Can You Decline A Job Offer If You've Already Accepted it?

Imagine this situation: You have accepted a job proposal from one company but while you were waiting for them to send you the contract, you received another proposal. That second proposal is better than the first one and you really would like to work with the second company. Is it even legal to decline an accepted job offer?

Here's another situation: You have been searching for a job and received an offer. You accepted the position and started getting ready to work. However, at that point you realized that you’ve made a huge mistake because the position is not a good fit for your skillset and abilities, or perhaps you got a counteroffer. Is it considered inappropriate and rude to change your mind?

If you find yourself in this position, this article is for you.

We’ll give you some helpful tips and present useful phrases for speaking with a hiring manager to ensure you do it respectfully and positively.

Some Good Reasons For Declining A Job Offer

The financial aspect. It is no longer possible to live on a lesser salary, so financial constraints are a legitimate reason.

Offer accepted too early in job seeking process. Today, most candidates apply to multiple jobs and hiring managers understand that.

Overlooked details. You can say that you were overwhelmed with the search process and failed to go into the details of the proposal. As a result, you missed some critical information.

Lack of Personal Development Opportunities. Sometimes, a job might not provide sufficient opportunities to enhance your skills, so accepting it is like never leaving the previous one. You want to develop as a professional, so you need more opportunities to improve your skillset and abilities.

How To Let A Company Know You Don’t Want The Job

Let’s suppose you decided to turn down the job offer. First and foremost, you need to remember there is nothing illegal in turning down the offer you accepted as long as you haven’t signed an employment contract stating otherwise. As you explain why you changed your decision, you need to follow a number of recommendations. To make the conversation with the company’s representative as smooth as possible, consider the following.

1. Act Quickly

A common mistake people commit is trying to postpone the awkward moment. The right action here is to move fast! The first reason why you need to act quickly is the consideration of the needs of the company. The sooner you let them know, the easier it will be for them to find another candidate.

The second reason why you should not wait is your job search. For example, if you received a better offer, you might not be the only one considered for that position. By postponing the call to decline, you are decreasing the chances of getting that second job. The other candidates might be acting while you’re waiting!

2. Don’t Just Email Them

Another common mistake of job candidates is emailing the company to let them know you don’t want the job. An email is not the best option in this situation because the person receiving that letter will consider you a coward.

Of course, calling a company to turn down their offer is an uncomfortable experience. However, you need to go through it because email is clearly insufficient. A better way is to do it by phone. By calling, you have a better opportunity to explain your reasons and remain on good terms. An email can be used just to confirm the conversation with the hiring manager, and no more.

3. Be Honest

Honesty is the best policy here. When speaking with a hiring manager, explain to them the real reason why you changed your mind. A lie is easily detectable, so it’s better to remain honest. Be tactful, though. For example, if you think you won’t get along with the staff, say that you don’t think you would fit in well with the organizational culture.

Keep the conversation negativity-free to remain on good terms with the company. Burning bridges is a bad idea  as you never know when you may need them again.

4. Stand Your Ground

Be prepared for the hiring manager to try to convince you to choose their company. They will present you with some reasons why you need to stick with your original decision. That’s why you need to stand your ground if a negotiation begins.

Remember, you have no legal obligations because you haven’t signed anything. Even a reason like a long commute is legitimate here. The main risk you’re running in this situation is criticism.

Useful Phrases For Discussing With The Hiring Manager

Let’s suppose you need to prepare yourself for a phone conversation with the hiring manager. To turn down the job proposal in a respectful and appropriate manner, use the following phrases:

  • After giving a lot of thought to your offer, I’ve made the decision to decline it because it is in my best interest, as well as your company’s.
  • Learning about your company has been a real pleasure as I have been following your progress.
  • The reason why I am declining your job offer is another position. I believe it is a better fit for me at this moment.
  • I admire your company and its role in the advertising business, so I am terribly sorry for any inconvenience caused by this decision.
  • I wish you all the best and hope I will get another opportunity to work with you in the future. Good luck with your search!

The Bottom Line

Refusing a job after accepting it is an uncomfortable experience. However, if you feel like you’re making the right decision, then do it. Hopefully, the tips in this article will be helpful to you during this process.

See also How To Deal With Counteroffers for some useful tips.


Diana Clark, is an experienced Recruiter. She deals with thousands of candidates at Diana believes that everyone has a right to decline an offer for even more valuable one. Follow Diana on Twitter @DianaCl97652243