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My wife and I recently changed towns and had to switch jobs also. I'm currently searching for a job while my wife was hired at a company and is currently undergoing her probation period.

We work in the same line of business as my wife and her company just invited me for an interview. But the thing is... I don't want to work with my wife because it will be awkward for us and for our colleagues. Don't want to go into the details but it suffices to say that I've been in this situation before and just don't want to repeat it again.

But I don't know how to refuse the interview without posing my wife at risk during her probation period. There will be absolutely no reason to refuse the job (company is OK, pay is good, it's close to home, benefits etc) so my refusal won't make sense to them.

How do you handle such a situation? How to gracefully decline an interview when a family member already works for the company and you don't want to affect his/her position?

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I would be very concerned about the workplace if an action you take like declining a job offer could put your wife's position in jeopardy... – itcouldevenbeaboat Jan 22 '14 at 18:55
Joe's answer is perfect. Also, the way you describe it is that you haven't even interviewed with them yet, but been simply been asked to interview. It should be a easy to give a polite decline to their request. It would be much more complicated if you arrived at this conclusion after going through a lengthy interview process and receiving a written offer. – MikeS Jan 23 '14 at 0:04
up vote 37 down vote accepted

How do you handle such a situation? How to gracefully decline a job offer when a family member already works for the company and you don't want to affect his/her position?

I haven't been in this particular situation with my wife, but I have been with my extended family.

Paraphrasing, here's how I handled it, and how you might frame your reply:

"Thank your for the offer, but I need to politely decline.

My wife tells me wonderful things about your company. And while I love being around my wife, we have found that it is better for us as a family not to work at the same company."

Simple and to the point. I'm sure most companies would understand this desire, and it wouldn't cast any aspersions on your wife's situation.

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@Rolf: the interview hasn't yet occurred. Sorry for the misunderstanding. I fixed the question. – John Jan 23 '14 at 10:38

Most people are pretty understanding about the fact that some (if not most) married people would prefer not to work together. Or that a married couple prefers not to have both salaries tied to a single employer where a downturn might imperil both jobs. Plus, you've only been invited to interview so there is no relationship to be concerned with.

I'd thank whoever invited you to interview but politely explain that you'd rather not work at the same company that already employs your wife. No need to go into details. If you're really concerned that the company would be so devastated by your lack of desire to interview that it would retaliate against your wife (something that seems highly unlikely as well as quite self-defeating of the company), you can politely decline giving a generic "doesn't appear to be a good fit for what I'm looking for" response. You don't need to specify that the reason it's not a good fit is that the company already employs your wife if that is something that you view as personal.

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+1 Working at the same company as your spouse can turn out very bad if the company goes under or does layoffs. Losing half your income is bad. Losing the entire family income in one day is really bad. That alone is enough of a reason to turn it down. – Grant Jan 23 '14 at 2:25

Thank them for the offer, but let them know that you're resolute in keeping some boundaries between your home life and your work life, and that working in the same place as your wife will present a challenge to those boundaries (and, it will!) And then stand your ground. They can't force you. If you get badgered, I don't see any repercussions as long as you just use the same old cool-headed, "No, thank you" each time until they get the message. Don't let it get under your skin.

Best of luck.

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Is it so hard to politely decline an offer?
Since you seem to have trouble doing it, I can tell you what I imagine myself saying or writing, that may help you...

Thank you for your offer. Your offer is much appreciated, and I am glad that my wife is working for you at this time. Unfortunately, I have to decline the offer for personal reasons.

Hoping this will not cause too much inconvenience, and thank you for your understanding, for welcoming me, for your time and for this great opportunity.

The rest would be like a normal letter, and you can write about any other (positive) topics you'd like to speak about.

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I don't know the reasons for the downvotes but I do appreciate your answer. Thank you. – John Jan 23 '14 at 10:40

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