How to Decline a Job Offer without Burning a Bridge

Last Updated Jan 13, 2011 5:18 PM EST

Just two weeks ago, Ted Williams, the "man with the golden voice," had a devastating problem â€" he couldn't get a job in his field. He hadn't worked as a broadcaster and voice-over actor in years, he had no job offers, and he could little afford to decline the requests from drivers on a highway to read aloud radio tag lines for a few dollars. He couldn't afford to say no.

Now, Williams is flush with offers of work in his profession as well as requests for media interviews and visits and calls from celebrities. He has more offers and requests than anyone would know what to do with. Today, Williams has a different problem â€" he has to say no.

Spoken in Williams' golden voice, even a "No, thanks," would sound pleasant. For the rest of us, the task is trickier.

Reporting for TheLadders, Andrew Klappholz spoke to career experts for advice on the proper way to decline a job offer gracefully, including Ginny Clarke, author of "Career Mapping: Charting Your Course in the New World of Work."

Clarke's advice: "No one is taking this stuff personally," Clarke said. "Don't lie. If you like another job [more], be honest." And handle the matter by phone â€" never by e-mail.

Many job seekers feel squeamish about declining an offer after selling themselves during the interview process, but that's not a legitimate concern in a professional setting, Clarke said. "It doesn't mean that you're disloyal. It's not about loyalty, but it is about integrity."

In the end, you're protecting your reputation and your options.
  • Matthew TheLadders

    Matthew Rothenberg is editor-in-chief for TheLadders, the world's leading online service catering exclusively to the $100K+ job market. In addition to traditional job search services, TheLadders.com also provides a host of specialized career development resources. Previously he worked at Ziff Davis Media, ZDNet, CNET, and Hachette Filipacchi.

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