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How to Cancel an Interview: A Quick Guide

canceling an interview over the phone

You had an interview scheduled, but now you want to cancel it. Is that the right thing to do? How should you handle the situation? Perhaps, it is better to reschedule, and if yes, what should I say? 

It’s easy to get all worked up when thinking about canceling to interview. First, take a deep breath. Then read through this guide. It explains how to cancel an interview without feeling awkward afterward or burning any professional bridges. 

Is it Unprofessional to Cancel an Interview?

No, it isn’t unprofessional to cancel an interview. You simply have to handle the situation properly. Remember, recruiters spend between 30 minutes to 2 hours on scheduling a single interview. So a last-moment cancelation can scramble their calendar and leave them frustrated. Your goal is to proactively tackle the situation. 

Last-minute cancellations can put the interviewer in a bad spot. That could lead to a burned bridge if you ever want to reschedule again. That said: canceling an interview several days in advance is generally seen as acceptable. Especially, if you have a good reason for that. 

Here are some appropriate reasons to cancel a job interview:

  • You already accepted another job offer
  • You have decided you won’t be taking this position
  • After researching you have learned something too negative about the company
  • Something has come up and you are unsure of when you can reschedule
  • You’ve decided to accept a counteroffer from your current employer

When Is It Inappropriate to Cancel a Job Interview? 

There really isn’t an inappropriate reason for canceling an interview. To put it simply, if you don’t want to pursue a job any further, then you aren’t obligated to do that. What is ill-suited is handling the situation poorly with your timing or communication.

Remember that it is also unprofessional to go through the interview process for a job that you can’t or won’t be accepting in any case. Don’t waste your or the recruiter’s energy.  

How Do You Professionally Back Out of an Interview?

It’s time to cancel your interview, and you have a solid reason for doing so. Make a plan and inform the hiring manager of your cancellation. But first of all — relax. This is one of those situations that often seem more daunting than it really is. 

Remember that a hiring manager doesn’t want to spend time interviewing and assessing a candidate who is disengaged and has no intention of accepting any position. Your goal is to thank them for their time and effort — then politely part ways. 

Follow these steps to cancel an interview in the most professional way possible. 

Plan Your Timing

Give as much notice as possible. In most cases, the evening before is fine. The morning of the interview is pushing things a bit. However, it is usually fine. As long as the interviewer isn’t going to unusual lengths to meet with you, such as traveling some distance or arranging restaurant reservations.

When is it Too Late to Cancel a Job Interview?

Last-minute interview cancellations — on the same day or several hours before the meeting — are too late and should be avoided. You should go ahead and keep the appointment, or work to make the cancellation as painless as possible.

Here’s how to cancel an interview at the last minute

  1. Call or text immediately
  2. Be direct and apologetic
  3. Provide a simple explanation without going into too much detail.

Be Direct and Professional

Don’t beat around the bush, when canceling your interview. Remember that canceling an interview is very common and that your interviewer will most likely understand your reasoning. 

However, when you decide to procrastinate your cancellation it puts both you and your interviewer in a bad spot. They may see you as unreliable and may not want to interview you again in the future. It can also leave your interviewer with a free time slot they weren’t prepared for and throw off their schedule. 

If possible, cancel an interview as soon as possible. Also don’t worry about giving a reason, unless you are being pressed for answers (which is usually a red flag), you don’t have to offer an in-depth explanation. 

You want to be as honest as possible about your reasons for canceling. However, in some cases, it may be okay to leave out some details. For example, if you find out that your ex is working at a new company, you should avoid that potentially dramatic detail. Instead, just say you changed your mind. 

The same applies if you found out something troubling about the company. Avoid confrontations if possible. If you do want to address the issue, keep in mind that the interviewer may not be the appropriate person to approach. Also, be prepared that they may be defensive, unaware, or simply uninterested.

canceling a job interview by email

Finally, if the interviewer pressures you to attend the interview, what should you do? If you are sure you will not be changing your mind, stand firm. Simply repeat that you are no longer interested and wish to cancel your interview. Remember that your obligation is to inform them, not to justify your decision. Additionally, you are not responsible for the staffing of another business. You are also not responsible for another person’s daily schedule or planning.

How do you decline an interview and leave the door open?

If this situation comes up it is best to simply be direct about it. Tell the prospective employer that you would like to decline an interview at this time. If you wish you can add a reason or two for your rejection. As long as you are professional about it you will generally be able to keep the door open for future opportunities. 

Another good tip? Connect with a recruiter on LinkedIn afterward and propose to stay in touch for future openings. This is a small gesture that can help you keep your foot in the door. 

Contact The Recruiter as Soon as You are Certain

Unless something drastic has happened such as a car crash, or very sudden death in the family you will likely be certain that you want to cancel up to 24 hours before the interview. When the moment you wish to or need to cancel for whatever reason comes up it is best to call and cancel right there and then. 

Here’s how to cancel an interview by email

Check out this sample email script for canceling an interview: 

Hello [Hiring Manager Name],

Thank you very much for the opportunity and consideration for the (insert position)/job at (insert place of potential employment). 

Unfortunately, I need to cancel my scheduled interview at (insert time and date) due to other circumstances. I would also like to withdraw my application, as well as my current potential for employment at your business. 

Thank you again for the opportunity and I hope that we could stay in touch for future collaboration opportunities.  

Regards,

Your name.

Here’s how to cancel an interview by phone: Script

Need to make a call? Follow this script for canceling an interview: 

Hello, this is (your name). Thank you for answering my call at this time. Unfortunately, I am calling to say that I wish to cancel my interview for (insert time and date) for the (insert job title) at (insert place of business). 

(At this point they may ask for a reason, and if possible it will be best to give a reason without going into too much detail. EX: “I have taken a different opportunity”. Or “I have decided to stay with my current employer”, are both valid reasons that don’t dive too far into details).

I also would like to withdraw my application, as well as my potential employment at this time. Again thank you for the opportunity and hope you’ll find a great fit soon! 

Not Sure? Ask to Reschedule an Interview

If you are simply feeling hesitant, don’t cancel right away. Remember, the hiring manager isn’t sure about you either. The entire purpose of the interview is for you to show your skills and experience to the company, and for them to impress you as well. 

If there is any reason at all that you might be slightly interested, ask to reschedule an interview. This also gives you additional time to think and consider your options. Remember that you could be missing out on a great opportunity if you jump the gun and cancel prematurely. You can always reject any offer later.

Final Thoughts

The idea of canceling an interview can be nerve-wracking. After all, you don’t want to miss out on an opportunity or be viewed as unprofessional. You certainly don’t want to burn any bridges. Unfortunately, sometimes things just don’t work out. 

The best thing you can do in those cases is to cancel the interview politely and as soon as possible. By doing this, you don’t waste the hiring manager’s time or your own. Just be sure to handle that important email or phone call right away. You don’t want to leave an interviewer waiting for you to show up or scrambling to alter their schedule because you have canceled.

Author

  • 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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