How to cancel a job interview (without burning bridges)

Updated on August 7, 2023
How to cancel a job interview (without burning bridges)

It’s not uncommon to win that dream job interview and suddenly realize that you can’t attend the meeting with the recruiter.

The best way to cancel a job interview is to contact the recruiter as soon as possible to let them know that you won’t be able to attend.

You can write them an email, a DM, or give them a call. If you are still interested in the position, ask them if it would be possible to reschedule the interview for another date.

Whether you’ve changed your mind, you got a better offer from another company, or something has just come up and you need to reschedule, there is a protocol to follow on how to cancel your job interview that showcases your professionalism and minimizes the impact on interviewers.

Is it unprofessional to cancel an interview?

Is it unprofessional to cancel an interview

It is not unprofessional to cancel a job interview because life is unpredictable, and things can happen unexpectedly.

Any HR manager will understand your reasons for canceling your meeting with them as long as you do this in due time and give them sufficient notice.

Furthermore, it would be unprofessional to waste a company’s time by attending an interview for a job you’re not going to take. It would be better to be honest with them from the start and decline the meeting.

It is not uncommon for job candidates to be unable to attend job interviews due to personal circumstances.

Also, if you intend to postpone the meeting for another more convenient day, then there’s nothing unprofessional about canceling the interview.

On that note, it goes without saying that it is unprofessional to simply not turn to a job interview without notifying the hiring manager in advance.

You may think that it wouldn’t matter, as you don’t owe an explanation to someone you’ve never met, but in reality, the word can spread quickly and hurt your reputation.

Is it rude to cancel a job interview last minute?

It is rude to cancel your job interview at the last minute without a valid excuse. You may be considered ill-mannered and arrogant for not giving sufficient notice.

This would definitely waste the time of the recruiters, and it might alienate them from you.

But what exactly is considered a last-minute cancelation?

Well, phoning the HR professional on the same day of the interview or emailing them the night before the meeting can be viewed as unprofessional and disrespectful, unless you apologize and give solid reasons for potentially wasting their time and disrupting their work day.

Still, emergency situations and accidents do occur, so if something is beyond your control, then there isn’t much you can do about it.

No matter how late you cancel the interview, it’s still better to notify the company, even at short notice, than not inform them at all of your inability to attend.

How to cancel a job interview

How to cancel a job interview

Whatever the cause for your change of heart is – a better job offer, illness, or some other important reason, you can inform the HR manager about this politely and without jeopardizing the possibility of meeting them in the future if you decide to reapply.

Consider following these 5 simple steps of how to cancel a job interview without burning bridges.

1. Make sure to give sufficient notice

Notify the interviewer as soon as you know that you’re not going to attend the meeting. This will show them that you are considerate and respectful of their time.

The HR manager may still have the time to fill the vacant meeting slot by setting up an interview with another candidate

2. Be direct and honest

Start with reminding the HR specialist of who you are and include all the important details, such as the job title you’ve applied for and the date of the interview.

Also, don’t beat around the bush before getting to the point, as this will only annoy the hiring manager.

It’s enough as it is that they have to rearrange their timetable and possibly approach another candidate.

So, don’t waste their time any further by canceling the job interview with a long, windy email or lengthy phone call.

3. Give your reasons and apologize

Apologize for the inconvenience with a good explanation for declining the job interview. Giving lame reasons for canceling the meeting is unprofessional and can damage your reputation.

Sometimes, however, you may resort to a white lie if the reason for canceling the interview is something bad you’ve learned about the company in the meantime.

Just make your excuses nice and short, and apologize politely for not being able to make it to the interview.

4. Show gratitude for the opportunity

Don’t forget to be thankful for the given opportunity and consideration for the job role. After all, you may have been chosen over other candidates who never made it to the interview stage.

Also, it won’t hurt if you wish the company success in its future endeavors and express hope that they find the right candidate for the job.

5. Try to postpone the interview if need be

If the reason for canceling the interview is simply a conflicting schedule and you’re actually still interested in the job position, try to reschedule the meeting for another day.

(And if you are able to reschedule it, then you should definitely check our guide on how to prepare for an interview and get the job offer.)

Again, explain why you cannot attend on the original date and be sincerely apologetic for wishing to postpone the meeting.

When the time for your rescheduled interview comes, make sure to arrive a bit early so as to make sure that everything will go smoothly.

Why do job applicants cancel interviews?

There are various legitimate reasons why a candidate might need to cancel a job interview.

While it's essential to approach such decisions with professionalism, it's equally important to recognize when it's appropriate to reschedule or decline an interview.

Here are some common reasons:

  • Acceptance of another job offer - they've already accepted a position elsewhere and no longer need to explore other opportunities.
  • Change in personal circumstances - situations like relocation, personal emergencies, or health issues.
  • Mismatch in job expectations - after thorough research, people realize the role or company might not align with their career goals or values.
  • Scheduling conflicts - unavoidable commitments or appointments that clash with the interview time.
  • Inadequate preparation time - candidates feel they haven't had enough time to prepare adequately.
  • Travel issues - unexpected travel delays or problems that prevent them from reaching the interview location on time.

I remember rescheduling an interview about 10 years ago. I had applied for a Canadian call center with French language, and when the interviewer called me, I asked for a few extra days to polish my rusty French.

The interviewer understood and gave me 5 days to prepare.

How to cancel an interview over the phone

Cancel an interview over the phone when you’re doing it at short notice. Briefly explain who you are and tell the person that you won't be able to make it to the interview.

Make sure to apologize to the recruiter and give them a respectable reason to show that you are being genuine.

Emergency situations happen, and you may not be able to notify the HR manager in writing, yet, in due time.

A polite phone call is also acceptable if this is the second or third interview before potentially getting hired. You’ve already met the interviewer and built a good rapport with them.

However, something has just come up, and you want to cancel the last interview with the intention to postpone it.

How to cancel an interview via email

If you need help with writing an email to cancel a job interview, here is an example:

Dear (Name),

I’m writing to ask you if we could cancel my interview, regarding the job position for (Job title) I’ve applied for, scheduled for (Date).

Unfortunately, I’m unable to attend, due to a change in my circumstances (or include your reasons).

Thank you for your time and the given opportunity, and I sincerely apologize for any inconvenience caused.

I wish you success in finding the right candidate for the role.

Kindest Regards,
(Your name)

How to cancel an interview because you got a job

It’s not uncommon in highly competitive fields to get job opportunities and invitations for interviews by multiple employers at the same time.

Just decide on your top pick and approach the rest directly with an honest apology for canceling the job interviews.

You don’t need to rub it in with details about how much better that offer is and use it as leverage for negotiating a more lucrative pay.

Be respectful and polite, as you never know if you will change your mind in the future, and reach out to apply again for a role at the company you’re presently saying ‘no’ to.

How to cancel a job interview when no longer interested

How to cancel a job interview when no longer interested

If you’re no longer interested in the job you’ve just won an interview for, you better decline the invitation straight away.

Whether you’ve heard disconcerting information about the organization or you simply don’t want to settle for second best.

It’s only fair to inform the hiring manager of your decision instead of wasting their valuable time and yours.

Here are some useful tips on how to tell a persistent recruiter that you are not interested in a position.

Recruiting processes are costly and time-consuming, so leave a good impression by passing on the chance of getting hired to another suitable and keen candidate instead of attending an interview for a job you don’t want.

How to cancel a job interview due to illness

Don’t cancel a job interview due to illness but simply reschedule it. This is how:

  1. Write an email to the HR manager in advance or call them if you felt ill on the day of your job interview (or the day before).
  2. Introduce yourself, then include the job title you’re applying for and the meeting time, as the recruiter may have other interviews on that day.
  3. Ask kindly to postpone the meeting for another convenient day, when you believe that you’ll be fit again to attend.
  4. Apologize for any inconvenience.

Protip: Consider wearing glasses when the time for your rescheduled interview comes to appear more competent and trustworthy.

This will increase your chances of getting hired. Bringing notes and using them strategically is another great way to help yourself during a job interview.

When is it too late to cancel an interview?

It is never too late to cancel an interview if attending means wasting your time and that of the recruiters. Naturally, the sooner you do it, the better.

But sometimes, emergencies happen, and you need to decline the meeting at short notice.

It is far more respectful to inform the hiring manager of your inability to meet them even some minutes before the interview than appear as a ‘no-show-no call’.

Believe it or not, it’s normal for job candidates to contact the recruiter after the interview is supposed to start.

And if this sounds totally unprofessional, there could have been a good reason for their failure to attend, be it a traffic accident or personal injury.

An apologetic explanation, even past the interview appointment, is the professional thing to do, instead of not calling at all and keeping the hiring manager in the dark about what has happened.

Frequently asked questions canceling a job interview

How much notice should I give when canceling an interview?

You should provide as much notice as possible. Ideally, notify the interviewer at least 24 hours in advance, or as soon as you know you won't be able to attend.

Should I provide a reason?

While it's not mandatory to provide a reason, it's generally seen as courteous to briefly explain why you're canceling, especially if you're open to rescheduling.

Can I reschedule an interview after canceling?

Yes, you can suggest a reschedule when you cancel, if you're still interested in the position. However, the decision to reschedule is ultimately up to the employer.

Will canceling an interview negatively impact my chances of getting a job in the future?

If done professionally and courteously, it should not negatively impact your future job prospects. However, frequent cancellations may give an impression of unreliability.

Written by:
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galin office topics square
co-founder / office worker
Alex has been an office worker for more than 10 years. He is dedicated to helping other office workers to achieve the perfect life-work balance through well-being, effective communication, and building productive habits.

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