How to decline an interview when you don’t want the job
It’s not them, it’s you. (Or maybe it’s them.) Take these steps to let them down easy and keep your professional reputation intact.
When you’re job searching, knowing how to decline an interview is likely not occupying much of your brain space. Who would do that? You hustled hard to get to the point where you actually landed a job interview—and the truth is, it would give you a chance to practice your interview skills. But sometimes, you will need to bow out. That can be due to the fact that you already committed to another company, or the job in question isn’t a good fit. It’s not at all uncommon to back out.
So how exactly do you go about saying, “Thanks, but no thanks,” to a potential job offer?
It’s a tricky position to be in because you don’t want to burn bridges. “You never know, this company could eventually be a client or a vendor, or you may want to go back one day,” says Todd Cherches, CEO and co-founder of executive coaching firm BigBlueGumball.
But you don’t want to waste anyone’s time—including your own. Follow these steps that will teach you how to decline an interview properly.
1. Be sure you really want to cancel
Is there a concrete and compelling reason you’re saying "No thanks," or is it just a fear of the unfamiliar?
“I was offered a job by a former colleague in another industry that I never in a million years thought I’d want to work in,” Cherches says. “My wife said, ‘Just go.’ It ended up being one of the best jobs of my life. You may change your mind once you find out the realities of the job.”
Reach out to your network to see if anyone has prior experience dealing with the company, or knows someone who works there. Ask all the questions that are hanging over your head. Read online employee reviews to triple-check that you’re making the right decision.
It may also be that the thing that’s stopping you—a salary that’s too low, a commute that’s too long—is negotiable. And it may also be that this position isn’t the right fit, but another spot at the company would be. Just don’t psych yourself out of an opportunity simply because you don’t feel like going on yet another job interview, or you feel like the job is beneath you (or too much for you).
2. Don't drag your heels
Time is of the essence. Hiring managers want to fill the open position as quickly as possible, so the sooner you pull out, the better it is for everyone involved. (You want to get on with your own life too, obviously.) Email or call your contact at the company and gracefully bow out. Do NOT ghost them.
This is particularly true if a manager gives you signals that you are their candidate of choice. “If you’re not interested, don’t hang in there merely to get the offer,” says Eli Howayeck, career coach and CEO of Crafted Career Concepts in Milwaukee. “Employers feel vulnerable about this, and saying no after the offer may create hurt feelings.”
Also, if this opportunity came your way because of a helpful contact, let that person know what’s going on. “Chances are that person is a good referral source and you want them to keep introducing you [to other job offers],” says Elene Cafasso, president and founder of Enerpace, Inc. Executive Coaching in the Chicago area.
3. Be gracious in your turn-down
Finding the right person for a position isn’t easy, especially in the upper tiers. “It’s a time commitment,” Cherches says, “and the attention it took to screen you and set up the meetings—they’re invested in you, so be respectful and appreciative.” If you’re at the senior level, you’re better off calling rather than emailing. But if you feel comfortable emailing, say something like this:
Dear [name of hiring manager/HR representative],
I want to express my sincere gratitude for being considered for the position of graphic designer at Cool Company. However, I have decided to decline the interview. I wish you all the best and look forward to seeing the company grow its success.
You do not need to go into detail as to why you’re turning down the interview. Don’t risk burning any bridges by saying something like, “I hope the company can turn itself around quickly” or “Good luck dealing with the current turnover crisis.” Be gracious and succinct.
Consider that this person is likely an industry contact, and you may see them again. In fact, you may even interview with them again for a different position at the company, depending on the circumstances. Even if you have to leave a voicemail, “leave the door open with something like, ‘I’d love to talk to you about this further if we can sync up our calendars; I just don’t want to waste your time,’” Cafasso suggests.
Find the job you want
Now that you know how to decline a job interview, you need to focus on jobs that you do, in fact, want. Need some help with that? Join Monster for free today. As a member, you can upload up to five versions of your resume—each tailored to the types of jobs that interest you. Recruiters search Monster every day looking to fill top jobs with qualified candidates, just like you. Additionally, you can get job alerts sent directly to your inbox to cut down on time spent looking through ads. Plus, you'll get interview insights, career advice, and useful job search tips sent directly to your inbox. Monster will help you find the best jobs and connect with companies that offer the right fit for you.