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  3. How can you decline an interview without making the worst impression?
How can you decline an interview without making the worst impression?

How can you decline an interview without making the worst impression?

Artwork by: Rita Cherepanova

  • Why would you want to decline a job interview?
  • How do you politely decline an interview invitation? 
  • Respond soon, but not so fast
  • Weigh all your options
  • Be polite, professional, and gracious
  • Declining an interview: keep it concise
  • Make a recommendation, if possible
  • Examples of letters declining a job interview
  • Key takeaways

Interviewing is generally a good thing. But you’ve got a lot of requests to interview, and not all of them are what you want. How can you decline an interview without insulting the interviewer? It can be tricky, but we’ll help you to navigate this often awkward task.

When you are applying for new opportunities, you may get few responses, or you may get on a roll and get a lot of invitations to interview. This is great. However, you will probably encounter situations where the job seems right at first, but as things change later on, you decide against it.

Turning down a job opportunity can often feel odd. Especially if you do not have many (or any) other offers. Interviewing never hurts, right? Generally, this is true, but there are good reasons not to interview for a job. Maybe the job no longer seems good to you, or perhaps your current job is offering opportunities for advancement. You may have found out some negative information about the hiring company or discovered some other dealbreakers. We’ll talk more about good reasons to decline an interview later in this article.

Once you have decided to decline their offer, how do you politely decline an invitation to interview for a job? And, more importantly, can you say no and still keep the door open for future opportunities? This article will cover this and give you some examples of how to decline an interview in the right way.

We’ll break down this topic into the following areas:

  • Why should you turn down an interview?

  • What is the best way to decline an interview?

  • Examples to use for declining an interview

Why would you want to decline a job interview?

The job you applied for may have seemed like a good opportunity at the time, but now you have doubts. Before you jump to a decision, sit down and think about your reasons for wanting to decline the interview. Make sure you are not just reacting due to anxiety about leaving your current job or your fear of change. Make a list of the positives and negatives of leaving your job. If the positives clearly outweigh the negatives, then you may want to reconsider declining the offer.

That being said, there are good, solid reasons to turn down an interview. Let’s take a look at some of the most common ones.

1. You’re staying with your current company. You may have changed your mind about leaving your position or company. This happens often. Don’t feel bad about it, but make sure you are staying because it is the right thing to do. If you are positive that staying in your current position is the best career move for you, then it is best to decline and not waste more of anyone’s time on the topic.

2. Life happens and things change. There is often a significant time span between when you apply for a job and when you get a callback for an interview. Many things can change during that timeframe. This is especially true when you are actively pursuing a new job or career. You may want to go back to school and put your career on hold. Maybe you changed your mind about relocating or moving away from your family. Plans change and that is OK.

3. You’ve decided the role is not a good fit for you. Initially, you thought it was a good job for you, but you learned new information that changed your mind. Further discussions with your potential coworkers may reveal the company culture is not what you are looking for. Realizing this before the interview is for the best. 

4. You’ve accepted another offer. When that perfect offer comes up, you have to take it. This means you will likely leave some offers on the table. Be happy that you got your perfect job, but just make sure the deal is final before you turn down any other interviews or offers. Offers can be canceled or revoked. It is perfectly reasonable to continue to interview for other positions while your offer is still tentative. Once your contract is locked in, then you can decline other interviews. Until then, keep your options open. 

5. New negative information about the job. It is quite possible that prior to interviewing, you may discover some additional information about the job or the company that causes you to change your mind about accepting the position.

Some examples of bad news are related to financial issues (losses, debt) which may make the longevity of the position questionable. You may learn more about their corporate culture and feel that it is not the right environment for you. Perhaps the employees are rude or just not nice people. Any of these and more could lead you to change your mind.

6. You’re no longer interested in the job. Between the time you apply and when you get an interview (or second or third interview), you may feel differently about the job and are no longer keen on pursuing it.

This is quite common. Maybe your first interview did not go well, or your feelings about the company may have changed. Your family situation has changed, and you want to stay at your current company or don’t want to move. Any number of things could cause you to lose interest, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Declining as early in the interviewing process as possible always saves time for everyone involved.

How do you politely decline an interview invitation? 

Respond soon, but not so fast

The first thing to consider is the timing of your response. You want to follow up quickly, but make sure you take sufficient time to carefully consider their offer and all your options. Don’t just knee-jerk respond with a negative answer. This will make them think that you never seriously intended to take the position and were just wasting their time.

Don’t take too long. You must keep in mind that they will need to consider other candidates. Your decision affects their efforts. The length of time to wait depends on your circumstances, but, generally, a business day or two is acceptable.

Weigh all your options

Take the time to carefully consider your decision. Examine all the pros and cons before you decline. An interview is a preliminary step, and there is never any harm in interviewing, as long as you are still seriously considering the position.

As we mentioned earlier, don’t be scared or anxious about the new opportunity. Think logically about the job and do not let your emotions get in the way. With that in mind, if you have thought everything through and still come to the conclusion that the job is not right for you, then pull the cord and give them the bad news.

Be polite, professional, and gracious

No matter what your response is, keep it businesslike. Thank them for the opportunity and politely decline. You do not want to be curt, cynical, or sarcastic. No one likes a rude or crass reply. Don’t be that person!

Always keep in mind that having as many business contacts in your network as possible is very valuable for future opportunities. It did not work out this time, but it might in the future. Show them respect, and they will respect you in return.

Proofread your note closely (multiple times) and make sure it does not contain anything that could be construed negatively.

Declining an interview: keep it concise

As with any business writing, you want your letter to be concise. Make your point and conclude. That’s it. Don’t send a long-winded exposition on why you decided to decline their interview. No one wants to read that.

You don’t need to give them a lot of details on why you are declining. That really doesn’t matter to them. If you use too many words to explain why you are turning them down, then you are more likely to leave them with a bad impression. Your goal here is to communicate your decision and to thank them. Period.

Make a recommendation, if possible

Remember that whoever you are communicating with is trying to hire someone. If you have decided you are not interested in the job, then they will find it very helpful if you point them to someone that is. This is especially true if the person you are recommending is a good fit and is qualified. Don’t recommend someone that is not interested. Check with them first! 

Examples of letters declining a job interview

Now that we have covered the “whys” and “hows” of declining an interview, you are prepared to create a well-written and polite letter that will not hurt anyone’s feelings or burn your bridges. Below, we’ll give you some examples of generic letters you can use as templates.

Being brief is always a good thing, especially when you are delivering bad news.


A short and to the point letter.

Subject: Invitation to interview for [Position name] at [Company name]

Hello [Contact name],

Thank you for considering me for [Position name] and the invitation to interview for [Company name]. However, I have decided to decline the opportunity at this time.

I appreciate your time and consideration.

Best Regards,

[Your full name]

[Email address]

[Phone number]

If you have already accepted an offer from a different company, and you know some people that would be excellent for the role, then you could use something like this.


Accepted a different offer, but you can recommend someone.

Subject: Invitation to interview for [Position name] at [Company name]

Hello [Contact name],

Thank you very much for taking the time to review my resume and contact me. After applying for [Position name] at [Company name], I received and have accepted another offer. I will be unable to interview for your position.

I do have some excellent colleagues that I feel would be a great fit for [Company name]. Please let me know, and I’d be happy to pass along their contact information.

I wish you the best of luck, and hope we will have another chance to interact in the future.


[Your full name]

[Email address]

[Phone number]

For when you have already accepted an offer from a different company, completed at least one interview, and don’t have anyone to recommend.


Accepted a different offer. No one to recommend.

Subject: Invitation to interview for [Position name] at [Company name]

Hello [Contact name],

Thank you so much for taking the time to interview and consider me for the [Position name]. I greatly enjoyed meeting you and the team, as well as learning more about [reference a specific topic that was covered in the interview or meeting].

It was a difficult choice, but I have chosen to accept another opportunity. I hope you will find a great candidate for your [Position name] and wish [Company name] success in all its future endeavors.


[Your full name]

[Email address]

[Phone number]

Sending that “no, thank you” letter or email always feels awkward. Don’t give in to the temptation to over-explain why you are not accepting the interview. They really don’t care why you are declining. It’s just business, and you are not obligated to give them a specific reason.

Key takeaways

  1. It would be great if you only got invited to interviews that you wanted, but that is not the real world. Putting yourself out there for new opportunities means you are going to receive offers and interviews that you don’t want. Being prepared for it is your best approach.

  2. When the job, role, company, or timing isn't a good match, know that turning down an interview is a professional interaction. Don’t blow it off or be glib about it. Provide a timely, thoughtful, and businesslike response

  3. Politely declining a job interview shouldn’t be intimidating or awkward. This often happens and anyone will understand as long as you’re professional and respectful.

  4. Be thankful for the opportunity and gracious about turning it down. Appreciate the time and effort they put into considering your application, screening, and interviewing. Pay it forward because you never know what the future holds!

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