a job offer you already accepted!

  • Reasons to decline a job offer you’ve already accepted
  • 4 Tips to politely decline a job offer you already accepted
  • Is it unprofessional to decline a job offer after accepting it?
  • Example of how to rescind an accepted job offer
  • Key takeaways

It’s possible to change your mind about a job, even after you’ve accepted it. And it can be done without ruining your career. This article teaches how to decline a job offer you already accepted, without burning any bridges.

Let’s say you just accepted a job offer. Congratulations! But then, you get an offer from your dream company for a bigger salary and more opportunities for career growth. Do you adhere to the old saying, "Dance with the one who brought ya" or do you rescind your acceptance of the job and take the new one? The good news is that you can do that, but you need to know how to decline a job offer you already accepted without burning any proverbial bridges. 

In this article, we’ll discuss:

  • Reasons to decline a job offer you already accepted.

  • How do I politely decline a job offer I already accepted?

  • Is it unprofessional to decline a job offer after accepting it?

  • Rescinding an accepted job offer sample

Reasons to decline a job offer you’ve already accepted

There are myriad reasons you may change your mind after accepting a job. After all, getting a job offer is quite flattering, and you could make a decision before you’ve really had time to think about it. Some good reasons to decline a job offer you’ve already accepted include: you got a better offer from another company, the salary/benefits package for the job offer isn’t adequate and the company won’t negotiate, the proposed work environment or shifts/working hours aren’t suitable, and personal reasons (e.g. family emergency) take priority.

statistic declining an offer after accepting it verbally - in article image

4 Tips to politely decline a job offer you already accepted

You might be thinking, “Is it even okay to rescind an acceptance?” It is, and it’s a fairly common occurrence. In fact, most states in the US (except Montana) utilize at-will employment, meaning employers can terminate employment without reason or warning. Also, employees can resign at any time, without explanation, even if you've signed a contract. Of course, you'll want to double-check the contract and your state’s employment laws. And you'll want to do it as soon as possible so the company doesn’t have to go through the interviewing and selection process again.

So, how do you decline politely? Here are four specific things to keep in mind: 

  1. Be sincere when you thank them for the offer

  2. Get right to the point and tell them that you have to decline the offer.

  3. Give them a brief reason for declining.

  4. Thank them again, and wish both the hiring manager and the company well.

Now, if you’ve signed a contract, there might be a few more hoops to jump through. So, look over the terms of giving notice before reaching out to the company.

  • Make sure you truly want to rescind your acceptance—remember, you can’t take it back!
  • Let the new company know right away about your decision.
  • Decide whether you’re going to call or send an email/letter.
  • Attempt to leverage rescinding your job acceptance as a negotiation tactic.
  • Ghost the company that offered the position. It’s unprofessional and could hurt your reputation.
  • Contact the hiring company until you’ve committed to a decision.

Is it unprofessional to decline a job offer after accepting it?

It's natural to have some hesitation about declining a job offer you've already accepted. You're concerned about your professional reputation and hurting your chances of working for this company in the future. So, be sure it’s really what you want. If it’s a salary issue, try negotiating first. Don’t take the job if you know it’s not right for you. Backing out now is better than quitting after a short time, as it will cost the company money to look for a new person.

Don’t drag your feet. Let them know as soon as you can. This way, they won’t lose out on other candidates on their list.Use the same method of communication that was used to make the offer. If they called you to offer you the job, call them to rescind it. If they emailed you, email back. Don’t repeatedly apologize. Instead, thank them for the opportunity, give them a reason, and then stop talking. Rambling can make you appear unprofessional.

Most importantly, make sure you’re declining the offer, not the company itself. Even if you discover you don’t like how the company is managed, say that it isn’t a good fit for you. Let them know you’d like to stay in contact, which will help build your professional network. People move on to other companies, and if you leave the hiring manager with a positive impression, they may keep you in mind if they go to another organization.

Expert Tip

You may be more comfortable emailing the hiring manager to rescind your offer, but a phone call would suffice if you can do it without getting flustered. According to the Harvard Business Review, “If you want to accept an offer from another company after you’ve already accepted one elsewhere, it’s best to call the recruiter from the company you planned to join as soon as possible and inform them you changed your mind.” Plus, the hiring manager will likely appreciate you taking the time to reach out and speak to them personally. 

Example of how to rescind an accepted job offer

Turning down a job offer after accepting it can be difficult, and it most likely will feel awkward. Remain calm and professional, as you don't want to alienate the company that offered you the job. They may be unhappy about it, but chances are, they’ll understand. Whether you choose to decline your job offer via phone or letter, be honest and brief. 

Below, you will find an email example for rescinding an accepted job offer:

Copyable example

[Contact Name]  [Contact’s Position Title]  [Company Name]

Dear [Contact Name],

I want to thank you for your time and offer to join the [Department Name] team at [Company Name]. I regret to inform you that after further consideration, I will have to withdraw my acceptance for the role of [Position Title] with the company.

(Note: Give a brief reason such as the one below, if possible, but don’t go into too much detail.)

My intentions were sincere, and I did not take this decision lightly. However, I was recently offered a position with another organization for a similar role but with additional responsibilities and an increase in starting salary.

Please know that I hold [Company Name] in the highest regard, and I appreciate the professional and positive experience I had during the hiring process. 

Thank you again for your time and for the offer. I wish you and your team all the best as well as continued success in achieving your goals.

Sincerely, [Your First and Last Name]

Turning down an offer you’ve already accepted isn’t easy, and you certainly don’t want to make a habit of it. But it also won’t ruin your career. In the end, you have to do what’s best for you, and if you’re honest, professional, and express appreciation for the offer, you can decline and preserve your reputation and relationship with the company.

Need a little help reaching your career goals? Career.io’s Career Coach tool will provide you with expert, personalized advice including a job search strategy, branding advice, how to overcome workplace challenges, and how to change careers, available in virtual, 50-minute sessions, seven days a week.

Key takeaways

  1. It is possible to rescind your acceptance of a job. Valid reasons include salary, unsuitable work environment, or a family emergency.

  2. Declining a job offer should be done professionally by contacting the hiring manager directly and being honest and direct.

  3. When declining the offer, either on the phone or by letter, thank them for the offer, give a brief reason, and wish the company well.

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