That's exactly the topic of Jodi Glickman's column in the Harvard Business Review last week. She obviously recommends carefully crafting your message, and suggests that you build it around these three key points:
- A gracious thank you
- A well-thought out rationale
- Forward momentum
But the rationale is more interesting. Glickman suggests that you build your explanation around one of these five rationales:
External factors like family, timing, or geography prevent you from taking the position.
Money is an acceptable rationale -- "I wish I could make this work, but I need to be at a higher compensation level."
You recognize that you lack the skills you think you need to succeed in the role.
People issues can be challenging to message in a polite and socially acceptable way, but Glickman suggests using language like, "I respect the work you all do but I just don't think it's the right fit for me personally. I prefer something more face-paced/more entrepreneurial/with a flatter organizational structure," where you fill in the details (as long as the details aren't "I don't care for the Director."
The role seems like a dead end. The job probably isn't a dead end for everyone, but if the role doesn't contribute to your personal career goals, it's a perfectly acceptable thing to say.
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