How to Turn Down an Interview Invitation

How to Turn Down an Interview Invitation

Updated 8 April 2021

To some, particularly those who have been engaged in a long job search, the idea of turning down a job interview might seem incomprehensible, but there are many reasons why you might decide to decline a job interview.

You should of course be careful to give yourself the best chance of success, and in most circumstances, attending the interview regardless will be the right decision.

It will give you interview practice, and it might land you a job.

Remember, an invitation to the interview is not a job offer, so you can still change your mind after the interview takes place.

Deciding to Decline a Job Interview

That said, an invitation to attend an interview is just that – an invitation, albeit one that is usually expected will be attended.

It is not a summons and there are many valid reasons why it might be best to turn down a job interview.

It is a good idea to be clear with yourself as to what your reasons are for deciding to end this particular job application and make sure that you’re not simply looking for a way out due to nervousness or anxiety.

After all, if you don’t get the job then you’re no worse off than if you don’t go to the interview, and you may have gained valuable experience or contacts.

Things to Consider Before Turning Down the Interview

Although you will want to let the interviewer know in good time, you should take a moment to decide whether attending the interview is right for you.

Therefore, giving yourself 24 (or even 48) hours to think about the following is a sound plan:

Thoroughly Research the Company

Take more time to research the company.

Perhaps you did the job application quickly because the closing date was approaching.

Perhaps you only applied because it’s a large employer in your area – but you’re not quite sure about their ethics and stance on things that are important to you.

Take time to read a variety of reviews and perspectives before deciding.

Check Employer Reviews Online

If the company is large enough to have a presence on glassdoor.com or other graduate forums, take time to see what others are saying about them.

Don’t just look at a large ‘best places to work’ list like Forbes; think about what the actual employee satisfaction is like at the level you’ll be working and what the actual employees have to say about the working environment and expectations.

Talk to a Trusted Individual

This might be a friend, partner or family member, but this is really a question for your mentor or sponsor, or even coach.

Ideally, you should have someone you can talk to in your industry that does not work for your current organization.

Talk through the pros and cons of making the next step versus staying where you are.

Reach Out to People Who Work There

As a last resort, you could go through your address book/email list/LinkedIn contacts list to see whether you know anyone who does or has worked at the business.

Try and seek an insider perspective on what it is really like to work there and whether the company makes good on the promises made on their website – in particular, if you have concerns about working practices, ethics and company values.

Revisit the Job Description

Make sure you have a copy of the job description handy when deciding whether you want to attend the interview.

Ensure that the job requirements are a good fit for your skills and experience and that you are confident that you can talk about this at interview.

See if the potential job excites you or fits in with your career development plan.

Ultimately, ensure that the job is one you want to do, you feel you can do and will still want to do in a year or so.

How to Turn Down an Interview Invitation

The most important thing is of course to tell the interviewer that you have decided to terminate your application and won’t be attending the interview.

It is extremely unprofessional to simply not turn up, or to pretend that you never received the communication inviting you to the interview.

Most industries, however large they seem, are actually quite small and it is likely that throughout your career you may encounter the hiring manager or recruiter again.

You also don’t want to burn your bridges with the company in question.

Even if you don’t want this role or opportunity, that doesn’t mean you won’t want any future ones.

You should therefore act promptly and certainly in good time ahead of the interview with a two-pronged plan.

If you are certain that you do not wish to continue your application, you should respond promptly and in writing (in most cases by email), preferably addressed to the person who offered you the interview.

Proceed in the same fashion as you would do to accept and make arrangements.

You should be clear and gracious in your response, thanking them for the opportunity but declining the meeting and apologizing for any inconvenience caused, but without giving any kind of specific reasoning.

If you do not get a response within 24 hours, you should then follow this email up with a telephone call to ensure that your message has been received.

How to Turn Down an Interview InvitationHow to Turn Down an Interview Invitation

Reasons You Might Want to Turn Down Your Interview Invitation

First, if you have made a direct application to the company, it would be ideal if you had already done the research into the company, the background of the business and any directors and staff, particularly if it is a small company.

That said, circumstances do change and you may find out something in relation to the future of the business or perhaps the working culture of the company that is so final or out of line with your values that it is the best thing to terminate the process.

You may also have a change of circumstances in your family or personal life that means you need to decline.

You may also have made an application to a recruiter or an agency who has put you forward for roles they deem suitable, and so it may be the first time that you have thought about working for that organization.

Here are some key reasons and advice on how to decline for each:

You Have Been Offered Another Job

The most common reason for turning down an interview is that you applied for multiple jobs at the same time and you find yourself with a job offer.

You could perhaps think of this in a similar way to university applications – you apply to six courses and have to make a decision before you hear back from them all.

You eventually get offered interviews at the other courses but have to decline as you’ve already made a firm acceptance.

If you are truly torn between two options, and the timings work out, you can always respond to the job offer asking for a few days to decide and then attend the interview. This could give you a good opportunity for negotiation later down the line.

Here is an example response:

Thank you for the invitation to attend the interview on Friday. Since beginning the application process, I have been offered and decided to accept a role elsewhere as I have a particular interest in human rights.

I love the work you do but I don’t want to waste your time, so I am declining your invitation.

You Have Decided to Stay in Your Current Job

Another common reason to decline an interview is when things have changed in your current role.

Perhaps you have been offered an internal promotion or pay rise that has convinced you to stay with your current organization.

Perhaps just going through the application process for another role has made you think twice about moving.

As the hiring process may take some time, maybe the working landscape has changed and you prefer the stability and protection of remaining in the same role.

Maybe you want to make use of the current employment benefits (for example, maternity or paternity leave) offered at the place you work already.

Example response:

I appreciate the opportunity to attend the interview on Monday. However, as I have now been appointed to project lead, on reflection, I don’t feel that this is the right time to leave my current employer and therefore, with regret, I must decline your invitation.

Your Commitments or Schedule Has Changed

A third valid reason might be that your personal life has moved on.

Perhaps, as mentioned above, your circumstances have changed and you are suddenly in the position where taking on a new role would be a bad idea.

Perhaps you have caring responsibilities that would make a new role unmanageable or you need to rely on the benefits accrued by your current place of work, or you have suddenly been offered an exciting secondment which will give you a new perspective.

Example response:

Thank you for the invitation to attend the interview on Friday. Unfortunately, due to a change in my personal circumstances, I am no longer looking to take on a new position at the moment and, with regret, must decline the opportunity.

The Commute Is Too Long

Ordinarily, you should have considered this before you made the job application but obviously circumstances change.

Perhaps you have had to move to another location, or perhaps the company has changed the location of the office or role.

Perhaps the public transport options have been altered so what was once manageable is no longer viable, particularly if you are in a smaller city and live in a rural location.

This is a valid reason for bringing the job application process to an end, but one that can be phrased along the lines of personal circumstances having changed, as above.

The Pay Isn’t Enough

Again, you should have researched the general base salary bracket offered for the role and compared this to your life expenses.

However, occasionally there will be circumstances where it might have felt right when making the job application but it becomes apparent that the money offered just will not be enough.

Sometimes, salary won't be mentioned in the application and you may have just found out via an inquiry to HR.

Again, this would be appropriate to mention under a change in personal circumstances when replying to the interview invitation. However, don't be afraid to respectfully mention in in your email, you never know, they may want to negotiate now.

Remember, if the discrepancy is small, it is usually worth attending the interview with the intention of negotiating the salary and benefits package on receiving a job offer.

Thank you for the invitation to attend the interview on Friday. Unfortunately, the salary mentioned in our phone conversation last week was less than I was hoping for.

If you were able to offer within the range of [salary range], then I would love to attend the interview and find out more about the role.

I completely understand if this isn't possible and, if that is the case, I will have to respectfully decline your invitation.

The Position Doesn’t Advance Your Career

It may be that after making the job application you then were invited to carry out a screening call with the recruiter who outlined the job further and, on reflection, it does not sound like it is a step up for your career.

If you are absolutely clear that the role cannot evolve or progress, it is probably better for all concerned to terminate the process and continue looking for other roles that do suit you and your career better.

In these circumstances, you should generally be honest about your concerns. It may be that there are other jobs available or that the position could be changed to suit.

Thank you for your invitation to interview with [Company Name] for [job role]. I am really looking for a role that will help me progress into management in the next few years. When discussing this with you on the phone, I realized that this role may not allow me to do that.

I feel it would be best to decline the interview at this stage.

Please keep me in mind for future vacancies as I have admired your company for a while and would love to work with you in the future.

It Doesn't Feel Like the Right Fit

In these circumstances, it would be best to not give any reasons at all, particularly as, if you’re being honest with yourself, you shouldn’t have made the application at all.

It is better to realize this now than to continue to waste their and your time with the interview, but keep your decline short and to the point.

Thank you for your invitation to interview. After consideration, I regret to respond that I would like to withdraw my application at this stage.

You Decide After the Second Interview

Of course, this could be the second or even third interview that you have done with this company.

Often there are several rounds of interviews and it could be that after meeting with your prospective boss or team members you have realized the job (or perhaps the company) is not the right one for you.

You may have been expecting the application to have been terminated by the recruiter but where that is not the case and you don’t want to continue with the process, you will need to turn down the invitation to the next interview.

Remember that the company will already have invested a lot of time and consideration into your application and you may be only one of a few candidates left in the running, so make sure you thank them for their time.

You may also have built relationships with the interviewers that might come in useful in the future.

Thank you for the invitation to attend the third round of interviews on Tuesday and for taking the time to talk to me last week.

I enjoyed the application day and found the project compelling; however, my circumstances have changed and unfortunately I have to withdraw from the application process.

Please wish the team luck finding a suitable candidate. I look forward to hearing about the project's success.

The Company Has Made Recent Layoffs

This reason is valid, as no one wants to start work at a company that has no prospect of success over the long term. However, it is also tricky.

The layoffs may have been in other departments, or for other reasons.

The company may be simply restructuring to respond to new market needs or allow more effort to be put behind more profitable revenue streams.

However, if you have lost confidence in the employer, you should decline in a polite but brief manner.

Thank you for your invitation to interview. After consideration, I regret to respond that I would like to withdraw my application.

Full Example Email for Turning Down an Interview Invitation

Dear Hiring Manager/Recruiter (always use their name)

Thank you for your invitation to attend the interview for [job role] at [company name]. I am grateful for the opportunity to be considered for the position.

However, it is with regret that

(A) there has been a change in personal circumstances.

(B) in the time since making my application I have been offered a position at an alternative company which I have accepted.

OR

(C) I must withdraw from the application process.

I therefore must decline the invitation to the interview on [date/time].

I wish you the best in your search for the successful candidate.

Yours sincerely

[Your Name]

Final Thoughts

The most important thing when declining an offer to attend an interview is to make sure that the person inviting you to the interview knows not to expect you and has time to invite another candidate in your place.

While it is tempting to explain your reasoning, once you have turned down the invitation there is no going back, and therefore the actual reason is immaterial.

It is best left as a simple and professional version of ‘No, I won’t be attending’, therefore ensuring that if you were to encounter the business or, more likely, the recruiter in question when they move to a new role, that you haven’t put future opportunities at risk too.