Turn Down A Job Offer … Without Burning A Bridge!

So you’ve gone through the process of applying for jobs you are interested in, interviewing for those jobs, and CONGRATULATIONS, you received an offer! Bad news is you have since decided that this particular job is not the right one for you. What do you do?

Even though you are turning down the job right now, you definitely do NOT want to burn a bridge. Especially not in this close-knit industry of agriculture. You never know when your paths will cross again and we at AgGrad believe that maintaining quality relationships will be one of your greatest assets throughout your career.

So how do you turn down the job offer but leave that bridge intact?

1. Don’t drag it out. When you receive the offer, ask the hiring manager if you can have a certain amount of time to think it over. How much time is up to you, but I would recommend NO MORE than one week. Do not “stall” to see if you get other offers. In order to maintain a good relationship make sure you provide a response as soon as possible and certainly within the amount of time you asked for.

2. Respond with a phone call. Do not email, text, or leave a voicemail when turning down a job offer. Look, I know nobody likes to turn down or be turned down, but in business you have to be able to talk about serious issues over the phone and not hide behind a screen. This may seem uncomfortable but I promise you will feel better about it and you will build more respect and credibility as a result.

3. Be appreciative and positive. Start by acknowledging that the company invested resources into screening you and carefully considered the consequences of offering you this job. Show that you appreciate even being considered and under different circumstances you would love to be part of the team. Specify some key aspects about the job and the company that you really like.

4. Be honest and direct. Don’t lie. Tell them your thought process and the reason that you’re choosing to turn the offer down. Don’t be cruel or petty, but don’t beat around the bush either. “Your company is just too small for me” is petty, but “I have decided to pursue another job with a company that has more upward mobility” is honest and direct. After investing time into you throughout the screening process, the least the company deserves is honest feedback.

4. Make it clear that your decision is already made. This is not your time to leave the door open to see if they’ll offer you a better deal. That will be perceived as playing games. The company has the rest of your career to come after you with better offers, but playing keep away with companies trying to hire you will just give you less credibility down the road. So “let your yeses be yes and your no’s be no”.

5. Ask if you can recommend others to the position. As an extra sign of appreciation and reciprocation, see if they might be interested in speaking with your talented friends. The available job pool in agriculture is not deep and most employers are always looking for more leads on great people. Offer this as a way to provide some value to the company. If they end up getting an employee out of the deal they will remember you down the road.

I hope these will help make what can be an uncomfortable situation a little less awkward. The key here is to find the position that is right for you while building a solid reputation in the industry every step of the way. We here at AgGrad can help you find the perfect position for you, so if you haven’t already please join our mailing list for other tips such as these and ways to get connected with fabulous agriculture companies that want to hire you!

Tim Hammerich

Tim is a strategic communications consultant, founder of AgGrad, and the host of the "Future of Agriculture" podcast. Originally from California, he is now based out of Boise, Idaho.