Sometimes life just happens. So when you have an appointment for a job interview, but you can’t make it in time, what should you do?
To help you determine the right way to do it, we asked experts to share their insights on how to politely cancel a job interview.
Let’s find out:
Ron Auerbach, MBA
Educator | Career Coach | Job Search Expert | Author, “Think Like an Interviewer: Your Job Hunting Guide to Success“
There are many reasons why a job candidate needs to cancel an interview. For example, you may have already found another job, or some emergency has arisen. Regardless of your reason(s), it’s extremely important that you let them know as soon as possible and maintain your professionalism. So a simple, “Need to cancel” isn’t enough.
When you contact the recruiter or employer, remind them when your interview was scheduled
Remember, they’re dealing with multiple candidates for various jobs at varying dates and times. So the professional way to handle things is reminding them exactly when your job interview was scheduled and for what job(s) you were going to be interviewed. This way, they’ll be able to match up you and your interview more quickly rather than having to waste time looking it up.
Scenario 1: You need to reschedule your interview
There are many different ways to phrase things. And it’s a personal choice whether or not you want to provide the reason for your having to reschedule. In my first template, I do not provide a reason. And if your interview was for a specific job, I left room for you to insert it. You will also notice that I left room to include the job posting or announcement number if there was one. This will help the recruiter or hiring manager more easily recall and match your interview with the position.
FYI, it’s perfectly all right if you wanted to reverse the order. So you could, if you wanted, put the job # ahead of needing to reschedule. But if you don’t have a job posting number or specific position for your interview, then you can leave this piece out.
Notice how I provide three alternative dates and times. It’s a personal choice of how many you’d like to include. But you don’t want it to be too long. So two to four alternatives are really all that’s necessary. By helping them out with available dates and times on your end, it makes it easier for them to check and see if it works on theirs. This can help reduce how much back and forth you’ll have.
It’s also being proactive by anticipating their need to know when you’ll be available. So you’re trying to be helpful and proactive, which will definitely be appreciated and make you look very professional. And notice how I left room for the days, dates, and times of when you happen to be available for another interview. Some job seekers will only provide alternative dates and times without specifying the days. This last piece is optional but will be helpful to readers because they’ll immediately know if those days are good for them. So I think it’s a good idea to include it.
Here is another version same letter or email. But this time, it begins with your having looked forward to the interview rather than needing to reschedule. And it moves the part about none of those alternative dates working to the first paragraph. But just like the first template, this one also doesn’t provide a reason for having to reschedule.
With this third template, I chose to use a modified version of the second example. FYI, I could have just as easily chosen the first one. So it really doesn’t matter which template happens to be more to your liking, both will suffice. And this time around, I provide a reason behind the need to reschedule.
Notice how the reason is something that is perfectly understandable. In other words, it’s something that an employer or recruiter will not question. This is super important! Your reason must be something they will find a legitimate and good reason for having to reschedule, not some lame excuse they will feel doesn’t justify having to cancel and reschedule.
Scenario 2: You need to cancel your interview and not reschedule
When you need to merely cancel but not reschedule your interview, your letter or email is not as complicated. So there’s no need to offer any alternate dates and times because you’re not going to meet with the recruiter or employer at all. So it’s basically very short, sweet, and to the point. In this example, the reason I offer is having accepted another job. A perfectly legitimate and understandable reason for no longer needing to interview with this place.
When you cancel an interview, your reason has to be completely understandable
So just like with providing a reason to needing to reschedule, when you cancel an interview, your reason also has to be completely understandable to the recruiter or employer. And notice how I let them know that I didn’t want to waste their time. This shows I’m looking at things from their side. And being professional enough to realize that wasting time won’t be appreciated should I ever need to reapply at some point in the future.
Thanking them for considering you in the very first place is also a very nice and professional thing to do. It also ends your cancellation notice on a higher note than just saying you no longer need to be interviewed. Something else that makes you look better in their minds.
Managing Director, Sigma Recruitment
Use an appropriate email subject
A clear and concise email subject ensures the recipient will open your email and they will quickly understand which interview you are referring to. This does not have to be complicated; it could be as simple as job title+interview
Social Media Manager Interview
Address the right person and mention interview details
Next, be sure to address the interviewer professionally (avoid first names even if you feel you had an initial connection). Get straight to the point by mentioning that you would like to cancel the interview. You can mention the time and date the interview was set to take place.
Dear Ms. Brown, I would like to cancel the interview scheduled for December 5, 2019, at 9.00 am.
Provide a reason for the cancellation
Mention why you will not be attending the interview. This needs to be a valid reason but you do not need to go into details. Do not be afraid to mention if you have received a job offer or are no longer interested in pursuing the job further.
I would like to cancel the interview scheduled for December 5, 2019, at 9.00 a, due to a family emergency that needs to be taken care of immediately.
Be polite and apologize for any inconvenience caused. If you wish to reschedule the interview, this is a good time to request a change of date.
I apologize for any inconvenience caused. I am still very interested in pursuing this position and if possible, may I request a reschedule of the interview for any of these dates (propose one or two dates when you are sure you will be available)?
Thank the interviewer for the invitation, their time, and where applicable, their consideration regarding rescheduling the interview.
Dear Ms. Brown,
I would like to cancel the interview scheduled for December 5, 2019, at 9.00 am.
I have to attend to a family emergency that requires me to travel to (insert destination)immediately and I am unsure for how long I will be away. I apologize for any inconvenience caused but I look forward to cooperating on other opportunities in the future.
Thank you for inviting me to the interview and for your time.
Canceling a job interview may be a luxury for many job candidates. If you are among the lucky ones who have received many interview invites and already have an offer, inevitably you will have to cancel a few job interviews.
Even though you already have an offer, please have in mind that in the future you may apply for a job with the same company again.
In the past year, we analyzed the responses of 250,000+ job seekers who used our company and came up with these tips:
Always respond to recruiters, no matter what your response is
There is nothing worse than not turning up for an interview without providing any reason to the recruiter. This is the best way to be included on their ”blacklist” of candidates they would never invite for an interview again.
Be polite and professional
Your response may result in an even better offer than the one you have. Language is very important and here’s a great example of a response that was valued high by the recruiter.
Joining your company as a Product Manager would be an invaluable opportunity for me to broaden my skills and advance my career. Having said so, I really appreciate the chance you have given to me and the interview invite.
However, I have already received a job offer and I need to provide a response in just 2 days. As the hiring process on your side is still in a very early stage, I will not be able to proceed with the interview.
An answer like this is likely to result in more opportunities as the recruiters value the sincere interest of the candidate.
President, Hurwitz Strategic Staffing, Ltd.
I just wanted to point out that canceling is different from rescheduling.
Let them know as soon as possible
To cancel an interview, as soon as you know that you have to cancel, call AND, if you don’t reach the person leave a voice mail message and email the recruiter/employer as well.
Say you have to cancel, give a very brief explanation, thank them and wish them the very best. The important thing is not to burn bridges. They will remember that you canceled and if it is done unprofessionally, like at the last moment or with a lame excuse, they’ll remember and you can forget about ever working for them.
Just tell the truth
If the reason for the cancellation is technical, your car broke down, you don’t want to call them an hour before the interview which means you did not plan properly. But, that’s a reschedule call, not a cancellation. So there are no technical reasons to cancel. Here are some examples:
I am sorry, but I have to cancel Monday’s interview. I appreciate the opportunity but I have accepted another position. I wish you the very best and, again, my apologies.
I am sorry, but I have to cancel Monday’s interview. Due to a family emergency, I am no longer in a position to consider a new position. Thank you for understanding and good luck with your search.
Associate Prof. of Management & Human Resources (Retired)
Provide the potential employer an actual cancellation notification
Simply skipping the interview is completely unacceptable behavior! The members of the interview team have other work-related duties, so give them enough notice so that they can modify their schedules.
Always keep in mind that you may cross paths with one of those folks at a later date.
Tell the truth about ‘why’ you’re canceling the interview
Hiring managers have heard plenty of fabricated stories in this regard, and they’ll usually catch on if you’re being untruthful. So if your situation has changed, be forthright and concise.. (They’ll appreciate your honesty.)
As an example of my advice, when I began job-hunting after finishing my master’s degree in the late 70s, I quickly lined up five interviews. The first three were in my hometown of Detroit, and after those interviews, I received two job offers. But after learning more about those positions, neither situation was really what I wanted; so I turned them both down.
The fourth job would require a move to Cleveland’s western suburbs (a bit over two hours from home). It paid less than the jobs I’d declined, but it was at a fast-growing company where I’d have plenty of opportunities to move up quickly. So after two interviews with different senior managers, I accepted their offer after a bit of negotiation. And I never regretted that decision.
However, I still had another interview that had been previously scheduled with a major organization in St. Louis. So I immediately called the hiring manager I’d been talking to, and I told him that I’d accepted another position.
Not only did he thank me for letting him know four full days before our scheduled interview, but he also told me that if my new job didn’t work out, I could also give him a call since his company often had openings for people with my background.
So do the right thing: let the hiring team know if you’re canceling your interview, and provide a brief, truthful reason for doing so.
Tara D. Isiaq
Recruitment Consultant | Owner, Carter Isiaq Consulting
Prompt communication from candidates is key in the event something changes during the hiring process
With over 8 years of experience in talent acquisition and recruitment, I have seen the full gamut of candidate interview cancellations and even the occasional candidate “ghosting”.
And as someone who takes pride in their ability to connect talented people with talented businesses, it can be nerve-racking to invest the time and energy into sourcing and vetting a candidate only for them to cancel at the last minute, or worse, just not show up at all.
To be fair, Things happen. Sometimes better offers come in or emergencies arise. However, there is a lot of planning and logistics taken before candidates come in for an interview.
To make sure that the candidates have a positive experience, some of my clients will plan an entire day to ensure they can properly engage with client and enable them to meet all key stakeholders in one visit. It can be a struggle shifting through the schedules of the hiring team members to coordinate a date and time to meet.
Additionally, many positions are time-sensitive and other areas of the business may not get the attention they need until someone qualified is found to fill the role.
Recently, I had a candidate that wasn’t going to proceed with their interview. Below was their response:
I hate to be so last minute, but I wanted to inform you that I’ve accepted an offer for a position at a different company, and so I will be ending my recruitment process here.
XXXX Company really does sound like a great place to work based on our conversations, and although I won’t be proceeding further with the interview process, I hope we can stay in touch and may our paths cross again! Thanks for understanding.
Though I had put time into vetting this candidate, coordinating my teams’ schedules, and even planned a lunch meeting for him with the Partner, I appreciated his assertiveness updating me as his circumstances changed. His professionalism created a level of trust between us where I feel comfortable working with him in the future.
Most importantly of all, his correspondence let me know that he had made a firm decision, and that he was not interested in competing offers. This saved my client and I valuable time and allowed me space to continue to do my job- and consider other candidates.
Over the years I have not always been lucky to have a candidate this transparent. If you must cancel a job interview, keep the door open for other opportunities. You never know where you may meet again.
Founder & CEO, Techees
Canceling interviews never looks good, but if you word it correctly, it is the right thing to do when you’re no longer interested
Canceling an onsite interview the day of is the worst and most unprofessional. However, if you accepted an offer already, then you shouldn’t waste the companies time. I would say,
I wanted to let you know I think it’s best to cancel my upcoming interview. I have enjoyed learning more about your company and believe it’s a great spot to work. However, I decided to go in a different direction.
Although I agree it isn’t the most professional to cancel an interview so late. I do believe you spending more time with me isn’t the most efficient use of time. It’s not fair to you in the long run.
I hope you find the best candidate for this role. If I know anyone looking, I will certainly refer them over.
Thanks again for your time.
Perhaps our paths will cross again.
Katherine Metres Akbar
How best to cancel a job interview depends on the context and how far ahead of time you decide to cancel.
If you are canceling because you accepted another offer, and you are giving them at least a day’s notice, you might email:
“Thank you so much for your interest in working with me. I really respect the work [or mission, products, or services] of [your organization], and I hope to have the opportunity to work with you in the future. Just this morning, I accepted another offer.”
If you are canceling because you are ill (on the day of the interview), you would call them (or have someone well call them). You would say:
“Unfortunately, I won’t be able to make it today. I woke up feeling really sick, and I don’t want to pass anything to you. I hope we can reschedule in a few days if that works for you.”
If you have a sick family member, you would say:
“My child/spouse is not well, and I have to stay home with him/take him to the emergency room. I am sorry for the inconvenience and hope we can reschedule in a few days if that works for you.”
If you suffer an accident, you would say:
“I actually was involved in a car accident (or broke my leg) this morning, so, unfortunately, I am not at my best today. Would we be able to reschedule?”
If you just decided the job is not right for you, you would say:
“I so much appreciate the offer to interview. However, I want you to find the right person for the job, and I don’t think we are going to be a fit based on salary [or my desire to work mainly on X]. I certainly hope you find the right person.”
If you already interviewed with them, add something personal, like:
“I really enjoyed getting to know you and hearing about X. I do hope that we can remain in touch and see how we might benefit each other along the journey.”
Career Coach, Terry B. McDougall Coaching | Author, “Winning the Game of Work: Career Happiness and Success on Your Own Terms“
Give as much notice as possible and provide a legitimate reason for needing to cancel
Canceling an interview is similar to canceling any social commitment that you have made. Give as much notice as possible and provide a legitimate reason for needing to cancel (or reschedule).
If at all possible, try to talk to a person in real-time to explain your situation. Leave a voicemail or send an email only as a last resort. The last thing you want is to have the interviewers waiting for you having not received the message.
What you say when you cancel will depend on the situation. For example, if you are canceling the interview because you’ve accepted another offer, let them know that. It’s not necessary to let the interviewer know who the new job is with.
Likewise, if you are sick, call the person who scheduled the interview and let them know why you cannot attend the interview. If you are canceling because you have decided that you are no longer interested in the role for some reason, recognize that being asked to interview is a privilege, and if you have decided to accept then you change your mind, it could impact the possibility of ever working for that company because you may be branded as “flaky,” not serious, or someone who wasted the time of people at the company.
However, if you truly are no longer interested in the role, be honest, and let the person know in a considerate way. Remember that people talk and people move around, so be cautious about how you interact because many industries are small, and you may end up getting a bad reputation if you are not thinking about how you conduct yourself.
HR and Leadership Consultant | Executive Coach | Workplace Investigator |
President, Ann Houser Coaching and Consulting
When canceling an interview, the goal is to maintain a solid relationship with the recruiter, hiring manager, and organization, despite your decision.
Let the organization know of the change early and the reason for the cancellation, if it’s reasonable and productive to share it
If you’ve learned something substantively negative about the hiring manager and/or organization, you may decide to be more oblique about the reason for canceling. You could share that their role is not the right one for you to pursue at this time or you are choosing to stay in your current role a bit longer. Both statements may be completely true without being confrontational or negative.
Ghosting an organization can be truly detrimental to one’s professional reputation; the world is far smaller than we sometimes imagine. It’s better to communicate the “bad” news than waste the company’s and your time and energy feigning interest by proceeding with the interview or by failing to show up for the interview.
Last year, I pulled out of a CHRO search. In preparing for the interview, I realized I didn’t want to take a CHRO role. I was scheduled for first-round interviews with the leadership team, after a great conversation with the CEO.
I called the executive recruiter. He assured me that I’d love the company and team. I said I would not accept the role and he told me I was their top candidate. I explained my future career goals, making it clear the decision had nothing to do with the company.
The recruiter took the news well since he was able to save face at this early stage. He asked me for candidate recommendations; the company hired my referral, who is wonderful. The situation yielded a great outcome for all of us.
President & CEO, Creative Allies
Send a short note apologizing for canceling and thanking the person for their interest in you
When canceling anything, people should take the advice we learn as kids – treat others as you would want to be treated. The professional world is pretty small and as a candidate, you can’t predict who knows who.
Candidates should always be professional even if it’s while you are delivering bad news. There are many reasons why someone might cancel an interview – a true conflict, lost interest in the position, or most likely getting a different job opportunity.
Regardless of the reason, it is the professional thing to do to send a short note apologizing for canceling and thanking the person for their interest in you. Most hiring managers will respect that.
As a candidate, you can control the reputation you have and the last thing you want is to burn a bridge with someone that you may need down the road.
Director of Operations, MyCorporation
My advice for canceling a job interview, as a candidate, is to try to make the cancellation with some advance notice
Many interviewers set aside time in their workday to meet with a candidate in person or take a call together. Do not cancel 15 minutes before an interview. Worse of all, don’t ghost the interviewer and never show up in-person or respond to their phone call.
If you know you need to cancel the interview, regardless of the reason, try to do it with at least 24 hours in advance. The sooner the interviewer knows, the better, especially if they have scheduled in multiple interviews for the day that are back to back.
Executive Vice President | Chief Marketing Officer, HealthMarkets
Be professional and be prompt
When it comes to scheduling interviews for open positions, there are sometimes multiple people and schedules involved. With that in mind, if you decide not to move forward with an interview you’ve scheduled – whether it is via phone or in-person – reach out to your main point of contact, explain that your situation is changed and that you need to cancel.
If you have a phone number to call, I think that is a more personal way to reach out, but email is appropriate as well. Thank the individual for the opportunity – you don’t necessarily need to go into any more detail.
Hiring Manager, Africa Travel
Canceling an interview is a relatively straightforward process; generally, the interviewer will be appreciative that you even took the time to inform them at all, rather than just not showing up and wasting their time.
As long as you have a legitimate reason to cancel the interview, there shouldn’t be a problem. Employers know that life is unpredictable, so while they will be disappointed that they won’t get the chance to meet you, they will understand that sometimes things crop up and situations change.
Simply get in touch with your point of contact via your preferred method
Politely inform them that, while you were looking forward to the interview, you will no longer be able to attend.
Provide a reason
It is, however, important that your reason for canceling is suitable, even if that reason is that you’re no longer interested, or have already accepted a job offer for another role.
Don’t make up a weak excuse like ‘I have a cold’ or anything like that, just be honest and share with them the real reason why you can no longer attend. If you don’t want to share the specific reason why you’re canceling, simply say that you can’t attend due to ‘unforeseen circumstances’ or ‘circumstances beyond my control.’
It helps to give as much notice as possible when canceling an interview
Employers put a lot of time and effort into preparing for your interview, so receiving an email an hour before, stating you can’t come is frustrating, as it means they’ve wasted a lot of time working on it.
Employers will appreciate that this is not always possible and that in some cases you will have to cancel at short notice, but if possible, you should inform them in good time.
CEO, Bulk Memory Cards
If you have to cancel an interview, don’t wait until the last minute to do so
Contact the prospective employer immediately. It’s a show of professional courtesy and respect for their time which they can allocate to something else.
Make a point to let them know you contacted them as soon as you knew you had to cancel. If you plan on rescheduling be willing to bend over backward to accommodate their schedule to show genuine interest in the position and appreciation for their time.