How-To Series: Declining a Job Offer Due to Salary (With Examples)

So, you have been on an active job-hunting journey for the past five months. You spent a lot of time customizing your CV according to job requirements; sought the assistance of a ‘Career Doctor’. You find yourself clicking “Apply” to job vacancies by the hundreds daily; only to receive rejection after rejection. It’s depressing, we know. Kudos to you, for not giving up. After months of active job searching efforts, you finally see some light at the end of the tunnel – you begin to get noticed by employers; receive invitations for job interviews, and appeal to a few employers’ hearts. You should be thrilled to receive job offers; but now, which job should you accept, and which should you decline?

Is it unprofessional to decline job offers? Of course not. The current employment landscape sees skilled professionals having greater opportunities in securing jobs relevant to their expertise, and it makes sense that these jobseekers might have to turn down a role or two. Declining a job offer can be challenging, and that’s why “how to politely decline a job offer” is an art you need to master. After all, no candidate wants to burn bridges with a prospective employer. We can never know when our paths might cross again. 

Declining a job offer takes careful consideration, and there must be reasons for a person to do so. The employment compensation package is a crucial determinant, and salary negotiations are a vital part of any interview process. One point of consideration is the concept of “enoughness” for ourselves. Living with the idea of enoughness means you are consuming to meet your basic needs without having to limit the capacity to enjoy. So, how much is enough, and what would make you decide to accept an organisation’s salary package instead of the other? Money talks; it’s the best of both worlds. We recommend that you begin by referring to a salary benchmarking tool, to get an understanding of the industry average for your position. Compare the industry market rate with the offer you have received.

Here are some great tips on salary negotiations:

1. Help the employer understand why you deserve the salary you’re requesting

It’s not enough that they’re attracted to your personality. They also have to believe that you’re worth the salary you’re asking for. Your CV is your personal branding; be sure that it tells a remarkable story. Instead of just stating your desire such as a 20% increase from the last earned salary, we recommend that you justify your reason for such expectation; for example, highlighting certain valuable and extraordinary capabilities.  

1. Help the employer understand why you deserve the salary you’re requesting

2. Do not negotiate just for the sake of negotiating

Resist the temptation to prove that you’re a fantastic negotiator. If the issue is really important to you, then by all means, go ahead and negotiate. However, do not haggle over every single petty things. Fighting to get just a bit more can rub people the wrong way; it can also limit your ability to secure the job and to negotiate with the company later in your career, when it may matter more.    

3. Think through the timing of offers

At the beginning of the job hunt, you often want to secure at least one job offer. Ironically, getting an early offer can be problematic; because once an organisation makes an offer, it would expect a quick response. In such instance, you may be caught in a rush decision making situation. In considering multiple job offers, you should plan decision making for all the offers simultaneously. We recommend that you play a balancing act – don’t be afraid to slow down the process with one potential employer or to speed it up with another, in order to have all your options laid out at one time, for the decision making process. Be mindful of the timing though; if you slow down too much, or push too hard, there is a possibility for the company to lose interest in you, and decide to hire someone else.     

Think through the timing of offers

Now, let’s move on to the next question:

What if the offered salary is still too low, even after negotiations? If you know that there is no way the company will be able to match your minimum salary requirement for the position, surely that would be the offer you will decline.

So, how then would you decline the offer of an unattractive remuneration package? The most important thing to remember is to always maintain professionalism and good relationship. Be prompt in your reaction; let the hiring manager know that you have decided to decline the job offer. It’s only fair that way because then the hiring manager would be able to offer the opportunity to other candidates. You would probably want to have a chat with them; highlighting your appreciation for the interview opportunity. Maintain a respectful tone; however, make it clear that the salary they are offering is too low for you to accept — that you know your worth, and you’re willing to stand by it. A polite and professional conversation with the hiring manager will ensure that the bridge is not burned. A phone call for that purpose would give a more personal touch. After all, the hiring manager had invested quite some time with you through the interview process, and was probably looking forward to having you as part of their team. We would like to share some ideas of positive rejection phone conversations:

Example 1:
Hi Sabrina, I’ve just received your email. Thank you very much for the offer. I really appreciate the time you and Madam CEO took to interview me in the most casual manner, despite Madam’s busy schedule. However, I’m really sorry, I can’t accept this position at the salary you’re offering. I have accepted a position at another company. Nevertheless, let’s continue to stay in touch. Please do let me know how I can be of assistance to you.

Example 2:
Thank you very much for calling, Miss Nina. I’m really excited about the job offer, and have been really pleased with what I heard from Mr. Hanif during the interview session. However, where salary is concern, I feel that your offer of RMxx is too low. I believe I deserve to be paid RMyy, considering my expertise and capabilities that will help you improve your branding, and meet other business goals. While this didn’t end the way both parties would have liked, I would love to still stay in touch. Would it be ok if I connected with you via LinkedIn? 

Example 3:
I appreciate the offer and your time, Encik Aziz. However, I cannot accept this position at the salary you’re offering. If the salary range is something that can be negotiated, please let me know. Otherwise, let’s continue to stay in touch, for networking purposes.

To maintain professionalism, we also recommend that you respond to job offers via email; even if you do not agree with the compensation package and you intend to decline the offer. Communicating via email may allow you to maintain professionalism while being more expressive; because you rid off the typical fear stuttering that bound to happen while having phone conversations. This method also allows the recipient to respond at ease. Here are some examples of professional email you can send out to the hiring manager:

Example 1:
Dear Puan Marina,

I wish to take this opportunity to thank [Company]; particularly to you and Madam CEO, for this opportunity. I have considered the job offer in great detail, including the 30% increase from my last drawn salary. Unfortunately, the offer you have provided does not meet the provided salary requirements. Therefore, I regrettably will have to decline the offer. I thank you for considering me as a shortlisted candidate. It was indeed a pleasure working with you throughout this process. I wish [Company] all the very best in all your future undertakings.

Best regards, 

Example 2:
Good morning Miss June,

Thank you very much for offering me the Marketing Manager role and for giving me a fantastic opportunity to be part of your amazing team. I have given a lot of thought to the compensation package in the offer. After a detailed consideration, I feel that I will have to decline the offer. As mentioned during our conversations, the salary on offer does not commensurate with my experience.

It was indeed a pleasure meeting you and learning about [Company] and the fantastic work you do. I sincerely hope we get an opportunity to work together in the future. Let’s stay in touch.

Yours sincerely,

Example 3:
Dear Miss Liza,

Thank you very much for your email. I sincerely appreciate you taking the time to discuss salary expectations with me. Ultimately, I will have to decline this job offer, as the salary is too far outside my expectations, and I have decided to accept a better offer from another organisation.

Best regards.

Example 4:
Dear Sir,

Thank you for reaching out to me with the good news! I truly appreciate the opportunity; however, due to some recent changes in my personal life that require greater financial commitments, I will have to decline the offer. I thank you once again for your time and consideration, and hope you will soon find the perfect candidate for the position.

Best regards,

Example 5:
Dear Miss Shima,

I appreciate the time you spent meeting with me to discuss the details of the job. It was indeed a tough decision to make; however, regrettably, I will not be accepting your offer.

Once again, I would like to express my gratitude for the offer, and I apologise that it did not work out. You have my best wishes in finding a suitable candidate for the position.

Best regards.

So, would it be better to decline the job offer with a personal phone call or via email? It all boils down to personal preference. If you’re not comfortable delivering the message to the hiring manager on the phone, there’s definitely no harm in sending an email. We totally understand, declining a job offer is never easy, especially if you fear of making the wrong move.

Last but not least, we’d like to invite you to check out the following YouTube videos, relevant to this topic, for more ideas on how to professionally turn down a job offer.

1. How to negotiate salary: Asking for more money after a job offer:

2. How to decline a job offer after accepting another job:

3. Received a job offer? Six steps to respond:

4. How to decline a job offer when you have multiple offers:

We believe that you’re now on the right track; all the best in securing the job of your dream!  

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