Thanks, but No Thanks: How to Turn Down a Job Offer Set Up by a Friend


As we all know, a critical piece to your job search strategy is networking. And a great way to network is by talking to people you already know: friends, family, those in your gym class or a social club, for example. This can generate opportunities, which is great, but what happens when you are offered a job you don't want, either by someone close to you or that was set up by someone you know? The easy answer is to simply turn them down politely and move on, but things aren't always that simple. Here are a few examples of these types of awkward situations and specific tips to keep in mind that can help you with other scenarios similar to these.


Your brother gets you an interview at his company without asking you. To some people, an interview landing in their lap may sound fantastic. But if you don't want the job or like his company, things can get awkward quickly.


Here's the scenario: Your brother has good intentions, you asked him for help with your job search and he has delivered! He tells you they have a lot of candidates for the position, but as a personal favor the hiring manager has agreed to interview you. The problem is, as he goes through the job description, you realize you would never have applied for this position. It wasn't at all what you had in mind for your career path. What can you do?


Considering this is only a job interview and they have a lot of candidates, you could consider going. It wouldn't mean accepting the position and it could be a good way to practice interviewing. Of course, it isn't good practice to go to a lot of job interviews when you don't plan to take the job, but this opportunity can be viewed in two ways: First, if you are really desperate to find a job, you could view this as a temporary solution while you keep looking for a job that better suits your strengths (being careful not to burn the bridge for your brother at the company).


Second, if you like the company itself, it may be a way to jump-start your career. Do a little research online about the company and their mission statement. Do you like what the company stands for? Could there be another position there that better speaks to your strengths? If this is an entry-level position, it could be your chance to later apply for the position at the company that you really want. You could use the interview to find out about any mentoring programs and opportunities for growth the company offers. If none of these options are viable based on your research, you may decide it's best not to interview. Talk to your brother directly about it to determine the best way to handle it. Should you interview so you make good on the favor he's asked for? Or is it better to bow out now? Decide together what is best. And make sure and thank your brother for getting you the interview in the first place.


Your good friend offers to hire you at her new startup. You have been encouraging to your friend about her new career and are happy for her, maybe you even threw her a party to celebrate, but you just know working with her wouldn't be a good fit. She tends to micromanage and you feel it would affect your friendship. She thinks it's the best idea in the world to work together and help her grow her business. She looks so excited as she explains everything that you could be in charge of. What can you do?


Be considerate of your friend's feelings and don't turn her down on the spot. Thank her for thinking that you could contribute so much to her business. Explain that you really value her friendship and want to make a decision that will not jeopardize it. Ask for a few days to think it over. This will give you some time to plan out what you will say and it may give her the opportunity to think through things a little better. She may also reach the conclusion that you wouldn't really make a good team, professionally speaking.


But she may not, which is why it's important to not leave things up in the air. Don't tell her over the phone or via text. Schedule a lunch to talk things over. Again, thank her for thinking of you, but be honest. Tell her why you don't think working together would be the best idea. Of course, accusing her of micromanaging won't get you very far, and will probably damage your friendship. Instead, you might explain that you think your professional personalities are too different and you don't want to lose her friendship over a job. Tell her you'd like to keep professional and personal separate. Be kind but firm with your decision. Let her know that her company's success is important to you, so offer to help her find someone who would be a good fit for the job. Perhaps you could team up with job interviews and looking through resumes. That way you can help her grow her company without actually working for her.


Your gym buddy tells you he talked to his boss and he's willing to interview you immediately. You and your gym buddy get along well during workouts. You help each other with weight training and challenge each other at the gym, but you don't talk in-depth about your jobs. The only thing you really know is that you work in very different professional fields. You remember mentioning to him to let you know if he heard of any job openings in your line of work, but being interviewed without seeing a job description or submitting your resume seems a little rushed and it's not even something in your industry. What can you do?


Thank your gym buddy for finding you a job opportunity and tell him you appreciate the great recommendation he must have given for his manager to be willing to interview you without having met you. Then dig a little deeper. What exactly is the position and what happened to the previous employee? Ask if he can send you a job description. If you decide you're interested, contact your friend's boss and ask to set up the interview. If you're not interested, kindly tell your friend you greatly appreciate him thinking of you and be clear at that point about the types of jobs you're interested in applying for so he knows. Explain to him you don't want to waste his boss's time by interviewing for something you don't feel is the right fit but you'd appreciate it if he'd continue to keep you in mind for the types of jobs you're looking for.


This scenario demonstrates how important it is to be clear and direct about the positions you're interested in. Provide examples for your networking connections so they can walk away with a true sense of how to help you. The bottom line is, when networking with anyone, especially those you know well, don't go too casually into telling people you're job hunting. Make sure they know your parameters, goals, time frame and desired outcome. And make sure as you're networking with friends and family, you tread carefully. Don't jeopardize a friendship for a connection they have provided you.