How to say no

Saying “no” can be difficult, especially for recruiters who want to please their clients and candidates.

Here are some tips for how to say “no” in a respectful and professional manner:

📈 Overload – When turning down a project or request due to workload, it’s important to explain your reasoning and provide alternatives. 

For example, “I’m currently working on a few high-priority projects that need my full attention. I can suggest some other colleagues who may be able to assist you or provide a revised timeline that works better with my current workload.”

👥 Unreasonable Demands – If a client or hiring manager makes an unreasonable demand, it’s important to set boundaries and communicate what is feasible within your scope of work. 

For example, “While I understand your request, it’s not something that falls within my expertise or the timeline we agreed upon. However, I can suggest a more realistic solution or connect you with someone who may be better suited to help.”

🕑 Time Management – When declining a request due to time management, it’s important to be honest and suggest alternatives if possible. 

For example, “I appreciate the opportunity, but I’m unable to take on this project right now due to my current workload. However, I can suggest a more realistic timeline or connect you with someone who may be available to assist you.”

🧘‍♀️ Self-Care – When prioritising self-care, it’s important to communicate your needs respectfully and without guilt. 

For example, “I have a personal commitment that I’m unable to reschedule during that time. However, I can suggest some alternative times that work better with my schedule or connect you with someone who may be available to assist you.”


Now we’ve given you some example situations of how to say no, here are top five tips you can apply in general when saying no:

  1. Be Firm and Direct – While it’s important to be respectful, it’s also essential to be clear and concise when saying “no.” Avoid beating around the bush or using vague language, as this can lead to misunderstandings and confusion.

  2. Explain Your Reasoning – Providing a reason for saying “no” can help the other party understand your perspective and avoid any resentment or ill feelings. Be honest and transparent about why you’re unable to fulfil the request or take on the project.

  3. Offer Alternative Solutions – Instead of simply saying “no,” try to suggest alternative solutions or offer to connect the person with someone else who can help. This shows that you’re still willing to assist in some way and can help maintain a positive relationship.

  4. Consider the Long-Term Impact – Saying “yes” to every request may seem like the best approach in the short-term, but it can lead to burnout and ultimately harm your relationships with clients and colleagues. Consider the long-term impact of saying “no” and prioritise your well-being accordingly.

  5. Practice Saying “No” – Saying “no” can be uncomfortable at first, especially if you’re used to always saying “yes.” However, like any skill, it takes practice to become comfortable and confident. Start small by saying “no” to minor requests and gradually work your way up to more significant ones.

Remember, it’s okay to say “no” when necessary. Communicating your boundaries and limitations clearly and respectfully can actually help build stronger relationships with your clients and colleagues. By prioritising your well-being and setting realistic expectations, you’ll be a happier and more effective recruiter in the long run.

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