Declining a job offer is definitely one of the most awkward professional positions to be in. You want to refuse kindly and with diplomacy, but in a balanced straightforward, honest manner. Refusing an offer of employment doesn’t mean that you won’t ever again run into those that made the offer, so it's important to find a way to leave them with a positive remembrance of you. It’s also just polite.
The sooner you decline a job offer, the sooner that company can extend it to the next person. This usually requires additional meetings and other company protocols that take time. Just like arriving punctually to meetings and promptly returning work correspondence, turning down a job offer requires the same attention. It can be tempting to put it off due to doubts or simply insecurity at turning down a potential employer. But if you have thoroughly researched the company, and your instincts – coupled with the low salary – tell you it's the right thing to do, then do it quickly.
Write an Outline
No matter how you decide to tell a company you decline their offer of employment, you need to be clear with yourself what you want to say and also why you want to say it. Finding a way to decline an offer of employment that won’t burn bridges is vital in business. You can’t just come out and say, “The money you offered is insulting.” Nor do you want to lie. Keep it short and to the point. Explain that it was a difficult decision and focus on your reasons, but keep it about you. Often companies use your reasons as information about how their company works. If, for instance, the job requires a tremendous amount of hours, and you mention that you cannot be away from home that often, the company may rebalance what they expect of potential employees or decide to adjust their financial offer.
Choose a Method to Deliver Your Decision
This part is very tricky and depends entirely on the subjective situation. When in doubt, it’s really best to refuse a job offer by phone. It may or may not be quicker, but it definitely offers a personal touch. Call your point of contact or the person with whom you interviewed first and let them know your decision in a short phone call. Make sure to refer to your outline during the call.
Declining by email or regular letter is largely a personal choice. Include your contact information and address the letter to your main point of contact. Be sure to thank them for the offer and for the time and consideration they spent meeting with you. Again, refer to your outline and keep the letter to no more than two short paragraphs, ending with gratitude for the chance to work with them.
Keep in mind that some companies may come back and offer you more money, even if you were not actively trying to negotiate for more. In that case, carefully consider the offer and repeat these steps again if you decide to decline. Above all, direct diplomacy is needed. You never know when you may want to work for this employer in the future.