A reader asked this question: Would you mind writing a post about dealing with multiple job offers and declining some of them — politely and gracefully?
This is actually a question about networking. When someone offers you a job, they have identified you as someone they want to be connected with. That you have multiple offers for this type of connection makes you even more desirable. So when you turn down the offer, your number-one concern should be making sure this person stays in your network.
This means that you should remember networking tips that would apply to any situation. And, before I get to them, I want to tell you that Tahl Raz’s article in Inc. magazine about Keith Ferrazzi is one of my all-time favorite things to read about networking, and it applies to you no matter what your situation is.
But here are four things to keep in mind for turning down an offer:
1. Be nice.
When you turn down a job, thank the person for the opportunity. Tell the person that something about them or their company impressed you. Think of something, even if it’s small. Just make sure you are specific, because that’s the type of compliments that matter most to people.
Then explain why the job you are taking is a great opportunity for you. Don’t explain why the other company is a thousand times better than the company you’re rejecting, even if it is. Talk in terms of the opportunity, and how it will allow you make a big difference to the business and grow personally. The aim is to show that what matters to you is learning and contributing to the organization because that’s what you want the person to remember about you.
2. Follow up.
Do something a week or so later to let the person know you plan to keep in touch. This will make the person feel more like you rejected the job offer and not him, personally.
There are a lot of ways to follow up. You can comment on their blog, if they have one. Send them information you find that you know they’ll like. Or you can invite the person to lunch if you want to spend time together. Or, if time together makes you cringe, take a smaller step and send a LinkedIn invitation. (Introduction to LinkedIn. Advanced LinkedIn.)
3. Suggest someone else.
If you are someone who is specialized, and it’s going to be hard for the employer to find someone like you, you can really endear yourself by referring a friend.
4. Assess your own conduct.
Of course, none of this will work if you have been being very difficult and demanding during the interview process and stringing someone along for months and are dropping the ball at the last possible minute. In this case, you might think about how your slow and perhaps-incompetent decision-making process is giving you a bad reputation.
It’s hard to turn down a job offer in this situation without looking like a jerk. So if you have already gotten yourself in a muddle, turning down the job offer will be tough. Face the muddle and help yourself to not do that again.
And if you are not in a muddle, congratulations on the multiple job offers!