How to Politely Decline a Job or Internship Offer

You began your job search completely hopeful and equally worried about what would come of it. After all, the job market is not the kindest to millennials. Nevertheless, you landed a few interviews and weeks later found yourself with more than one offer and a whole lot of stress. Knowing how to politely decline an offer can leave you with anxiety, especially if you’ve never experienced this situation before. But never fear, we’re here to help you craft a polite and gracious “no, thank you.”

Step 1: Take a breath

First and foremost, weigh all your options. The excitement of multiple job offers can lead to irrational decisions, which could ultimately lose you those offers. You don’t want to find yourself sending a “thanks, but something better came along,” email. Decide what job is best for you, and from there begin to craft your responses. Fine-tune what you want to say in a word document and then copy and paste that into the email thread.  

Step 2: Be gracious

Your job hunt wasn't only stressful for you! Employers had to put a lot of time and work into this process as well. More than likely, they spent hours scoping your social media profiles, checking with references and interviewing other candidates. Taking a few extra minutes to craft an honest and genuine thank you will go a long way. Be specific: if there was anything that stuck out to you in the interview process, compliment the employer!

Step 3: Be honest

Inform the employer as to why you’re going in a different direction. Keep it brief, but provide your reasoning behind the decision. Explain that another job opportunity arose or you felt compelled to continue your job hunt. The employer was clearly invested in you and saw great potential, so leaving him or her completely clueless as to why you declined the offer is neither polite nor professional.

Step 4: Think about the future

No matter the job market you’re in, you will learn quickly just how small it is. Make sure you keep a positive relationship with all employers you interviewed with. Autumn Dube, a recent graduate of Emmanuel College, notes, “You never want to burn bridges because you never know what the future holds. I have had to decline great jobs before because I didn't think it was the right fit at the time or a better offer came along—and this is exactly what I told the employers. Honesty is important and admirable.” Stay professional and cordial and remember that not all jobs last forever, so you never know if you’ll be interviewing with that employer again.

Turning down any offer can be hard and stressful, but keep in mind it’s all a part of starting the job of your dreams. Good luck, collegiettes!