How to Decline an Interview Professionally


Turning down job interviews is confusing. On the one hand, as a job-seeker, you are interested in attending more job interviews and choose the best suitable job offer. On the other hand, at some point you might realize that the job is not the right fit and showing up for an interview makes no sense. 

Simply not showing up for an in-person or online interview is a bad idea. It's unethical, let alone unprofessional, and may jeopardize your chance for employment with the company in the future. So, you need to think of polite ways of declining an interview invitation. In today's article, our career professionals will suggest a few techniques for declining the interview without burning the bridges. 

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What are the common reasons to turn down an interview? 

✔ You got a better offer with another company. They offer a better location, a lucrative paycheck, or great opportunity to learn so the decision is obvious. 

✔ You dug deeper and the job doesn't seem the right fit. You've discover unpleasant details about the prospective boss, working culture, or learned they never promote anyone from your department. 

✔ The hiring manager seems unprofessional. You didn't like the company's tone in communication or the culture seems toxic. 

✔ Your personal plans changed unexpectedly. You need to move to Washington with a husband who just got a dream offer or support a younger sister with health issues. 

✔ You decided not to quit. Boss just made you a counter-offer so you are no longer interested in job search. 

How to turn down first job interview with a company? 

According to the newest statistic, only 2-3% of applicants get an intterview on average. By shortlisting you, the hiring manager probably turned down another motivated candidate. So, if your plans have changed, inform the hiring manager about it. This will make a professional impression and show that you value the person's time and effort. 

Take your time to decline the interview by a phone call, email, or the instant messenger. Professional world is often smaller than we think. Chances are, you will cross paths with the interviewer or the company in the following years. If you never showed up for interview, a human resources professional might refuse to work with you in the future. So, it's always necessary to turn down a job interview so as not to come across as irresponsible and unprofessional. 

Your strategy

It's best to do so in advance, at least the day before the appointed interview so that they could reach out to another candidate. If that's not possible, call them at least an hour or two in advance so that the recruiter could reschedule his working hours. 

How do you explan why you're turning down an interview? Just send a polite message. Since the negotiations have just begun, no lengthy explanations are required. Such a message will show a good business etiquette. Here's an example letter: 

Dear David McKensy, 

Thank you for invitation to interview for Job Title. Unfortunately, due to the circumstances I am not ready to negotiate the job opportunity with your company. Have a good day!

Your Name

Strategies to decline a job interview if you've met with them already 

On average, it takes 2-3 interviews with the company before you get hired. If you've already been to one (or several) interviews and decided not to continue interview process, it will take a more detailed explanation. The company have spent time and effort on you, so disappearing without explanations is unprofessional and plain rude. 

So, whether you got a sense of doubt, got a better offer, or family circumstances, don't go away silently. Explain why you wouldn't like to join the company in a polite and friendly manner. 

You may say "I have accepted another job offer that better aligns with my goals", "My child got sick and I have to spend more time with the family right now", "I was offered a new project in my current role, so I stop sourcing job opportunities". The hiring manager is likely to understand your motives, and this will foster transparency and help maintain the positive relationship for the future. 

Yet, it may happen that you've learned something about the company that discourages you from working there. Maybe, you've heard that the boss is a pain in the neck, people in your department quit every few weeks or the company has a blame culture. In this case, never name this as a real reason, and don't publicly declare such facts. Use the diplomatic approach instead. Say that you're not ready to continue interviewing since the working conditions don't fit your personality type. 

Your strategy

At this stage, it is better to decline an interview by phone or video call. Using this via email is also acceptable, but the personal contact is preferred. Do not forget to thank the employer for their time, wish them luck in finding the suitable candidate, and apologize for the inconvenience caused. An email might look like: 

Dear Lisa Lesley, 

I am writing to inform that I must decline an interview invitation. I was offered a promotion to a managerial role in my current company, and I feel that this position is a better fit for my professional goals at the moment. I apologize for any inconveniences caused by my cancellation and would be interested in future opportunities with ABC Inc. Thank you again for considering me. 

Your Name

Tips for declining a job interview professionally

Reach out to your initial contact

Depending on how far the interviewing went, you might have talked to a department head, your supervisor and other people. Yet, you need to inform the person responsible for hiring in the first place. Send them a letter specifying your reasons in a diplomatic manner as suggested above. 

Send a thank-you note after previous interviews

Sending thank-you letters is a good tone. If you haven't thanked previous interviewers yet, do so immediately. In this way, you will show that you value time of people who interviewed you. If composing a thank-you letter seems tough, our website offers such service at just $38. 

Inform them timely 

Inform the employer right after you've decided not to continue interview process. It's best if you could decline the interview in no less than 24 hours before it. Company still has a position to fill, and inf you inform early, they might schedule a meeting with the other candidate. 

Show appreciation 

Thanking for the opportunity to interview is only a common courtesy, but this is what expected of you. After all, hiring managers spent time reading your resume, or maybe meeting you at the previous rounds of interview. Being thankful for their time and efforts is a must if you don't want to burn bridges and limit your professional opportunities in the future. 

Suggest another candidate 

If your coworker or a friend might be interested in a role, it's a win-win situation. Include the person's contact in your interview rejection email. Of course, this should be done if this person agrees to share their contact and discuss the job interview opportunity. 

How to decline an online interview invitation? 

Virtual interviews via Zoom, Skype or Google Hangouts became common after the pandemic. And if you have already accepted the interview offer, your strategy should be the same. Warn them via email that you're not coming, and do so as soon as possible. Specify your reasons if appropriate. Despite the innterview was supposed to take place at home, you still need to act professionally. 

Declining a job interview: Key takeaways 

• Always send an email to turn down an interview, or call the hiring manager. Not showing up without a notification is extremely unprofessional, and you may end up getting blacklisted. 

• There's nothing wrong if you decide not to continue interview process. Turning down further interviews timely will save your time and give the employer more time to find a suitable candidate. 

• Be transparent about your true reasons, but avoid getting negative. Recruiters are people too, and life has its complications. Yet, if you don't want to work there because boss is terrible, use a neutral explanation like "Your management style doesn't align with my personality". 

• Be thankful. After all, the person took time to study your resume or even meet you in person. Genuinely appreciate their efforts and express hope for a future cooperation. 

• Avoid rejecting all interviews unless you have an offer at hand. Don't stop attending interviews unless you received a formal offer. Thus, you will keep your options open and will be able to negotiate better working conditions and salary. 

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