I'm looking for a job, so in the usual networking fashion I emailed all my professional acquaintances asking them if they know of any opportunities in my field. In particular, I emailed my former boss, who I really disliked working with, but who is good at networking and likely to give me a good reference, so I thought it was worth asking for his help.
Unfortunately, his reply mentions that he is looking to hire someone with my qualifications. (He also says that he'll be happy to provide me with a reference and to give my CV to other people in the department etc, which is good.) I definitely do not want to work for him again, but I also don't want to burn any bridges - we parted on good terms, I don't think he's aware of my issues with him, and it's definitely not a conversation I want to have. How can I politely say that I'm not interested in working for him, but I am still interested in other potential jobs he might be able to get me in contact with? Note that the other potential jobs include ones in other units in the same department as him, so I can't tell him I don't want to work in this city or in this field or at this university, because saying that would remove the possibility of him helping me out by putting me in contact with nearby people - that's the difficult part here. Is there any inoffensive generic refusal reason that can work in this situation?
Options I've thought of so far, none of them very good:
- I could just say something along the lines of "I don't think we work well together" - but I don't think that conversation is likely to go well and we'll end up back in burning-bridges territory.
- I could just decline without explaining, but he'll probably either ask for an explanation or just feel offended by the unfriendly refusal and not help me any further. I can do this if I have to, but I'd rather find a better option.
- I could ask him for details about his open position and hopefully find something specific about it that that I can use as a reason to say no (low salary or something - this is information I don't currently have), but 1) that would be misleading and a waste of everyone's time, and 2) it would be even more awkward if I didn't find any problems with the position but then refused anyway.