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Andrew Arkley|January 9, 2023

How To Turn Down A Job Interview: Our Guide

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Wondering how to turn down an interview in a way that won’t burn bridges with the company? 

According to CareerPlug, last year only 20% of applicants received an interview. It means you shouldn’t take an interview opportunity for granted – it can require a lot of time and many applications to land one.

However, there are occasions when the right thing to do is turn it down – we’ll discuss those reasons shortly, because some are more clear-cut than others.

If you’re struggling to get interviews for the jobs you prefer, make sure you know how to write a stand out CV to secure those interviews.

So, are you in two minds about how to turn down an interview? We’ll explain the best way to do it in this article.

Bad reasons for rejecting a job interview

Before thinking about how to turn down an interview, make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons.

Sometimes, candidates reject an invitation because they overthink things. These are some of the common ways applicants turn down an interview offer for the wrong reasons:

  • You’re not sure if you want the job: Interviews aren’t meant to be a one-way street, they’re a chance for you to find out more about a role and the company. After an interview, the opportunity may look very different to how it seemed in the job description. Instead of second guessing that you won’t like the job, go to the interview with an open mind.
  • You’re not sure if you want the job, but you like the company: If you like the company, an interview is a great chance to get a foot in the door, even if the role isn’t right for you. You never know – perhaps you’ll find out about a different opportunity during the interview that’s a better fit.
  • You’re afraid of rejection: That’s probably just a sign you’re a modest person. The interviewer has already decided you’re good enough by inviting you to interview! You’ve got nothing to lose – but if you turn down the interview, you definitely will lose the opportunity. Check out our advice on how to make an impact at your interview.
  • You don’t have time to go to the interview: If the interviewer’s proposed slot falls on a busy day, or a busy week, or you’re unwell, don’t just decline the invitation. Instead, ask kindly if you can rearrange it for a more convenient time – they’ll probably agree.

However, we’re not saying you should always go to every interview you’re offered – far from it. 

There are definitely times when you need to know how to turn down an interview courteously during your job search.

Good reasons for declining a job interview

Here are some situations where the right thing to do is cancel your interview:

  • You’ve had a change of heart – you’re staying: You used to be unhappy at your current job, but now something’s changed and it’s much better – perhaps your boss left, or your role changed. If you don’t want a new job anymore, cancel your other interviews.
  • You’ve found a new job somewhere else: If you’ve just signed on the dotted line at another company, politely decline any remaining interviews you had lined up.
  • You’ve found a ‘red flag’ after further research: After applying and receiving a job interview offer, now you’re preparing in-depth and you discover something major you don’t like. It should be something serious and credible, though – such as a trusted potential teammate describing an unhealthy company culture – before you cancel anything.
  • You’re unimpressed after the first interview: If you’ve already had one interview and decided that you can’t see yourself working for the company, that’s a fair reason to turn down the offer of a second interview.

When planning how to turn down an interview, make sure you do so in a way that avoids any negative repercussions further down the line.

How to turn down an interview professionally

Your paths may cross with the company or the interviewer again one day, and there’s a chance they may hold it against you if they remember anything unprofessional about your actions.

Don’t burn any bridges and above all, be polite and courteous – don’t be rude, ever. 

They’ve taken the time to review and progress your application, so thank them accordingly. Even if their communication or procedures haven’t been ideal, there’s nothing to gain by trying to settle some scores and declining an interview unprofessionally.

A key point to remember when thinking about how to turn down an interview is not to go into too much detail about your reasons for turning down the opportunity. Save yourself and the reader some time. 

And if you have any misgivings or criticisms to make about the process so far, this isn’t the best forum for them.

Try to be prompt too – give the interviewer as much notice as possible. They may have had to set aside other work or move some meetings around for your interview, so don’t cancel at the last minute unless it’s completely unavoidable.

Examples: how to decline a job interview

There are some commonly accepted phrases to use in situations like this. While they’re not unique and don’t provide much detail, employers accept them as polite and courteous ways to decline an interview. 

These are important to bear in mind when planning how to turn down an interview offer. For example, the key statement in your message could be:

  • “Due to recent changes in my circumstances, I am withdrawing my job application.”
  • “I am withdrawing my job application because I am no longer available for this position.”
  • “After recently accepting another opportunity elsewhere, I am no longer available for the upcoming interview.”
  • “Following careful deliberation I have decided to accept another position elsewhere and must decline this opportunity.”

If you’re turning down a second or third round interview, add a polite acknowledgement about the process up until this point, such as:

  • “I really enjoyed meeting you and discussing the opportunity.”
  • “Thank you very much for taking the time to meet with me.”

Polite statements to use when wrapping up your message include:

  • “I greatly appreciate your time and consideration.”
  • “I wish your company every success going forward.”
  • “I look forward to following the company’s success.”
  • “I apologise for any inconvenience this may cause.”

You may, or may not, receive a reply acknowledging your message – so don’t worry if you don’t hear back.

How to be polite if asked for more specific reasons

Sometimes, unless you’ve been offered another job, the company may be interested in finding out more detail about why you’re declining an interview.

It’s still a good idea to reply with a relatively general statement though, for example:

  • “My circumstances have changed unexpectedly.”
  • “After a period of reflection, I have refocused my job search elsewhere.”
  • “After careful consideration, I have re-evaluated my career options.”

Again, we don’t recommend making any unnecessary criticisms or highlighting something you disliked about their process.

Final thoughts: how to turn down an interview

We hope this article has helped you think about how to decline a job interview the right way.

Remember that if you want to go to the interview but just can’t make it work with your busy schedule, don’t just turn it down – ask if you can rearrange it.

Sometimes, you may find yourself rejecting an interview but knowing someone else who could be a good fit. If so, check with the candidate you have in mind first and if they approve, you could recommend them to the employer at this stage and pass on their details.

If you do decide on going for the interview, make sure you know how to tell if the interview went well or not.

We’ve also written recently about how to decline a job offer, following a successful final interview.Thinking about how to turn down an interview, but still looking for a new role? If you need any help writing a CV or cover letter, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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