Marketing Specialist and Freelance Writer
Ensuring that a job is a good fit for you is key when on your job search. Getting called for an interview can seem like a great step in the right direction! Interviews take a lot of time and effort to prepare for, from researching the job and company, to making sure you know your resume back to front.
Though this is usually a momentous occasion, let’s say the interview you have been called for isn’t exactly the job you thought it was. So now you have to figure out how to decline an interview. Don’t worry. We’ve got you!
Declining a job interview is nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, if you feel the job isn’t for you, it’s encouraged. Declining a job interview because the job doesn’t seem like the best fit for you, not only saves your time, but also saves the interviewing panel time and lets them focus on candidates who are fully interested in the job.
Here are some things to consider when thinking about how to decline a job interview. Like everything in the job searching world, there is a right and wrong way to go about everything… let’s have a look!
6 Reasons Why to Consider Declining a Job Interview
As mentioned above, the main reason you would consider how to decline an interview is because the job doesn’t seem like a good fit, but there are many other reasons why one may have to decline or cancel an interview.
Taking the Job Would Be a Risk
If the interview is for a job that may seem risky to take, it may be worth considering how to decline a job interview. For example, if you have found out that the company is in financial hot water or is facing a big legal case, it may be best to steer clear of the company in the meantime. When taking on a new job, or even just interviewing for one, the hope is that you will have job security. If you are entering into a situation where a company is on the rocks, job security may not be likely. To avoid this risk, it may be best just to decline the job interview altogether.
Changes in personal life
A lot can happen between submitting an application and receiving an invitation to interview. Maybe a career transition is no longer necessary, you are thinking of accepting a job offer in another state, or significant life updates render interviewing (or accepting) for the gig untimely. If you’re excited about the position, you can move forward and see if there’s any flexibility to accommodate these circumstances, but opting out is understandable if it’s the right choice for you.
You’ve accepted another offer
Of all the reasons to decline an offer, no longer needing to interview for jobs is your best-case scenario. If you’ve accepted a dream role that meets your needs and future career goals, then be straight with the hiring manager and tell them (see our example responses below). Just make sure your other offer is confirmed and is unlikely to be revoked—like, your background check has cleared, your offer letter is signed, and a start date has been defined.
You haven’t heard good things about the company
Word of mouth is very powerful when it comes to searching for a job. The insights you can gain about a company from online reviews, or people you know working there can give you a really positive feeling about a company, or the opposite.
If it’s the case that you consistently heard bad or negative things about the company you are considering an interview with, it might be plausible to also prepare yourself for how to decline an interview. More often than not, the things you hear and read about a company are most likely true. For your own sake, it might be best to avoid interviewing for a company with such a bad reputation. The last thing you want is to spend lots of time on the hiring process, to find out everything you heard about the company was true.
You are overqualified for the position
If you feel that you are overqualified for the position, then chances are, you are. Companies will jump at the chance to hire someone with heaps of experience, even if the candidate is overqualified. So, if you get this gut feeling, then it may be time to consider how to decline an interview.
You got offered a better role
Maybe your time spent with another company highlighted some non-negotiables you want in your next job. Or you’ve realized that, yes, you actually can get the raise you deserve. Declining an interview because you’re currently negotiating a better role is a tricky situation. It makes sense that someone else got to your first. You’re a hot commodity. However, a job offer is not a done deal until contracts are signed. So, declining this interview would be a calculated risk. Take time to weigh your options before opting out, as turning down a job is almost always permanent and irreversible.
The list goes on when it comes to reasons why someone may want to decline the job. The fact of the matter is that you know best. If you find yourself feeling nervous about an interview because it doesn’t seem like a good fit or you’ve heard bad things, you always have the option of declining. Don’t worry, the next one will suit you better!
Before You Decline
Declining an interview without burning a bridge is a delicate dance; your tone and the words you choose could either wilt or blossom a potential networking connection. Let’s review a few things you should consider before you definitely decline.
Be completely sure
There’s no taking back a “bow out” email. Frankly, recruiters won’t spend time wallowing in their loss (even though losing you would most definitely be a loss) when there is a position that needs to be filled fast. Before you hit “send,” be totally and 100% sure in your decision to move on.
Take time to reconsider
Job searching is an emotional process. First, consider whether anxiety, fear, or nervousness are influencing your decision to decline. Then, if you still feel like the opportunity isn’t the right fit, pinpoint what gave you that impression. It can be tough to gauge company culture over email. If you have concerns, the interview is a great time to address them respectfully (baring blatantly unprofessional email communications from the hiring team, which is always a red flag).
Remember that an interview invitation & job offer aren’t the same
Are you sure you don’t want to use this interview series as a practice phase? Interviewing for a job is a learned skill and one you must rehearse to get right. Going through the process can also provide valuable insight into common questions and desired skills you can use in other conversations. Just because you accept an interview, doesn’t mean you have to take the job. Consider all options before sending a regretful email.
If you must decline, communicate as early as possible
Part of how to decline an interview respectfully is doing so in a timely manner. While an immediate response could feel rash, try to provide the company an answer within 24 hours. Your withdrawal could result in an opportunity for another interested candidate.
How to Decline a Job Interview
No matter the reason you are declining a job interview, make sure to be polite. It’s important not to burn any bridges with any company. You never know when a job more suited to you may come up, and you may want to interview for that instead.
You should also thank the hiring manager for the opportunity and express your appreciation to the hiring team for taking the time to consider your application. Being friendly and polite goes a long way during your job search, you never know what opportunity may pop up in the future.
Part of declining an interview with grace is considering the “good manners” associated with your declination. For example, if you have heard bad things about the employer, don’t say it. If the pay is too low, explain how you plan to target other opportunities more in line with your career trajectory. Remember, there’s a person on the other side of your email who could benefit from a little kindness and courtesy. (Couldn’t we all?)
If you have been offered an interview, try and respond as promptly as possible. It is okay to take some time to consider how to decline an interview, but the process of hiring the right candidate for a job takes a lot of time and effort. You should be considerate and remember that you are just one of the candidates that have been called for an interview. If you have decided to decline the interview, let the hiring team know as soon as you have made your decision.
There is no harm in giving the hiring team some information on why you have decided to decline a job interview. Don’t worry. You aren’t expected to divulge too much detail. You can briefly mention that you have received a job offer in the meantime, or that you feel the interview you were called for doesn’t feel like the best fit. More often than not, the hiring team will appreciate your honesty.
Keep the reasoning vague
Keep the details to a minimum. In this instance, a vague response is best for keeping that door open… even if it is just a crack. If your other offers flop or your company announces sweeping layoffs tomorrow, you may want to circle back.
Keep the relationship alive
We don’t always turn down an offer for a bad reason. Sometimes it just isn’t the offer for us, so when this happens, you’ll want to treat this as a networking opportunity. Whether you send them a separate thank you note for their time, or ask to stay in touch, it’s best to leave the company with a good impression. That way, if there are ever any other opportunities that you may be interested in, the company is already familiar with you. I mean… you never know when your paths may cross again.
Consider recommending someone else in your network
If you are someone who does research before accepting a job interview, then you may be in a good position to be a resource for the company. Though you’ve declined your opportunity, you’ll know enough about them to refer someone in your network. If the person gets the job, then that will help your reputation, especially within your own network.
‘How to Decline an Interview’ Email Examples
#1 Email Example: Because you are overqualified
Subject: Interview for Business Analyst at Company X Dear Mr. David Smith, I would like to thank you for inviting me to interview for the business analyst role at Company X. Although I appreciate you taking the time to consider and review my application, unfortunately at this time I have to decline the interview. After reviewing the job description again, I don’t feel this role is the best match for my skills and experience. I would like to wish you the very best of luck in the rest of the hiring process, and hopefully we have the opportunity to work together in the future. Yours Sincerely, Lucy Parker
#2 Email Example: Because things have changed
Hi [Name(s)], Thank you for your email and your kind words. While this [job title] role with [company] seems like an exciting opportunity, my circumstances have changed since submitting my application and I will need to respectfully decline your invitation. Please keep my application in your database, as I would love to stay in touch should we have another chance to work together down the line. Thank you again for your consideration, Lucy Parker
#3 Email Example: Because you got another offer or opportunity
Hi [Name], Thank you so much for considering my application for the [job title] role. Though I am extremely grateful for your message, I recently accepted an offer from another organization [or, I have decided to pursue a different role that aligns with my present career goals as a marketing specialist]. I wish you the best of luck filling this role. Thank you, again. Lucy Parker
Declining a Job Interview Over Phone
If you’ve been communicating with the hiring manager over the phone, they’ll respect you a lot more for calling them to turn down their job. Plus, phone conversations allow you to deliver a message with tone and empathy on your side.
These calls are usually short and sweet. And the examples of how to reject an interview above will work for both phone and email. However, the same general rules apply: be timely, vague, and respectful.
Two sample scripts
Sample Script #1:
Hi [Name], This is Lucy Parker, following up regarding the [job title] position and your interview invitation. I was offered another opportunity that I feel is a better fit for my career goals, and I’ve decided to [accept it, pursue it, target similar roles] instead. This was not an easy decision and I truly enjoyed learning about [company] and the part this position plays in achieving the company's greatest initiatives. I hope you and your team are successful in finding the right person for the role. Thank you again for the opportunity. I appreciate your time and effort throughout this process. Best of luck, Lucy
Sample Script #2:
Hi [Name], This is Lucy Parker, returning your call regarding the [job title] position. As much as I am grateful for the opportunity to interview with your team, I'm afraid I need to decline the offer. However, I greatly appreciate your time and consideration and wish you the best of luck in filling the role. Thank you, again. Lucy
Hopefully this article gives you everything you need while you consider what reasons are appropriate and how to decline an interview. There will always be bumps in the road along your job searching journey. As we mentioned earlier, if you have to decline a job interview, hopefully the next one is a hit!