Responding to a job offer: how to accept or decline
As a graduate seeking your first full-time role, you might be unsure what to do when offered a job. Here is what to say and what not to say when accepting or declining a job offer.
Recruiters won’t take it personally if you say no to a graduate job offer.
A job offer can be made in writing or verbally, although it is best practice for a verbal offer to be followed up with a written contract. Graduate recruiters will normally phone you in the first instance, giving you the chance to ask any questions and request more time to consider the offer if you need it.
This article focuses on how to respond to a job offer. For advice on other job offer considerations, take a look at the following articles:
- Frequently asked questions about job offer etiquette (including reneging on a job offer, how to juggle multiple job offers and how to ask for more time to consider your options)
- Employment contracts and the legal aspects of accepting a job offer
- How to deal with being rejected from a graduate job
- How to ask for feedback if you are unsuccessful in the application process
- How to negotiate your salary when offered a job – and whether to negotiate at all
Firstly, remember that you don’t have to accept the job straight away, no matter how excited you are about it. It’s perfectly fine to take a day or so to confirm that it’s the right role for you and what it would mean in practical terms – for example, if you’d need to relocate. This is especially important to do if you have (or are waiting for) offers from other employers. You shouldn’t decline an offer after you’ve accepted it, as you are entering into a legal contract with the employer by accepting it, whether verbally or in writing. If you’re not sure it’s always better to take your time than rush into accepting. See our article on job offer etiquette for more on this. You should also be clear on what you’re agreeing to and what your employment rights are.
People do react differently to receiving a job offer and there’s no ‘right’ way to accept – although the one thing recruiters love to hear is genuine excitement. Be sure to thank them for the offer and convey your enthusiasm: this is a chance to get your graduate career with this employer off to a great start.
How to accept a job offer over the phone
Whether you accept the offer immediately or call the recruiter back later, your response might go something like: ‘Thank you. That’s great news. Yes, I’d like to accept the job offer and I’m looking forward to starting.’
How to accept a job offer over email
Alternatively, you might prefer to send an email instead of calling the recruiter back when you have made your decision. Although phoning feels more personal, recruiters really don’t mind which form of communication you use to accept a job offer. If you choose to email, keep it short and professional. You could use the following as a template:
Subject line: Acceptance of job offer – [your name]
Dear [recruiter’s name],
Thank you for offering me the role of [job title]/ a place on the [scheme name] graduate programme. I can confirm that I would like to accept the offer. Please let me know of the next steps and if there is anything else you need from me at this stage.
Thank you again for the opportunity, and I look forward to working at the company.
Recruiters won’t take it personally if you say no to a graduate job offer. They know there are many reasons why graduates might decline, and they would far rather you rejected their offer at this stage than reneged on it after accepting. You should get in touch with the recruiter (by phone or email) as soon as you are sure you don’t want to accept the job; this will allow them to offer it to another candidate.
When declining a job, you should stay as polite and professional as you’ve been during the application process. Graduate recruitment is a small world and you never know if you’ll come across someone in another company you apply to who knows that recruiter. You also might decide to apply to the same employer again in future if a more suitable role comes up; leave the door open by maintaining a good rapport.
How to decline a job offer over the phone
A polite way to decline a job offer, whether as soon as it is offered or after considering it, might be: ‘Thank you very much. I’ve actually already accepted an offer from another company/changed my plans so I’m not able to accept your offer unfortunately.’
Don’t be surprised if the recruiter then asks why you are declining the offer. They want to know if there is anything in particular that they could improve on to prevent graduates declining offers in the future. It doesn’t need to be detailed feedback but any comments will be helpful for them. For example, it’s fine to say that their culture doesn’t feel like a good fit, something about the assessment centre put you off or the salary isn’t as high as what competitors are offering. (Equally, any positive feedback about the recruitment process will be welcome too!) If the reason for declining is that you have accepted an offer from another employer or your plans have changed – for example, you’ve decided to do a masters or take a year out – say so.
How to decline a job offer over email
If you’ve taken some time to consider your options and decided that the job isn’t for you, you might prefer to email the recruiter rather than calling them back – it’s entirely up to you. Keep the email short and professional but ideally provide the recruiter with a reason for declining the offer.
For example, you could say:
Subject line: Job offer [your name]
Dear [recruiter’s name],
Thank you for the interview last week. I enjoyed meeting you and visiting [company name]’s offices. I appreciate your generous offer for the role of [job title]/ a place on the [scheme name] graduate programme. After careful consideration, I’ve [insert reason eg decided to accept a position at another company/ decided to undertake a masters programme/ decided to change my plans and travel over the next year] and so regretfully decline.
Thank you for your time and the support you provided throughout the recruitment process. I wish you and the company all the best for the future.