Questions From Readers

By Gerald Walsh ©

How To Turn Down A Job Offer (Without Burning Bridges)

Q. I was pleased to receive a job offer recently but after thinking about it for a few days, I decided to turn it down. When I spoke to the hiring manager and told her the news, she asked if I would be open to another offer. I told her “no thanks.” I had already made my decision. Afterward, I was uncomfortable with how I answered her question. Could I have done that differently?

A. There probably was a better way to handle that situation but it really hinges on why you turned down the offer. If you turned it down because of money alone, you should have been receptive to another offer that raises the proposed salary. Or if the company couldn’t increase their cash offer, they might have been able to offer you non-cash forms of compensation – such as a four-day work week or an extra week’s vacation. In any event, you should be willing to review a better offer if compensation is the issue.

If it’s the work itself that turned you off – such as doing boring, repetitive tasks – you might have asked them if the job could be reconfigured in some way to give you more challenging work or broader responsibilities. Some companies do have the flexibility to modify jobs. If they are open to doing so, then ask them to define the changes and send you another offer with an updated job description attached. 

But if you turned the job down because you didn’t like the people or felt the company’s reputation was bad, then there is nothing they can do to change that. Then you’re best to stick with your original decision.  

Is It A Good Idea To Quit A Job Before Starting?

Q. Last week, I accepted a job offer with a new employer which I had planned to start in three weeks. I have now just received an offer from another company. This was the offer I really wanted to get. The money is better and I like the people more. How would you recommend I handle this situation?

A. No doubt, this is an awkward place you find yourself in, although you are not the first person who has asked me what to do in this situation. Unfortunately there is no clear-cut answer on what to do here. What you are balancing is a moral obligation to the first employer who offered you the job in good faith, which you accepted, against the practical reality of the second offer, which is a better one for you in most respects, including money. You will have to judge whether it is better for you to stick to your word and keep with the first offer or go with the one you have determined is better for you.
If you do decide to reject the first offer, the classy way to do it would be to meet with the employer in person, carefully explaining what has happened and why you changed your mind. It would also be helpful if you were able to offer some sort of solution to the problem you helped create, such as recommending someone else who might be good for the job.

If you have any questions you would like me to answer in future blogs, drop me a note at If I use your question, your name will not be published. 

Gerald Walsh is an executive recruiter, career coach, public speaker and writer. During a 25+ year career, he has interviewed more than 10,000 job candidates, completed hundreds of successful searches for a range of organizations and guided many individuals – from young professionals to senior executives – to successful career change. He is the author of “PINNACLE: How to Land the Right Job and Find Fulfillment in Your Career.” You can follow Gerry on Twitter @@Gerald_Walsh and LinkedIn.