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I need to declined a job offer soon, probably today. My question is how much information should I give them when declining the offer. Should I share the details that went into my decision making or should it lack details at all?

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    Did you ever get a negative reply from the HR department of a company ? How much details did they provide ? It was probably on the lines of "We are looking for someone that fits better within our company culture" or some other similarly vague answer. This is not coincidental. – Radu Murzea Sep 29 '14 at 15:37
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It's hard to answer this without knowing what the details are that you're considering sharing, so I'll give you a way to decide whether any particular detail needs to be shared:

What will the company do as a result of the information you give them?

For example, if your reason is "you didn't offer enough money" then they might come back with more money. However in that case an out of band communication saying "I have to decline that offer but would accept one for X more a year" is smarter than declining with reasons.

If your reason is "I love everything about the company but cannot move from A and just can't handle the commute to B" then should they open an office in B, or the commute improve in some way, you guys might want to talk again and having it on file that only geography kept you from accepting might be good.

If your reason is "the third person I met was insanely rude and would have resulted in an immediate trip to HR to file harassment documents if I worked there, and working with this abusive individual is something I can't even consider" then you might consider helping whoever has to work with that person by reporting this, and how it cost the company someone they wanted to hire (you.) Further, if that person gets fired perhaps you would work there after all. Due to the sensitive aspect I would probably do this in a phone call not a letter.

And so on. For any particular piece of information, consider its use. They don't care how hard a decision it was for you, where your family lives, or whether you like to ride your bike. They might be prepared to adjust some parts of the offer, but that's best done before you decline. You might like to tell them that their shabby office furniture (or overly gleaming and expensive office furniture) sealed your final decision to take a different offer, but they really will gain nothing from learning that from you, so don't bother.

  • A common case that might be worth adding to the answer: What about if the reason was simply that you got more than one offer and theirs was not the one that you found most attractive? – Carson63000 Sep 30 '14 at 4:33
  • I deliberately didn't include that. What will they do when they learn that somewhere in the world is a job whose combination of pay, benefits, who you get to work with, what you'll learn, how famous you'll get, where you can live, and so on exceed their total package? I suspect they already knew that anyway. A single "I have decided to accept another offer" takes care of that, and the rest of your letter can be full of praise about how impressed you were with them nonetheless. – Kate Gregory Sep 30 '14 at 13:14
  • Oh, I agree 100%. Just thought it might have been useful to add a sentence to the effect that if there was really nothing wrong with their job or their offer, just that you found something else that sounded better, that it's probably not helpful to go into any details at all with the company you're turning down. – Carson63000 Oct 1 '14 at 0:21
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Should I share the details that went into my decision making or should it lack details at all?

Nope. You should not. You should let vagueness speak volumes. Such as saying, “While I appreciate the offer, I believe my skills are not exactly in line with your organization’s overall goals.” Or something along those lines.

But in general, a potential employer is really owed nothing when it comes to an explanation as to why you are declining an offer. This is like any other relationship, but is ultimately a business transaction. So if you do not want to work for them, they might take a “we don’t take no for an answer” stance, but it’s best to just walk away from folks like that. If they can’t respect your needs at this stage, how will they respect your needs later on?

The only real exception to this rule is if you were somehow interested in working for the company in the future, but not in the position offered. If so I would say something like, “While I appreciate the offer—and respect your organization—I am not too sure my skills would be a good fit for this position at this time.”

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    I wouldn't even mention skills. A reason as simple as "I have decided to pursue a different opportunity" is sufficient. – Laconic Droid Sep 29 '14 at 15:19
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    @LaconicDroid You have a point, but skills do become a factor in human resources & in my mind it is fair to state, “Look, my skills are above/below what you are seeking.” – JakeGould Sep 29 '14 at 16:03
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    Maybe it's just me, but I would never tell any prospective employer (even in a rejection letter) that my skills were substandard. – Laconic Droid Sep 29 '14 at 16:30
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    @LaconicDroid Maybe you don’t get it, but sometimes it’s not about the skills as much as how hard they are willing to stretch you to the limits just to fill a role. They just want a sound-bite to pass along to others when you refuse. Give them the sound-bite & move on. – JakeGould Sep 29 '14 at 16:41
  • Right, but I was specifically referring to the "I believe my skills are not in line..." approach. "I have decided to pursue a different opportunity" gives a soundbite without mentioning any skills mismatch. – Laconic Droid Sep 30 '14 at 10:57

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