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I was referred by someone for position and received an offer that I am going to turn down. What is the best way to do this when I was referred for job?

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I wanted to talk with you today about a situation someone asked me about where, basically, they were asking me, “what's the best way to turn down a job offer for a position I was referred to you?”

I have to answer in two ways because it really depends upon whether this is someone who is close to you or isn't close to you . . . But the framework is basically going to be the same.

So, in the case of someone close to you, well, I think in both cases, what you trying to do is to give them a heads up. With the person who you or close to, they are probably going to take it a little bit easier than the person who isn't close to you.

So, if I am wrong, so be it… but let me let me just give you one model. So, let's work with both cases and say that the ideal way to do this is to call them up along the way and let them know, “I'm looking for such and such and I’m not hearing that so far. Is this something that I am missing?” In this way, maybe there's information that they that you haven't heard yet, that in the course of one more interview, you can confirm.

Now, let's get to the point where you have the offer. We don't know that you are turning down the offer based upon the position or the money. So, I don't have that information either. So, the notion becomes you try to contact them 1st and say something to the to the effect of, “I want to really thank you for introducing me to your firm (this firm or this person which ever one it was). They’ve made an offer to me which is just terrific but I got some doubts about joining.”

“What’s the problem?”

Then, you have to sounds sincere in talking to them. You can't seem angry, annoyed, or defensive period just simply say something along the lines of (I’m going to give you 2 options here).

“The job is not exactly what I was looking for. I told them I was looking for such as such and they are talking with you about something different period I keep going through the process with them, but the end of the day, the job isn't right.” That's one option.

Number 2 is it's about the money. “I've been talking with them all about X dollars and now they are talking with you about X minus Y dollars.” In other words, a lower offer. I just see my value in the market as being X or even more because I'm talking with other firms and they seem not to be batting an eye at this number or at an even higher number. So, I'm inclined to turn this down. Is there anything that I am missing?”

Notice where I am going with this.

“Is there anything that I'm missing?” By doing this in this way, if there's input about something that you haven't factored in, you at least have the opportunity to hear about it. It doesn’t mean you are going to take your friend’s advice. What you're doing is giving them a heads up of the probability that you are turning down the offer, asking for additional input from them if they knew something that you don’t. Then, from there, you say, “I really want to thank you a lot for this introduction. The firm you are working for is terrific. I am just seeing that I have better choices out there than this one (“even better choices” is the better language) even better choices out there than this one. I really want to thank you. If there's anything I can do to help you in the future, please don't hesitate to reach out and ask for help. I would be very happy to reciprocate.” Then, you go to the employer directly and turn it down.

What you're doing is giving the referral source the courtesy of letting them know what your decision is going to be, asking if there's something that you missed so that in this way, they have the opportunity to tell you about it and then from there, thanking them and offering them the opportunity to reach back to you so you can reciprocate.


Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a career and leadership coach who worked as a recruiter for what more than 40 years. He is the host of “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” the #1 podcast in iTunes for job search with more than 1100 episodes, “Job Search Radio,” “and his newest show, “No BS Coaching Advice” and is a member of The Forbes Coaches Council.

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Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter
Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter

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