Interview prep

Should you turn down a job interview? Templates and tips

When and why you should decline is just as important as how to write the email gracefully.

You received an interview invitation for a position you aren't interested in.

Maybe this is the first time a recruiter is reaching out, or maybe you are already going through the interview process but had a change of heart. Either way, you want to address the invitation in a respectful way and leave the door open for future opportunities or communications.

Regardless of your reasoning and stage in the process, here are some tips (and templates) to turn down an interview simply and professionally. 

5 Tips for Turning Down an Interview Respectfully

1. Consider it carefully

The decision to turn down an interview is final: once you send that email, you shouldn't change your mind. If you do, you may seem unreliable, indecisive, or inconsiderate, qualities no one wants in an employee.

Before you send the email, you should...

  1. Take a few hours to think it over. Consider the company, the position, and whether you may be a good fit (even if you were deterred initially).
  2. Understand why the invitation doesn't appeal to you. Does the company have an aggressive culture, or a reputation for mistreating employees? Are you content with your current job or a new job elsewhere? Or are you simply anxious about the prospect of an interview? Some reasons are more valid than others. 
  3. Remember that an interview is not a massive commitment. It's not as though you're considering a job offer. Rather, you are taking the opportunity to learn about a new company and/or position, and improve your interview skills in the process. Especially if you are in the midst of a job search, accepting an interview opportunity can only benefit you!

2. Know who to tell

The first person you should tell is your primary contact within the organization. This is likely the recruiter, or a representative from human resources who has guided you through the process.

If you are already a few interviews in, you should also reach out to the hiring manager, interviewers, or anyone else who has helped you significantly. Send them separate messages thanking them for their support and informing them about the situation.

3. Be courteous and cautious

Your language should be respectful and express appreciation for the opportunity. You want to avoid burning bridges, for the sake of professionalism and the possibility of future opportunities.

However, you also want to be careful about just how much you reveal. You don't need to provide an in-depth explanation of why you're passing on the interview-- they don't want to know that other job opportunities interest you more. If you officially signed an offer elsewhere, you can disclose that if you wish.

4. Respond quickly

Respect the company's time and understand that, by waiting until the last minute to cancel, you could disrupt their hiring process. If possible, respond as soon as you make your decision. Recruiters will appreciate your promptness and you will come across as reliable and professional. 

5. Follow up

If you do not hear back with a confirmation that your message was received, be sure to follow up. This can be done via a brief email, or a phone call to your primary contact. If they don't answer, leave a voice mail. The call/voicemail should either

  1. Repeat the content of your original email, or
  2. Request that they confirm receiving your message from X date, and state that you would be happy to resend it if not.

We recommend you go with option (a), but understand that everyone's comfort with phone conversations varies. 

Bonus: Suggest Another Candidate
This move shows that you respect the company and want them to find a great fit for the position. Before you do this, be sure to confirm the potential candidate's interest, request permission to provide their LinkedIn and contact information, and evaluate whether they would be a good fit.

3 Scenarios & Corresponding Email Templates

Declining before the first interview...

Declining in the midst of the process...

Declining an interview for an internal role...

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