I was recently offered a job that really doesn't feel like the right fit for me. Some red flags during the interview, offer, and subsequent discussions were raised. The problem is that this is a large department in the company I already work for and it is possible that I will be applying to other positions in this department again. It's just this specific team that raised concern.

The question is: Do I explain my reasons for not taking it, or just say a polite no thank you?

More information: here are the red flags

  • Some of the interview committee made me feel that my training was not suitable, even going so far as to say I was "rough around the edges" but that they can "smooth me out". This may be true, and I'm happy to learn as much as I can, but I did not get the impression it was said with kindness, more like "you'll do, but we'll fix you". That doesn't make me want to work there.
  • The salary is well below my expectations, and would actually involve a substantial pay cut. The earning potential is higher, but that would be in more than a decade of work. After raising this concern I was given an updated offer with a minor increase in salary, not anywhere close to what I'm making now. The hiring manager is aware of my current salary.
  • I was told one thing during the interview, but during negotiations with someone not on the hiring committee I was told something entirely different. This difference amounts to nearly fifteen thousand dollars per year. Basically, the interview committee said that it would be impossible to change the job description (and therefore the salary), but the person doing the hiring told me that it can happen. The hiring manager was trying to get me to accept the offer, but given what the committee said I do not trust that this will ever happen
  • The starting salary is well below industry average, and of all of the people in this role almost none of them are making anywhere near the industry average (in my country, we can look this information up)
  • They told me that they were interviewing "many" candidates and that hiring would take "months", but I got the offer in under a week
  • I will be losing substantial autonomy in my work to move here
  • 94
    The not enough salary is a realy simple, valid, relatable and relatively unarmful justification - why not just go with that and omit the other not so palatable reasons?
    – calofr
    Commented Nov 28, 2022 at 15:41
  • 19
    Companies usually do not explain why they reject candidates – apart from very generalized statements. Why do you think candidates have to explain why they rejected an offer? Commented Nov 28, 2022 at 16:30
  • @spuck I think it was a combination of too many cooks in the kitchen and unclear rules. In my department, if we take on a specific type of extra task we get paid extra. In the interview I was told "absolutely not", and in the hiring negotiations I was told "yes, in some circumstances" (which is the same as the contract I'm under). Essentially, I wanted to bring that clause with me, which made sense because both departments have the same type of extra work that is usually given to temps anyway. So I got conflicting messages
    – work572
    Commented Dec 1, 2022 at 20:14
  • 2
    Cleaned up some of the comments and included your info into the post. Please edit again if anything is unclear or if I misinterpreted.
    – Lilienthal
    Commented Dec 1, 2022 at 22:31
  • 1
    @keshlam Your comment was flagged as obsolete and cleaned up by another mod, but I would have done the same since I'm not sure it really materially affects the question asked whether or not it's a marketing/sales job. It might be more appropriate to write an answer covering that point of view.
    – Lilienthal
    Commented Dec 5, 2022 at 21:05

8 Answers 8


would actually involve a substantial pay cut.

That's all the explanation that's required. No one is actively looking for a pay cut and everyone knows this. That gives you an easy out without stepping on someone's toes.

You can (and should) be nice about it. Perhaps something like

Thank you for considering me for this opportunity. I really enjoyed our conversation. Unfortunately I have to decline your offer, at this time a significant pay cut is just not in the cards for me.

  • 54
    The problem with this is that salary is only one of several reasons. Say the company comes back with a "match" or even better offer? Now the OP will need to decline again. I think a general "not in line with my career goals at this time" is more appropriate. That covers all the reasons but also leaves open the possibility of a future position there.
    – jwh20
    Commented Nov 28, 2022 at 19:30
  • 10
    @jwh20 Well, it's not obvious that OP would still turn down the job even with a salary match. That's something to determine ahead of time. Commented Nov 29, 2022 at 0:06
  • 48
    @jwh20: A massive hike in the offer is unlikely. Even if they do: they would have to explain why they started with a drastic low-ball offer. Cross that bridge when you come to it.
    – Hilmar
    Commented Nov 29, 2022 at 4:19
  • 4
    It would be good to add that to the answer, as it's a consideration that should be done before using the low salary as reason for declining. Also, any further offer should be done in writing, possibly signed by the interview committee, to avoid having them backtrack on it after (not common, but given how unreliable they seem to be by OP description wouldn't exclude)
    – bracco23
    Commented Nov 29, 2022 at 10:59
  • 3
    @jwh20 The OP says that they've already raised the proposed salary and it's still not enough. It's hard to see anything changing more than that.
    – Graham
    Commented Nov 29, 2022 at 13:52

In your specific case ("..it is possible that I will be applying to other positions with these people again") I wouldn't go into too many details as it might be perceived as a rant - just respond that it wasn't suiting you, no need to provide all your considerations above as this might leave a bad impression.

Thank them for the oportunity and their time spent during the process and move on with your current responsibilities within your company.

No offense to be taken but I oppose Hilmars answer above that one should state the substantial pay-cut as a reason since the company is definitely aware that the offer is well below the OP's current salary as well as below industry standards. The person who offered the new gig within the company will know from where the wind blows without the OP mentioning it.

And even if the OP is asked to clarify and tell them their reason, it might be better to just make a vague statement such as: "Currently I don't see myself in this position but thank you for the offer".

  • 33
    This worked for me. I interviewed for a role that didn't suit, and I emailed them saying thanks for their time but I didn't feel like the role in team X was a good fit for me, but that if a position opened up in team Y (which had been mentioned in the interview) I would happily apply again. In the end I got offered a role in team Y a little later. Commented Nov 29, 2022 at 0:12
  • 2
    @BugCatcherNakata -- such a great comment, I would "promote" it to answer; to me (NOT the OP) it would be the accepted answer. Commented Nov 30, 2022 at 19:22

Just say a polite "no thanks". No need to explain anything. You don't have to justify yourself for declining a position.

  • 9
    Rephrase "refusing" as "declining". They made an offer. You are not obligated to accept the offer. Just tell them quickly so they can proceed to make the offer to the next person on the list.
    – keshlam
    Commented Nov 28, 2022 at 19:31
  • 4
    What should OP say on the immediate follow-up question ("why"? "oh, come on..."?) etc.?
    – AnoE
    Commented Nov 29, 2022 at 9:58
  • 4
    @Anoe If the employer attempts to learn why they were rejected, OP should ignore the communication.
    – EvilSnack
    Commented Nov 30, 2022 at 2:59
  • 2
    Yes, I know that is more or less the meme here for similar questions, and perfectly fine for normal applications (i.e. with a company you never have the intention of working at), but as an answer to this particular question it does not give OP any workable information. I mean, I try to imagine the situation - he meets the colleague in a video call or in the office, they ask them a direct question, and they just.... ignore it? Say nothing? I'm sure there is a more elegant way.
    – AnoE
    Commented Nov 30, 2022 at 8:47
  • 1
    @AnoE OP can give a generic reason such as "the position does not suit me". I'd probably do something like that, and eventually blame the pay cut. My main point was that OP should not end in a position where he's trying to justify himself.
    – R0m1
    Commented Nov 30, 2022 at 9:04

You don't have to say anything more than 'No, Thank you'

However, should you feel compelled to (and I would generally recommend not elaborating - a Closed Mouth gathers no Foot)

You can say something like this:

"Thank you for the Offer and the opportunity. I have reviewed the offer and would like to decline and not proceed further. The Remuneration offered in writing is below my expectations and current salary and I don't think we are fully aligned on my skills and experience. I wish you all the best in finding the right candidate for this position and would like to thank you once again for both the consideration and the offer"

However, to re-iterate, a simple declining of the offer is the best option, it's neutral and it gives them nothing to get annoyed about, whereas they might be taken aback and interpret your reasons as an accusation of them being cheap (even if it's true...)

  • 2
    It doesn't seem to me like sharing reasons provides any benefits, and could be harmful. Keep it simple: "Thank you for your generous offer. After careful consideration, I have decided to go in another direction. It would be my pleasure to explore other opportunities to work together in the future. Best wishes filling the position with a fantastic candidate.
    – CodeSeeker
    Commented Dec 1, 2022 at 1:57

If you slightly trust your management -- try telling them what you DO want (autonomy, salary, an area where your current skills are a better fit). You can phrase this as something you realized during the interview process. Then you can use the standard it's not you it's me explanation for refusing this job but leave the door open for taking a different one. They'll be more likely to try offering you a different one if they think you'll accept (or not waste your time with a job they know you won't accept).

Anecdote: My boyfriend applied for an internal promotion when there were several open positions, during the interview he happened to end up talking extensively about one sub-project he worked on. No surprise, they ended up offering him the position in that area which was actually the position he didn't want. He went back to his management and explained that on further reflection he was actually looking for a position with X, Y, Z qualities because he wanted to go in A, B, C direction with his career (X, Y, Z being things that this position didn't have), so thank you but no thanks to this particular offer. Very shortly after that they found him a different promotion that was exactly what he wanted.

(Also, he got a good reminder about interviewing and really emphasizing the job you want, the stuff he was talking about was applicable to all of the open positions so it wasn't bad but he could have framed it so it more obviously related to the other jobs.)

  • I certainly appreciate this, but one of the things that I spoke to a mentor about is what it would mean if I were to accept the job and their belief that my training is not good enough. They made a good point - the job begins with a probationary period (this is true of anywhere in my organization, so it wasn't a problem), but if they really feel my training isn't good enough and I don't absolutely blow them away, they have a super easy out. Ultimately I did reject the job, it just didn't seem like the right fir
    – work572
    Commented Nov 30, 2022 at 20:55
  • @work572 Maybe you meant to reply to a different answer? Mine doesn't say anything about accepting the job--just how to not accept it (while still being open to other, different jobs as you mentioned in your original post). Commented Nov 30, 2022 at 21:47

Employers rarely give an explanation to applicants who they reject. Similarly, you do not need to give an explanation to an employer when rejecting their job offer.

In the OP's case, where the offer came from a department in the same company where they work, they can ask the hiring manager for an offer letter in writing mentioning that the salary will be $15,000 higher than what the interviewing committee said, and then they can make a decision. Otherwise they can just respond that the salary offered is significantly lower than what they are currently making. No one would bat an eyelash at that explanation.

  • 3
    Except that in this case, it is an internal job offer within the same company he already works for, and likely an informal process with people he'll likely meet again, and will have a direct communication route to him - they will immediately ask why. What should OP say then?
    – AnoE
    Commented Nov 29, 2022 at 9:59

A generic explanation commonly given when turning down any offered position, at any point in the process, is you "felt/decided/determined the position was not a good fit" for you.

This can mean a lot of things, and it is accurate on the issues of how you felt your prospective coworkers viewed you or how you viewed them during and after the interview and offer, as well as job responsibilities or working conditions. By being vague, it avoids direct criticism.

It is less specific to the underwhelming salary, but it can cover that as well.

Of course it is possible the hiring manager may ask you why you felt it was not a good fit. At that point you can decide whether to risk being critical, mention some but not all issues, phrase your feedback very gently, or etc.

  • To me, even saying "not a good fit" makes a value judgment that could be taken negatively. How about "I have decided to go in another direction"? If pressed, say "I apologize, and ask for your understanding that I prefer to keep my situation confidential."
    – CodeSeeker
    Commented Dec 1, 2022 at 1:58
  • Of course "not a good fit" can be seen as critical, but it can also be seen as "a round peg does not go into a square hole" - is the peg at fault here or is the hole? Can be either, both, or none.
    – X Goodrich
    Commented Dec 1, 2022 at 3:19
  • I appreciate that distinction, however, still think that "not a good fit" could be taken more negatively than "have decided to go in another direction" which makes no value judgment at all. Value-free statements are more neutral. "Bad fit" is not neutral, invoking the concept of "badness."
    – CodeSeeker
    Commented Dec 2, 2022 at 22:26

Unless the company reaches out to you asking for details or feedback on their hiring process, at least everywhere I've worked (western Europe) the polite thing to do is to refuse and give a generic reason without much details. Something like "I accepted a better offer." or even exactly what you wrote here "I don't think the position is what I'm looking for." all do.

Especially since they pointed out they are interviewing a lot of people, it is likely that any effort you put into writing something up won't even reach the correct person.

You do not want to give any explanation that would burn a bridge for the future. Who knows, maybe in a year or some, when you are desperate, the company has changed, or they are looking for someone to fill a position that does fit you better, you will talk to them again.

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