How to Gracefully Decline a CEO Job Offer

It isn’t the number one scenario you think to prepare for in an executive job transition, but there may come a time when you find yourself in the position of declining a job offer. Everything has gone exactly according to plan so far. Your CEO resume, value proposition letter, LinkedIn profile, and other career marketing documents look great. Your telephone pre-screen and in-person interviews have gone smoothly and have been very informative. You’ve received the ultimate goal of an offer of employment. However, maybe:

  • You receive two offers at the same time.
  • You learned something in the final interview that made you decide the position or company isn’t the right fit for you.
  • Your current role changed to be more in line with your goals.
  • The company can’t meet your compensation expectations.

In any case, you don’t want to insult anyone or burn any bridges. The conversation of declining an offer professionally and respectfully is just as important as when you’re accepting an offer.

5 Tips to Decline a CEO Job Offer

  • Don’t procrastinate. The best thing you can do for yourself and the company is to let them know your decision as soon as you have made it. It’s usually best for both parties to have a documented response, so email the person who sent you the offer as soon as possible.
  • Express Gratitude. Regardless of whether you accept or decline the offer, it is an honor to be chosen as the top candidate. The hiring process is rarely easy or fast, so be sure to thank those involved for their time and efforts.
  • Remain brief. Don’t feel like you owe the company a detailed explanation or an apology. However, it is respectful to provide a concise summary of why you will not be accepting the offer.
  • Don’t overexplain or make excuses. The decision to accept or decline is yours and yours alone. Provide one reason why you’re declining and leave it at that. The only thing you owe them is a prompt response and your appreciation.
  • Offer to keep in touch. If the overall experience and interactions were positive, this might still be an opportunity to grow your network, despite the position not being the right match. You can also ask them to consider you for other or future openings.

Your email can be as short as three paragraphs. Open by expressing your gratitude and indicating that you cannot accept the offer. The second paragraph should summarize why you won’t accept the offer, and the closing paragraph can offer to keep in touch.

To find out how we can help you prepare for every step and scenario in your CEO job transition, book a complimentary and confidential call with us here.

Mary Elizabeth Bradford is the Founder and Executive Director of and and a past executive recruiter. A thought leader in the career services industry for over 20 years, she holds 5 distinct advanced certifications for senior-level resume writing, online branding and executive-level job search coaching (CERM, CMRW, CARW, MCD, NCOPE). She has been seen and heard in major media including Forbes, Time, WSJ, Newsweek and NBC affiliate stations. She holds 2 CDI TORI awards and is a top tier judge for the elite CDI TORI awards for four consecutive years. Mary Elizabeth Bradford’s elite team of award-winning, certified, top executive resume writers, former top executive recruiters, and global HR executives help many of the world’s premier C-suite, board members and thought leaders secure the transitions and compensation packages they want. She works with clients all over the globe.

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