How to Renege on An Accepted Job Offer
You just accepted a job offer and then a few days later realize you can’t accept it – it happens. Maybe you received a counteroffer from your current employer you can’t pass up, or you got an offer from the dream company you hadn’t heard back from yet, or maybe the more you thought about it… the more you realized it just isn’t the job for you.
Whatever the reason may be for declining a job offer you already accepted, you need to do it the right way. You want to maintain a positive relationship with that recruiter and company rather burning any bridges – you never know where someone will end up in the future. It may not be an easy conversation to have, but with these guidelines, you can rest assured you did it appropriately.
First, make sure there are no legal consequences. Most employment is ‘at-will’ meaning you’re not legally obligated to a company, however there are some companies and situations where legal documents must be signed in order to accept and start a job. Just be sure you’ve covered all your bases and aren’t legally tied to any type of contract before reneging on an accepted offer.
Next, notify the recruiter or company immediately. If you’ve accepted a position, the company believes it has been filled and will stop looking for candidates. Even if you need to decline after accepting, the company still needs to fill that position, so the sooner you let them know you won’t be accepting after all, the better. A great way to leave a terrible impression is to call the day before your start date to let them know you won’t be showing up.
Regardless of the amount of notice you give, it’s always better to decline the offer rather than working for a week and then leaving. It is expensive to onboard and train a new employee, and it’s expensive to recruit and hire candidates – both monetarily and from a time perspective.
Then, give a brief but transparent explanation. You don’t need to go into too much detail as to why you need to renege on the offer you originally accepted, but be honest about the reason behind your decision. Succinctly let them know you received a better offer from another company you can’t pass up, or that something came up in your personal life that takes priority.
Be careful to not insult the hiring manager or company during your explanation though. If you’re declining because you don’t think you’ll get along with your manager, or your interviewer made a poor impression, simply let them know you feel it won’t be a good culture fit in the long run.
Finally, express gratitude. Let the recruiter or hiring manager know you sincerely appreciate their time and consideration, and let them know what you liked or appreciated most about the process or the company as a whole. They spent valuable time interviewing and creating a job offer (that you accepted!), so the least you can do when reneging is express your gratitude.
Also, be prepared for the possibility of a counteroffer. It’s always a possibility the company you’re declining will make a counter offer or try to negotiate based on your reason for declining – they wanted you to join their team after all. Be prepared for this possibility by knowing ahead of time what your bottom line is, or what you’re willing to concede. If it’s all about the money, have a number in mind they need to meet or beat. If it’s a culture fit issue, be prepared to decline any negotiation attempt and reiterate that it’s just not a good fit.
Reneging on an offer you previously accepted is never ideal, but it does happen, especially in today’s competitive labor market. The hiring manager will ultimately understand and wants you to do what’s best for you and your family in the long run, even if it’s a disappointing development. There’s no reason to burn any bridges as long as you decline the accepted offer graciously and in good faith without insulting the company by following these guidelines.