A loyal reader asks:
“Let’s say you’ve followed up on an offer, they’ve flown you in, wined and dined you, sent you home to ‘think about it,’ and you then decided it was not, for whatever reason, the right position.
“Knowing from experience that there are a lot of flakey PDs and GMs out there who react in a hostile manner to a turndown, I ask:
“What is the proper way to turn down a job offer?”
Give them a specific reason — one that they cannot “fix” — and stick to it. Stick as close to the truth as possible:
• “You see the morning show as music intensive, and I want to do a show where I don’t play more than three songs per hour.”
• “I do a heavily produced morning show, requiring several hours per day in the production room. But you have only one production room, and it would be available to me only after 5PM each day.”
• “I’m a city boy, and I just don’t think I’d be happy in such a rural environment.”
• “To accomplish the goals that you have described for this show, I would need outside advertising and a healthy promotion budget. But you are not able to commit to those at this moment.” (I say “at this moment,” because undoubtedly they’ve told you they will give you those things “when the economy turns around.” But they won’t put that promise in writing.)
• “The salary is too low for my needs.”
• “We seem to have very different styles, and I think that very well could become a problem. We’re both very hands-on, headstrong individuals who are used to getting their own way. And I can sense we would end up clashing with each other. I’d rather pass up this offer and still remain friends with you, rather than accept the offer and lose a friend.”
If the real reason would insult them (“Having talked with you for five minutes, I can see you’re a complete idiot”), give another reason (like the “city boy in a rural environment” above) that is true…even if it’s not the real reason.
If they have offered you the job, expect them to argue with the reason you give them. Don’t try to debate the issue, because you might lose the debate and find yourself reluctantly accepting the wrong job. Instead, listen to what they say and then reply, “I understand what you are saying, and I appreciate your position. But I feel I am making the right decision…even though your offer is very flattering and tempting.”
Keep repeating that line as your mantra, no matter what argument is brought to bear against it.
At times, you will be tempted to accept the wrong offer simply because you do not want to offend the other party. If you ever feel that temptation, kick yourself very, very hard. When a prospective employer decides you are not right for a job you’ve interviewed for, that employer does not consider offering it to you simply out of fear of hurting your feelings.
I do not recommend offering any of the following reasons.
• “When I began in radio, I promised I would never work for anyone whose IQ is smaller than his belt size.”
• “Now that I’ve seen your operation, it’s obvious that this station is no more than six months away from being converted to a laundromat.”
• “Me, work here?? (Pause) Isn’t this the part where I’m supposed to wake up screaming?”
On the other hand, perhaps you can get them to change their minds about wanting you:
• “One more thing: I’ll need your written guarantee that I won’t be subject to any random drug testing.”
• “My last employer didn’t understand the importance of protecting the First Amendment right to free speech at all costs. He gave in to the slightest government pressure…even after I told him the courts probably would reduce at least some of the FCC fines.”
• “That’s a pretty cute daughter you’ve got. Want me to break ’er in for you?”