When someone offers you a job, know what you’re accepting or knocking back. Make sure you get any questions answered and any concerns cleared up before you either accept or decline.
Be careful about accepting a job offer thinking that you might get out of it later if a better job comes along. Many employers think this is unethical. It’s certainly inconvenient. It could also hurt your reputation in the industry where you’re job-searching.
You’ll usually accept or decline a job offer verbally, but it’s also a good idea to formalise your decision with a letter.
Accepting a job offer
When you accept the job—on the phone, in person or by e-mail—let your new employer know that you’re pleased they offered it to you, and that you look forward to starting work.
Some organisations want you to sign a contract or an acceptance letter. In most cases this written confirmation is a legally binding document. Read through everything carefully, including all the fine print. Ask questions about anything you don’t fully understand, and make sure you are satisfied with the answers before you sign. Ask for a copy of the contract or letter, and keep it in your filing system for future reference.
If you’ve negotiated new terms with the employer since they first offered you the job, check that they’re set out in full in any letter you send and any paperwork you sign.
If you don’t have to sign a contract or acceptance letter, follow up your verbal acceptance of the offer with a letter of your own. This should restate the important facts about the job (job title, salary, benefits, location, start date etc).
Dear [person making the offer]
I am pleased to write to you today to confirm my acceptance of the [job title] position you offered to me by telephone on [date].
I accept the salary of [salary amount] for [number] hours per week at the [location] site, and look forward to starting work with [company name] on [start date].
Once you’ve accepted the job offer, decline all other offers by telephone. Tell all other employers who are considering applications from you that you’re withdrawing your application.
Do this pleasantly and professionally. Job opportunities may come up with these other firms in the future, or you might find yourself doing business with them in your new job, so you want to stay on friendly terms with them.
Declining a job offer
When you decline a job by phone, let the employer know that you appreciate the offer and thank them for making it. Then say something positive about the company.
When you’ve done this, you can move on to decline the offer.
Here’s an example of how your part of the conversation might go:
‘Hello, Mr Hall. This is Emma Cloyst. I’m phoning about the Program Development Manager position. I really appreciate the offer of the job, and it’s great that you have such confidence in me. I liked what I saw of the company when I came in for my interview; you really seem to have your training programs well worked out.
‘But I’ve given the position a lot of thought and I’m afraid I’m going to have to decline the offer.’
It’s polite to give the employer some indication of why you’re declining. Have the reasons worked out ahead of time. Write them down if you’re worried about how to phrase them.
If the reasons are personal, tell the employer so and assure them that you still think it’s a good job with a good company.
Finish off the conversation with something like this:
‘Thanks again for the interview, Mr Hall. All the best to [organisation name] for the future.’
Although it isn’t necessary, if you really want to make a good impression you can follow up the phone call with a letter to confirm that you’ve declined the offer. Again, keep it pleasant and professional.