5 tips to craft the perfect, A+ “no, thank you” response to a recruiter

If you’re in the Silicon Valley tech scene, you’re probably familiar with this situation:

An overly exuberant recruiter sends you a cheery note with far too many exclamation marks about an “amazing opportunity!!” to join a “fast-growing company!!” that is “disrupting!” or “transforming!” whatever industry they’re in.

After you wipe an expression of bewilderment off your face (that many exclamation marks…really?), and thinking that the recruiter should really reign it in a little bit, you ponder, “Hmmmm…are they the really the next unicorn?”

In spite of the smiley faces and promises of grandeur, you aren’t jazzed about the opportunity.  Maybe it’s not quite what you’re looking for in your next role or it’s not the right time.

While there are many ways to say “no” to this recruiter, there are only a few ways to craft the perfect “no, thanks” response.

In case you were wondering, this isn’t one of them:

Hey Sydney it’s Scott. Are you aware it’s Saturday? Can I have a fucking day off from you douche bag recuiters? So I guess that’s a no. No wait a sec snowflake, a fucking no we can’t have a quick chat. Cheers.


Yes, this was an actual email I received from an actual candidate I reached out to.


And yes, the word recruiters is supposed to be misspelled as a tribute to its original author.

Sometimes people boggle my mind. Who sends an email like that? Even if you are in no way interested and are annoyed at life and have some personal vendetta with the company, this is not an OK response. To any human. Ever.

But you know that already.

How to say “no” graciously

I know you can do better than “Scott” without any help from me. But even a “no, thanks” only gets you to a C+ or B- in my book.


It’s a small world. A very very small world. It’s such a small world that I interviewed two people in May for a marketing and design position at one company and then ended up interviewing them again in August for a different role at a different company.

In other words, you may not be excited about this role or this company or making a move at this time, but the recruiter won’t be at the same company forever and you just might want a job they’re recruiting for in the future. Your future success in that case requires the recruiter to A) remember you, and B) feel overwhelmingly positively when they hear you’re name.

To balance Mr. “Wait a sec snowflake,” here’s a response that gets an A- from me:
Hi Sydney,
Thanks for reaching out.  I reviewed the information you had provided about your company and I must admit I am very impressed with what you have been able to accomplish with the [technology] in such a short time.
However, after carefully reviewing this opportunity, I don’t believe this role leverages my skills and interests to it’s fullest potential.  Perhaps, there will be another opportunity in the future that would be a better fit.
I appreciate your interest,
yours truly,
Sam Smith

But you can do even better!

Five critical components for the perfect, A+ “no, thank you” response to a recruiter

To leave the recruiter brimming with positive feelings toward you and an even stronger desire to work with you in the future, make sure your “no, thank you” note includes all five of the components below. The examples are real lines from real candidate responses. It’s common for me to receive an email with two or even three of these pieces but include all five and you’ll be in the top 1%.

  1. Say thank you
    • Thank you for thinking of me.
    • Thank you for your email!
    • I appreciate you reaching out.
  2. Express your disinterest
    • I’m not currently looking to make a career move.
    • I’m not sure this is the right opportunity for me.
    • I just accepted a new role so am not available.
  3. Say something flattering
    • [Company name] sounds like a great company and exciting opportunity.
    • I like what [company name] is doing and totally believe in it. This is where the future will be in few years.
  4. Leave the door open for later
    • Let’s keep in touch should any future opportunities work out for the both of us.
    • Please feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn for future possibilities.
    • Feel free to check in a few months from now if anything opens up.
  5. Refer someone else or say something otherwise encouraging
    • I wish you the best in the search. I have no doubt you’ll find the right person for the role.
    • I will share this opportunity with my marketing network to see if anyone’s interested. Best of luck filling the role!
    • I know someone who would be a great candidate for this role. Please see the attached resume for my good friend Sarah Williams. If there’s a fit, please feel free to reach out to her directly.

The Distracted Goldfish

main goldfish

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