How To Decline a Job Offer You Already Accepted

How to decline a job offer

Theresa Chiechi / The Balance

What should you do if you accept a new job but then change your mind? Don't feel bad if this happens to you. You're not the first candidate who has said yes to an offer but had second thoughts. 

If you regret taking a job offer, there are ways to politely withdraw your acceptance. It’s better to decline as soon as possible after you decide that this isn’t the role you want for the next step of your career.

There are strategies you can use to professionally decline a job offer, even if you have accepted it already. Here are reasons for declining a job you’ve already accepted, when and how to rescind a job offer acceptance, examples, and advice on what to say to the employer when you’ve changed your mind about a new job.

Key Takeaways

  •  In most cases, you can decline a job offer after you have accepted it.
  • If you've signed an employment agreement, check the legal implications before you withdraw your acceptance.
  • If you can, it's better to have a conversation in person or on the phone to explain why you have decided not to take the job. Follow up with written confirmation of your withdrawal.
  • Regardless of why you have changed your mind, express your gratitude and let the company know that you appreciate the offer.

Reasons To Decline an Offer After Accepting

There are a number of reasons why you may change your mind after saying yes to a new job. After you've thought about it some more, the position may not seem as good as it did when you first accepted the offer.

You could have accepted because you were thrilled to get an offer, and then had second thoughts about whether the position, the salary, the benefits, or the company were a good fit.

Perhaps a family emergency has changed your situation, or you have gotten a dream job opportunity that you just can't turn down. Or, given the length of the hiring process in some cases, you may have had time to rethink your objectives, and you've decided to shift your career course.

Do keep in mind that it's not just you. A Robert Half survey reports that 28% of candidates backed out after receiving a job offer because they accepted a better offer (44%), received a counteroffer from their current employer (27%), or heard bad things about the company (19%).

The Benefits of Quitting a Job Before You Start

From both the employee's and the employer's perspectives, it’s better to not start a job than it is to quit shortly after you’ve been hired. The employer will be able to move on quickly to hire someone else, and you’ll be able to continue your job search without interruption. 

For the Employer

Even though the employer would be thrilled to have you on board, they would prefer that you decline the job before you begin working. If you start a job and then quit, the employer will have to start the hiring process over from scratch. 

It's more expensive for the company to onboard you than it is to start over with a new candidate search, and beginning a new search is harder than just going back to the pool to consider other applicants.


If you decline before starting the job, the company can move on quickly to other applicants, and they may have other strong candidates who are a better fit for the role.

For the Job Seeker

Declining a job before starting it makes more sense for the prospective employee as well. If you start a new position that’s not a good fit, you’ll be investing time and energy that could be used instead for job hunting.

Plus, if you’re collecting unemployment, you may not be eligible to continue collecting benefits if you quit a job. You also may have to explain why you quit a job you just started during subsequent interviews.

When You Can Rescind a Job Offer Acceptance

Turning down a job offer after you have already accepted it can be an uncomfortable experience. However, as long as you have not signed an employment contract with the company, you are legally allowed to change your mind. 

Employment at Will

In every state except Montana, employment is presumed to be at will, with some exceptions. This means that an employee can be terminated at any time without any reason. It also means an employee can quit at any time for any reason. There is no obligation on the part of either party to continue the employment relationship. 

However, some states have public policy, covenants of good faith, and implied employment contract exceptions to at-will employment.

Employment Contracts

Depending on the contract, you may still be able to turn down the job without any legal consequences if you've signed an employment agreement. It’s important to review the terms of the contract, discuss your options with the employer (they may agree to let you out of the contract), and consider getting legal advice to avoid breaching the agreement.


By turning the job down quickly and politely, you (hopefully) can maintain a positive relationship with the employer.

How To Turn Down a Job Offer You Accepted

Think it through carefully. Before rejecting the job offer, be 100% certain you do not want (or cannot take) the job. Once you turn down a job you previously accepted, there is no going back. Declining may also negatively impact your chance of being considered for other positions at the organization in the future. Therefore, think carefully about the pros and cons of rejecting the job.

Read your contract. If you have already signed an employment contract, read through it carefully to make sure there will be no legal repercussions to rejecting the job. For example, some contracts say that you have a specific window of time during which you can reject the job or that you have to give a certain number of days' notice.


Check with a lawyer or employment expert to make sure there will be no legal consequences for rejecting the job.

Don't wait. Let the employer know as soon as you realize you no longer want to accept the position. The sooner you let the hiring manager know, the sooner the employer can start looking for your replacement. He or she will appreciate your swift communication.

Be honest, but tactful. Let the employer know why you changed your mind, but do so without insulting the hiring manager or the company. If you realize that you don't think you will get along with the other employees, simply say that you do not believe you would fit in with the company culture. If you found a job that you are much more interested in, explain that you were offered a job that is more in line with your skill set. Do not say anything negative about the company.

Be concise. No matter your reason for rejecting the job, keep your explanation brief. You do not want to go into all the details of your family emergency or why another job is a better fit for you. This is a case in which too much information isn't desirable.

Express gratitude. Be sure to thank the employer for the opportunity to meet and to learn about the company. If there was anything in particular that you liked about the company, say so.

Explain that turning down the job was a hard decision. You do not want to burn bridges with the employer. You never know if you might want to work with them in the future.

Know your bottom line. The employer might try to negotiate with you to get you to come on board. Before speaking with the hiring manager, decide what your bottom line is. Would you stay for more pay? Better benefits? There are some benefits and perks that are negotiable. If you do opt to negotiate, know what would entice you to accept.

Keep in mind, however, that the hiring manager may not be thrilled that you want to negotiate a counteroffer after you already said yes to the first offer.

Choose the right form of communication. Speaking with the employer directly (either on the phone or in person) is the best strategy because it allows you to explain yourself more clearly, and it increases your chances of maintaining a positive relationship with him or her. Follow up the conversation with a letter or email confirming your conversation.

If you are nervous about speaking with the employer directly, or if you are worried you will not be able to fully explain yourself over the phone, you can send them a formal letter or email message. It’s also a good idea to send a letter or email to confirm your withdrawal after you speak to your employer.


Try not to let your excitement about a job offer cloud your judgment when you're evaluating future roles. Think carefully about the pros and cons of any job offer, negotiate a contract you are satisfied with, and then say yes (or no) to the job.

Letter Template to Download

Here is a letter template that you can download (compatible with Google Docs and Word Online), or review the text version below.

Screenshot of a letter declining a job after accepting it

Sample Letter Turning Down a Job Offer After Accepting 

Francesa Lau
123 Walnut Dr.
Barrington, IL 60011

February 3, 2021

Melissa Peterson
Financial Manager
ABC Financial Group
456 South St.
Chicago, IL 60612

Dear Ms. Peterson,

Thank you so much for offering me the position of Financial Analyst at the ABC Financial Group. It has been a pleasure speaking with you and learning more about your company.

Unfortunately, after giving a great deal of thought to this career opportunity, I have decided that it is in my best interest, as well as the company’s, to turn down your gracious job offer.

I have recently decided to accept another position that I believe is a better fit for my abilities and skill set. I am so sorry for any inconvenience my decision may cause.

I continue to be impressed with ABC Financial Group’s role in the international marketplace, and particularly with the great work you have done as manager of the company’s Midwest branch.

I wish you all the best in your future endeavors. I hope to see you at the upcoming Financial Management Conference in October.


Francesa Lau (signature hard copy)

Francesa Lau

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is it legal to quit a job before you start?

In most states, employment is considered at will, with some exceptions, which means you don’t need to provide notice to resign or withdraw from a job. However, if you have signed an employment contract, you’ll need to review the terms of the agreement. It may give you an option to withdraw within a certain period of time, or it may require you to give notice. Consider getting legal advice for guidance on the best way to handle the situation.

Can you quit a job you just started?

Unless you are covered by an employment contract that stipulates the terms of your resignation, you aren’t obligated to stay at a job. Most U.S. states have at-will employment, with some exceptions, which means that an employee can end the relationship with no notice and for no reason. Employers can request that employees give them advance notice, but they shouldn’t require it.

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The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1.  Robert Half. “Cold Feet: Survey Shows 28% of Professionals Renege on Job Offer After Accepting.”

  2. U.S. Department of Labor. "How Do I File for Unemployment Insurance?"

  3. "At-Will Employment - Overview."

  4. Paycor. "Which States Are At-Will Employment States?"

  5. SHRM. "Why New Hires Quit Before They Start and How to Prevent It."

  6. SHRM. “Can Employers Require Workers to Give Notice Before They Quit?”

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