How to turn down a job opportunity without burning bridges

Someone asked me the other day what to do after being contacted by a recruiter on LinkedIn about a job she had no interest in pursuing. Should she respond and, if so, what should she say? I’m sharing my top tips as well as a template you can use if you ever find yourself in the same situation.

First, if a recruiter reaches out to you about a job, congratulations! This means you’re at least doing something right in terms of being seen and sharing your skills. That’s step one to getting the job that you really want. But if you’re not interested in the job that they want to talk to you about, there’s definitely a right way and a wrong way to respond.

DO make sure you reply to the message in a timely manner. I absolutely understand that some professionals are contacted by recruiters all day long (hello, software engineers!) and just have no time to reply to every inquiry they get. Most of us, however, are not in that boat, so just take a quick minute to acknowledge their existence. You’d want someone else to do the same for you.

DO politely thank them for the consideration. This is just basic manners, but it says a lot about you as a person. You wouldn’t walk past someone who held a door open for you without saying thank you (obviously), so don’t forget to say it in this instance, either.

DO be honest if you’re not interested, but let them know what types of roles and opportunities you would be interested in so that they can reach out if they ever have something that’s more fitting.

DON’T be rude or condescending in your response. Obviously you would never do this, but I have to say it. Make sure your tone is one of appreciation, flattery, and not of irritation or arrogance. Remember, you never get a second chance to make a first impression!

DON’T miss out on the opportunity to stay in touch! You never know when this person might be able to connect you with your dream job, so tell them you’d love to keep in touch and go send them a LinkedIn request. It’s all about who you know, so don’t miss a chance to grow your circle.

DON’T skip the chance to help them connect to someone else who might be right for the job. Maybe this isn’t the job for you, but would it be a great opportunity for your roommate/brother/third cousin/sorority sister? Even if no one specific comes to mind, let them know you’ll be sure to share if you can think of anyone else who might be interested. This positions you as a connector in your network, which is always a good thing, and could potentially help someone you know as well as this recruiter. That’s good karma, people.

Here’s a great template you can use (just be sure to personalize it so it matches the situation and sounds like you):


Thank you so much for reaching out! I sincerely appreciate the consideration. While this position isn’t quite what I’m looking for at this time, I’d love to stay connected and I will be sure to pass along the opportunity as well as your contact information to anyone I know who might be a better fit.

If you ever have an open opportunity in the areas of (INSERT YOUR AREA OF INTEREST HERE), I would love the chance to be considered again. Best of luck to you in your search and thanks again for your interest.