Learning how to decline a job interview is something that everyone needs to do eventually. If you work long enough, there’s a good chance you’ll be put in this situation!
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Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be an awkward experience. In fact, you can actually leave a great impression while turning down the interview.
This guide will teach you how.
Reasons to Turn Down a Job Interview
While getting the opportunity to go in for an interview is usually a moment worth celebrating, there are many reasons why you might want to decline. A lot can happen between submitting an application and getting a callback.
Here are some potential reasons to turn down an interview.
1. Your Plans Changed
Changes occur all the time, and they often happen whenever you’re in a transitory period of your life. Maybe you applied to a job in a new city with plans of relocating. Things can happen to make you rethink that decision.
For example, you might decide to stay closer to family. Or maybe you choose to go back to school to improve your job prospects. If you’re lucky, your current job may have offered you a promotion.
Whatever the case may be, a sudden change in plans is always a valid reason for declining an interview.
2. You’ve Lost Interest
It’s perfectly reasonable to lose interest in a job. You can learn things about the company later on that you didn’t know when you applied. It’s not uncommon for applicants to lose interest in the company’s operations or way of doing business.
In some cases, applicants realize that they’re not interested after going in for an initial interview. Maybe you got an invitation to a second or third round. If you don’t feel like you’d be happy working there, because you don’t like the way they do business or you discover you’ll have to be on call 24/7 – decline the next interview.
There’s nothing wrong with that, and declining the interview saves time for everyone involved.
3. It’s Not a Good Fit
Sometimes, you realize that the position isn’t good for you. You might discover more about the job and recognize the responsibilities aren’t what you want.
Alternatively, you might feel that the work culture or the organization’s vision isn’t suitable for you (this can sometimes come up when you’ve asked questions at the end of an interview). Some people also find job opportunities they’re better suited for after applying for a handful of jobs.
Whatever the case may be, it’s better to realize that the job isn’t right for you now than to come to that conclusion later. Declining early and stopping the hiring process now would be beneficial in this case.
4. You Already Accepted a Job Elsewhere
There’s a good chance that you applied to several different companies during your search. While it’s always good to consider all of your options, you might get an offer that’s perfect for you. If that’s the case, declining the interview will save you time and help you focus on your new position.
5. You’ve Gotten New Information About the Company
Finally, you might want to decline an interview after learning more about a company. Researching a company is crucial before heading into an interview. During that process, you could learn things you don’t like.
For example, you might see that the company is suffering financial losses. In that case, working there could be risky. Or maybe you learned more about the company background and saw many red flags you didn’t like.
Don’t ignore your gut instinct. If you don’t want to be a part of the company, now is the time to halt the process.
How to Politely Decline an Interview
Figuring out how to decline a job interview isn’t easy. While it’s tempting to ignore the offer and not respond to the hiring manager or recruiter, it’s best to respond and decline. The last thing you want to do is burn bridges. Word travels fast, and you could potentially give yourself a bad reputation in your industry.
That said, you must give your response careful thought. Declining an interview can come off as disrespectful and ungrateful. You want to be polite and respectful by choosing your words wisely.
Consider Your Options
First things first, make sure declining the offer is something you want to do. Weigh over your options and remember that an interview is precisely that: an interview. It’s not a job offer, and you’re not making any commitments to work at the organization by showing up.
If there’s any inkling of doubt over your decision to decline the job interview, consider accepting it. You learn a lot about an organization during the interview. That experience will either cement your initial decision or clear up some worries.
In that case, going to the interview could be beneficial to you.
Whatever you do, don’t let fear or anxiety keep you from an opportunity. You might feel tempted to back out because it’s your first major interview, or it could be a chance to work at a prestigious organization. Don’t let a bit of fear force you into making a decision you’ll regret later.
Reflect on this choice and make sure that it’s the right one for you before you officially turn down the interview.
Respond Soon, But Not Too Quickly
Here’s where thinking about your decision a little more comes in handy. You want to respond promptly, but you don’t want to send back an immediate no (or else they might wonder why you bothered applying in the first place).
There’s a delicate balance here. Give it a day to mull over the decision. But after that, you must respond. Generally, anything more than a day or so comes off as you wasting time.
Remember: The hiring manager is trying to do their job and fill a vacant position. The longer you wait to decline, the worse you come off! Be respectful of their time and decline the offer promptly so that they can move on to the next candidate.
Be Polite and Thankful
Once you’re ready to decline the job interview, keep this in your mind: Don’t burn bridges!
It doesn’t matter if your research gave you a million red flags and you would never consider working there. Most industries are smaller than you might think. Failing to be polite might come back to bite you later. Plus, you never know if you’ll want to work there in the future.
As a good rule of thumb, always be respectful and thank them for the opportunity. Lead with kindness and gratitude. Keep things professional and do everything you can to maintain a positive working relationship.
Read over your messages multiple times and consider how your words can come off before hitting that “Send” button.
Don’t Dive Too Deep Into the Details
Don’t feel like you need to provide a multi-page essay about why you decided to turn down the interview. Your reply should be short and to the point. Most importantly, your reasoning should also be a bit vague.
You want to communicate that you’re declining the interview and not much more. Why? Because it’s a bit tricky to explain yourself without potentially coming off as inconsiderate.
Even if that’s not your intention, there’s always the chance that your words will get misinterpreted. It’s best to keep it vague and avoid disrespecting the company or hiring manager.
If your reasoning is a change of plans or accepting a job elsewhere, you can briefly mention that if pressed. But there isn’t much to be gained by providing a whole lot of details.
If Possible, Recommend Another Person
What if you’ve worked out how to decline a job interview but know someone who would fit the role you were applying for? Mention them! Of course, make sure it’s alright with the person in question before you do this.
Referring another suitable candidate to the hiring manager or recruiter shows that you don’t have ill intentions in declining the interview. It’s a great way to show your respect and help the company out a bit.
Sample Emails for Declining a Job Interview
Follow those tips above, and you should have no problem crafting a respectful and courteous email. But here are some samples that will help teach you how to turn down a job interview while still being polite.
Sample #1: Short and Sweet
Subject: Invitation to Interview for [Position] at [Organization]
Hello [Name of Recruiter],
Thank you for considering me for [Position] and inviting me to interview for [Organization]. However, I have to decline the opportunity at this time.
I sincerely appreciate your time and consideration.
Sample #2: Recommending Another Candidate
Subject: Interview Invitation for [Position] at [Organization]
Dear [Name of Recruiter],
Thank you so much for taking the time to review my application and reach out. Since I initially applied for [Position] at [Organization], I received and accepted a job at another company, so I respectfully decline your interview offer.
If you need recommendations, I have a colleague I believe would be a fantastic fit for [Organization]. Let me know, and I’d be happy to pass along their information.
Best of luck, and I hope that we have another chance to work together in the future when the timing is right.
Now that you know how to politely decline a job interview, this situation shouldn’t seem intimidating or awkward. This is a common occurrence, and any hiring manager will understand as long as you’re respectful.
Hannah Morgan speaks and writes about job search and career strategies. She founded CareerSherpa.net to educate professionals on how to maneuver through today’s job search process. Hannah was nominated as a LinkedIn Top Voice in Job Search and Careers and is a regular contributor to US News & World Report. She has been quoted by media outlets, including Forbes, USA Today, Money Magazine, Huffington Post, as well as many other publications. She is also author of The Infographic Resume and co-author of Social Networking for Business Success.