Declining a Job Offer Professionally

A reader writes…

Good Morning, Anita:

I have great news to report! After searching high and low for job opportunities, I was able to get not one but two job offers. I have taken both into consideration and analyzed the pros and cons of each position. Now that I have made my decision, I need to tell the other employer that I am not going to take their offer. How can I politely decline the position so as not to burn any bridges for the future?

Dear, Job Offer Juggler:

Congratulations on this exciting news! It is always great to hear from readers who have successfully found employment. For all you out there on the hunt for a new job, this is proof that you can and will find something!

Job offerAs for your question, I think that it is very important for your professional reputation to politely decline the other job offer. Just as you do not want potential employers to leave you hanging, you should show them the same courtesy. Who knows, the hiring company may have a future position you are interested in pursuing, and you do not want to sour a positive relationship.

Just as we previously discussed in my post Thank You for the Interview, it is important to be courteous and professional with your communications to the hiring manager. This will most likely be the last chance you have to leave an impression on them, and you want it to be a good one. Below are some rules to follow for declining the offer.

  • Use the appropriate means of communication. If you have been working with the hiring manager through email, you can  respond in that format. In some instances, a formal letter and even a phone call may be more appropriate. Choose  to communicate the news in whichever way  is more relevant to your experience.Job offer2
  • Take the time to plan your message. At this point, the hiring manager has spent a lot of time considering you for the position, and you need to be respectful of this. A well thought out message will show that you greatly appreciate the offer and will leave a more positive impact.
  • Be prompt with your response. Once you have made the decision to decline their offer, you need to let them know. They will have to make other arrangements and contact other candidates when you refuse, so try to make this process as timely as possible.
  • Keep the details to a minimum. The employer does not want to hear about how much better the other offer is. Let them know that you were impressed by their company and that you took all aspects of the offer into serious consideration before making your decision. A great “out” is that the job opportunity was not the best fit for you at this time.
  • Keep it short and sweet. There is no need to carry on about how great the company is and how much you wished it would have worked out. Think of it like ripping off a Band-Aid.

A great site to look at for examples and different ways to craft your letter can be found at Harvard Business Review blogger Jodi Glickman’s post Turning Down a Job Offer. It does a great job of laying it out for you, so take advantage of her advice!

Job seekers and employees, what would you do if you were offered two or more positions?

Managers and business owners, how would you like a possible candidate to break the bad news to you?

Best wishes,


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Importance of Annual Résumé Updates

A reader writes:

Hi, Anita:

I have been working at my current job for about two years. From the time that I started until now, my job responsibilities have grown. Even if I am not planning on leaving my current position, should I keep updating my résumé? If so, how often?

Dear, Résumé Refresher:Annual Updates 2

Thank you for your question! Keeping your résumé up-to-date is very important to your current and future career success. Creating a résumé that is high quality and worthy of attracting future employers takes a lot of time and effort to produce. Don’t let the cobwebs build up and cover up what made you shine in the first place. Even if you are not planning on making a job change anytime soon, it is important to keep your CV current and include your recent accomplishments and duties. With the way the employment market and economy has been over the past few years, it is always good to be prepared in the unfortunate event that you are laid off.

As a good rule of thumb, everyone should plan on updating his or her résumés at least every six months. Be sure to include recent accomplishments, newly bestowed responsibilities, and anything important that is representative of your current position. If you have joined new professional organizations or become involved in new community groups, be sure to include this as well. It is important to add these as you go along because we all have a tendency to forget important details. What will also be helpful is to make what I like to call a “kudos” file. In this file, you can keep copies of performance reviews, recommendations, or testimonials to show how great of an employee you are!

Annual UpdatesAnother thing to do is to review job postings that are similar to your field and pick out the important buzzwords. With the high number of companies using keywords to filter out unqualified applicants, it is an important step to add a few to your résumé. In the chance that your dream job comes knocking at your door, you won’t find yourself scrambling to have a strong and relevant résumé.

By staying on top of your CV now, you will be in better shape later, prepared for anything that may come your way! If you need more advice on how to make sure your résumé stands out from the crowd, see my post Reasons for No Résumé Responses for tips.

Here is a great video about  how to update your résumé effectively!

Readers, how often do you update your résumé? What tips do you have for making your résumé the leader of the pack?

Best wishes,


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Thank You for the Interview

A reader writes…

Hi, Anita:

I was fortunate enough to land an interview at a manufacturing plant close to where I live. I am very excited about the possible opportunity to gain employment with this company and want to leave them with a lasting impression. What can I do post-interview to continue to spark their interest?

Dear, Eager to Please:

Congratulations on your interview. Getting your foot in the door and meeting face-to-face with the hiring manager is a huge leap toward gaining employment. Now that you have aced the interview, it is time to seal the deal with a little something extra: a great “thank you” note.

Thank you notes are a great way to show how much you value the interviewer’s time and appreciate their interest in you. It also lets them know that you are serious about wanting to be their next stellar employee. In my personal opinion, thank you notes are a requirement after every interview. Follow these simple steps, and take 5 minutes out of your day to help land the job you desire!Thank you

  • Ask for a business card from the hiring manager before you leave the interview. You should always do this at the end of the interview to make sure you have the correct contact information and address.
  • Select a professional stationery or card on which to write your “thank you” message. Avoid unprofessional imagery or loudly designed cards. Some hiring managers may prefer email communication. In this instance, it may be appropriate to send an email. If you are unsure on which method is best, do both. Send an email and mail a hand-written letter.
  • Address the interviewer using Mr., Mrs., or Ms. For example, if you are interviewed by John Employer you would write Mr. Employer. It is best to be too formal than too familiar.
  • If you are sending a card, address the envelope and write the card by hand. This makes the card more personal and shows that you took extra time to write it just for them (not mass-produced).
  • Chose a message that resonates with the hiring manager and include some information from your interview. Below are two examples that you can use as a guide.
    • Dear, Mr. Employer:Thank you for taking the time to discuss the (Job Title) opportunity with me on (Date). I believe my previous experience and skill set make me an excellent candidate to join your team, especially since you mentioned that (Issue) was a challenge you wanted to tackle. It was truly a pleasure to meet with you, and I look forward to hearing from you.Best regards
      (Your Name)
    • Dear, Mr. Employer:Thank you for meeting with me to discuss the (Job Title) opportunity at (Company Name). Your insights and additional information about (Job Responsibilities) were very helpful and helped solidify my belief that I am the perfect candidate for the position. I look forward to hearing from you soon, and thank you again for this opportunity.Sincerely,
      (Your Name)
  • Send the thank you card as soon as possible, ideally within 24 hours of the interview. You can either send the card in the mail or hand-deliver it to the reception desk where you interviewed.

To bring these tips together, take a few moments to view this video:

This small acknowledgement will take you very far in the interview process. It will help the hiring manager remember you and serve as a reminder to your professionalism.

Readers: What have you done in the past to make an impression on a potential employer?

Best of luck,


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Developing Employees with a Business Owner Mentality

Readers: This week, I’m pleased to turn my space over to my good friend, Bonnie Cox, who is the Vice President of Training & Development for The Select Family of Staffing Companies and the founder of Power Training Institute. She offers management and communications training solutions as a corporate facilitator, professional trainer, and motivational speaker. Today, she has some great words of advice to managers who want to make sure their next hire is a good one.

Join me for a moment and think back to some of the names and faces of previous employees. You know, the good … the bad … the ugly. The ones that did (or did not) make a positive contribution to your organization. I did this the other day and was immediately reminded of two extremely contrasting individuals.

AlanvAllyFirst, there was David. Great at first, and we were impressed. He initially went the extra mile, seemed to work hard, and turned in superb work.

But very soon he began to develop an attitude of entitlement and a hidden agenda. I’ll never forget the day it all came to light. We found he had used the company credit card to purchase “samples” of expensive items – for his own personal use.

After we let him go, even more things came to light, and we discovered the credit card incident was only the tip of the iceberg. For example, he had consistently booked events at a very expensive, high-priced hotel chain – and collected all the associated “frequent flyer points” to his own account. Through the points he accumulated, he was able to take several weekend getaways as well as use his points to buy a new laptop. But the frosting on the cake was his web browser. It seems he had visited many questionable websites – for no apparent reason except to find and set up clandestine rendezvous scenarios with other singles.

But second, there was Ally. We had the good fortune of hiring her in a small, start-up business. She, too, started out with a bang. But she kept right on performing – and then outperforming – her previous levels of work.

Ally also had incredible insights and emotional maturity. She seemed to instinctively know what needed to be done to get this new business off the ground. She empathized with the owner’s struggles and worries. It was almost as if she could feel what it felt like to walk in his shoes.

As it turns out, she was absolutely invaluable to the success of that organization. The company ended up paying her like royalty … and it was worth every penny!

Now think about whom you’d rather have working for you? Someone with an agenda for personal gain or someone who has the best interests of the organization in mind? The answer should be obvious – you’d want the employees that views life from an owner’s perspective. You’d want Ally any day of the week!  The question is how can we identify and develop, more employees  like Ally?

Here are three things you should do:

1. Screen out the bad apples.

There’s a saying that anyone can interview well or even perform well during the 3-month honeymoon period. True. But then the real person begins to shows up. Our goal is to find out who that “real person” is before they ever come on the payroll!

One of the best methods of “weeding out the bad apples” is to follow all the standard HR hiring practices (completed application, background check, drug and drivers check, etc.).


In addition to that, however, we must check references. No, I’m not talking about the “Can you confirm if Joe worked there from X to Y dates” type of reference check. I’m talking about the kind of reference where you talk to a previous manager or supervisor. Where you can get honest answers to questions like, “Tell me about Joe’s work ethic,” or “Can you give me an example of a project Joe did for you that really impressed you and your customers?” And of course, never fail to ask, “Given the opportunity, would you enthusiastically rehire Joe?” Enthusiastically rehire is the key phrase there. See, we’re looking for the kind of people that previous employers can’t help but just rave about!
Guess what? Many times, the person will respond (whispering), “Now, don’t tell HR I told you this, but Joe was GREAT! I’d feel terrible if you didn’t hire him just because I couldn’t give you a reference. And by the way, yes, we would enthusiastically rehire Joe any day of the week. He made such a great contribution to our company when he was here.” Now, that’s the kind of reference you want! And if you can’t get that kind of rave review … don’t hire the candidate, no matter how impressive they appear on paper.Now, I know HR tells these previous managers not to give out references. But if they don’t, who really wins? The good guys or the bad guys? The bad guys do. When a supervisor is afraid to give a reference, the bad employees are allowed to slip through. So, if I call for a reference and I’m told, “I’m sorry I can’t give a reference,” you are likely to hear me say, “Oh, I’m sorry to hear that. I personally thought Joe would be a great member of our team. Unfortunately, if we can’t get a rave review, we can’t extend an offer.” Then I’m quiet.

2. Engage and empower.

Once you have your great business owner mentality candidate on board, the ball is now in your court to develop that person. High achievers and top performers will not be motivated by a tight-fisted, micromanagement style. They are creative. They are ambitious. They think outside the box. And they are always looking for better and faster ways of doing things.

Don’t stifle that creativity! Let them run. Ask them for their opinion. Give them opportunities to work on projects that let them shine. And be sure to always give them lots of credit! It’s the only way to get them engaged in what they’re doing for you.

When it comes to empowering, I’ve always liked “Sherman’s 6 Degrees of Delegation” model, designed by M. Harvey Sherman, former president of the American Society of Public Administration.  He recommends, and I agree, that power should be doled out a little at a time. It’s not unlike teaching your teenager about responsibility and accountability when they want to borrow the car. For example, you initially set up your expectations (where they’re going, how long they’ll be gone, and when they’ll be home). After the expectations are set, they get to borrow the car for an hour or two. If that goes well (i.e., they’re home on time, and there are no dents in the fenders), then you allow a little more freedom next time.

Remember, these superstars must be allowed to earn increasing levels of responsibility and opportunity. If they don’t see an opportunity with you, they’ll look for another job that offers them the chance to grow.

3. Pay your performers generously.

Finally, the tough talk. I know, you have a budget. You can’t pay more than X amount of salary. Well, I’m here to encourage you to make an exception to that rule.  Why? Because you can’t afford to lose a strong player over a few hundred dollars. For the most part, the “think like a business owner” person doesn’t take a job just for the money. They’re looking for the opportunity to add the skills and experience to their personal toolbox. But taking advantage of this attitude would be a fatal mistake on the employer’s part.

Here’s what I’d recommend. Set up a “pay for performance” metric where you can pay that person over and above their base salary. For example, if they design a more efficient process, pay them a one-time bonus of $1,000. If they complete a project ahead of schedule (and your company profits), pay them another bonus of $500. You get the picture. Like my grandma used to say, “don’t be penny-wise and pound-foolish.”

Here’s a quick mental check for you: do you want them working for your competition?

Probably not. So, set up a generous pay-for-performance program for them. Trust me; it will be worth every penny.


So, if you want more employees like Ally, spend more time up front screening and interviewing. Then, when you find the right person, get them engaged and empowered by getting out of their way and letting them perform.

If you give them room, they’ll outperform everyone else on your team. And finally, don’t be stingy about paying your top performers. Pay them fairly. Pay them more than fairly. Make it such an enriching experience that they’ll willingly and richly contribute to your bottom line.

Follow these three guidelines, then sit back and watch as your key players start to think like business owners who deliver unbelievable results to your organization!


Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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