Gracefully declining the job opportunity

Every now and then, the elation of the recruitment process goes South in a hurry.  No matter if a recruiter has pursued you, or you first reached out to them, a graceful exit from a recruiting process is a necessity.

Sure, there are plenty of people, some of whom claim to be professionals, who fail miserably at the fine art of “it’s not you, it’s me” in the recruitment realm.  Don’t be one of them.

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Think this through. And then think it through again. It’s just a harsh reality at some universities: If you turn down a job offer, your future applications at that institution may not be well-received. If there is something that’s turned you sour, or the job just wasn’t going to be a fit, it’s infinitely better that you admit that before you take it. For everyone’s sake. But the time and money invested in the entire HR process is no small sum. If it’s the right thing to take a pass at any stage in the process, then step out. But don’t forget ...
  • Even if you didn’t start it, you have to finish it. You will have to pick up the phone at some point and let the recruiter know that you are taking a pass on the opportunity. No text messages. Even email is not a great idea. If the recruiter or search committee chair has made an investment of time in you, they deserve to hear the sound of your voice. They may need something in writing to follow up, but leaving the process as a professional is always the best way to go.
  • Thank the people who have helped you.  Depending on how far into the process you have gone, there may be references who went to bat for you. Someone who contacted the recruiter and passed along your information. Made an introduction. A staffer who helped you with your on-site details. Depending on their level of involvement, a note or a call is warranted. Coming off as classy will help the next time one of those folks thinks of you.

Kimberley Sirk is a North Carolina-based writer and editor with government, higher education and big-brand healthcare public relations and marketing experience.

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