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How to Decline an Interview Without Leaving the Wrong Impression

pensive man with his laptop

Finding a job means doing a fair share of interviewing. Generally, job seekers score one interview for every six applications submitted. But your calendar may look much busier if you have an in-demand skillet or heaps of work experience. This means you’ll have to decline some interviews. But how do you do it professionally? Here’s our advice. 

When to Decline an Interview? 

Before you break the news to your point of contact, give the decision another thought. Passing on an interview just because you’re feeling nervous or your impostor syndrome kicks in isn’t the wisest move. Likewise, if you don’t know much about the company or the industry, an interview can provide you with some perspective.  

That said, there are also cases when declining an interview invitation is the best course of action: 

  1. You’ve accepted another offer job offer.  You can confidently clear out your calendar if you’ve already signed a work contract with another company and fixed a start date. 
  1. Salary and benefits aren’t great. After the first interview round(s), you’ve learned that what was advertised as “very competitive pay and stellar perks” is actually a very meager offer, not even worth an attempt in salary negotiation.
  1. The role doesn’t fully align with your expectations. Similar to salary, the hiring manager made the position sound way more exciting in the job description than it is in reality. 
  1. You’ve had a poor candidate experience. The communication with the recruiter has been haphazard. You’ve been asked to re-send your documents multiple times, and your interview got rescheduled. The interactions you had with HR weren’t impressive and likely indicate wider problems within the organization. So it’s best not to waste your time. 
  1. The company culture is problematic. After researching more about the company, you’ve found some red flags — micro-management, favoritism, poor working conditions. Not attending the interview is fine if the employee accounts are fresh and objective. 
  1. The interview process got too demanding. Having three to four interview rounds for a mid to senior position is the norm these days. But if you’re also pressed in between to complete several case study challenges, do a personality test, or do a good chunk of work that you’re currently paid for (e.g., design a sample marketing strategy for the company), the employer is being unreasonable. 

How to Politely Decline an Interview

An interview invitation isn’t an obligation: You’re free to accept or decline. No one will hold a grudge as long as you do so professionally. Here’s how to decline an interview opportunity that doesn’t sound right for you: 

Give Ample Notice 

If you’re not interested in the job, please don’t waste others’ time. Decline an interview invitation within 24 hours of receiving it. Last-moment interview cancellation leaves a poor impression on the recruiter and undermines your chances of interviewing with the same company in the future. Respect the hiring managers’ schedule and be prompt with your decision. 

Choose the Right Medium 

The last thing you’d want is getting your cancelation message lost in the comms limbo. If you’ve been talking to the recruiter mostly on the phone, give them a call to tell them your decision. 

Alternatively, you can send a short, professional email, or LinkedIn message. In the case of email, make sure you copy all the people in the thread to avoid information asymmetry. 

Don’t Go Into Specifics 

You don’t have to provide a lengthy explanation of why you’re declining an interview. Be brief and respectful. Thank the hiring manager for their time and the opportunity, and then just state that you’d like to decline the offer at this time. 

You don’t need to provide the exact justification, especially if your decision is driven by some unsavory sentiment, like the fact that the company is notorious for mass layoffs or that your former colleague tipped you about problematic workplace practices

Recommend Someone Else 

Lastly, if you want to keep the door open and make a solid impression, recommend someone else from your network for the same position. Especially if the opportunity sounds genuinely great! Recruiters always appreciate referrals as they help ‘em keep their talent pipeline full. 

Sample Email to Decline an Interview Invitation

Here are several sample emails for declining a job interview, illustrating the above tips. Feel free to swipe and adapt these to your case. 

Email for Declining an Interview 

[HR Name],

Thank you for inviting me to interview for the [job title] role. The opportunity sounds really great, but unfortunately, I have to decline at this time. 

I appreciate your interest in my candidacy and hope you’ll find a suitable match soon.


[Your Name] 

Email for Declining Follow-Up Interview 

[HR Name],

Thank you for introducing me to the [Company]. I enjoyed our first interview as it gave me a better role perspective. After careful consideration, I have decided not to continue interviewing at this time as I’ve accepted an offer from another company.

Once again, it’s been a great pleasure getting to know you and [Company Name], and I hope you’ll soon fill the position with the ideal fit. 


[Your Name] 

When It Comes to Interviewing, Score Twice Before You Cut Once

If you’re still on the fence about a job offer, don’t stop interviewing. Who knows, maybe you’ll score not just one but two (or more!) amazing job offers. This would then give you leverage to perhaps even negotiate a counteroffer with one of the companies or just settle for what feels like the best deal for you! 


  • Elena Prokopets

    Elena runs content operations at Freesumes since 2017. She works closely with copywriters, designers, and invited career experts to ensure that all content meets our highest editorial standards. Up to date, she wrote over 200 career-related pieces around resume writing, career advice... more

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