#Canceled: How to call off a job interview without looking bad

Sep 25, 2023

5 mins

#Canceled: How to call off a job interview without looking bad
Geoffroy Bresson


Imagine in the lead-up to your job interview, something unexpected pops up—you got a better offer, you’re stuck in bed with a bad cold, or you’ve got a last-minute emergency to handle. It’s an awkward situation to be in, especially since you’ve probably worked really hard to land the interview in the first place. But you can’t help what’s happened and now, you need to cancel. So how can you do so without leaving a bad impression, ruining your reputation, or blacklisting yourself from the industry?

The good news is, it’s not as big a deal as you might think! Actually, if handled professionally, it could work in your favor. Here’s how to cancel a job interview while minimizing the chances of giving the recruiter a bad impression.

In this article:

  1. Good and bad reasons for canceling a job interview.
  2. Tips for canceling a job interview without offending the interviewer.
  3. Sample emails for canceling a job interview.

Good and bad reasons for canceling a job interview

Canceling a job interview isn’t quite as simple as canceling your dinner reservation. So before you go ahead, check you’re doing it for the right reasons. What valid reason do you have for canceling this meeting? Don’t let impulsive decisions rule—you’re not picking out an ice cream flavor, you’re rolling the dice on your professional future. Avoid canceling for things that you should have considered before accepting the interview. For example, the distance between your home and the job location … you knew about that when you applied!

5 bad reasons for canceling a job interview

  • Impulsive changes of heart: Canceling just because you changed your mind, with no reason or justification.
  • Canceling for a better interview: Landing another, more attractive interview without having received a firm offer.
  • Superficial reasons: Back peddling for reasons like the example above, the distance you have to travel.
  • Lack of preparation: Canceling because you haven’t properly prepared, even when you’ve had plenty of time to do so.
  • Lack of respect for the recruiter: Canceling at the last minute more than once without a valid reason.

Of course, there are also reasons why canceling a job interview is both acceptable and justified. Things like unexpected illness or an urgent family issue that requires your attention, or accepting another job offer that matches your career objectives. Sometimes, after careful reflection, you might realize that your values are incompatible with the company’s. Canceling under those circumstances is the responsible thing to do.

5 valid reasons to cancel a job interview

  • Serious, unexpected problems: A sudden illness, an accident, or an urgent family issue that needs your immediate attention.
  • Accepting another offer: You’ve just said yes to a job offer that’s perfect for you.
  • Incompatibility with the company: Following some research and soul searching, you’ve decided that either the company or the role is no longer in line with your values and/or long-term goals.
  • Major changes in your situation: An unexpected relocation or drastic changes in your personal situation that mean this position will no longer work.
  • A schedule change: Something important and unavoidable comes up, like a professional obligation or crucial family event that can’t be postponed.

Whatever your reason, it’s important to be open and honest with the recruiter and let them know as soon as possible. Easier said than done? Here’s how to go about it.

Tips for canceling a job interview without offending

Ever heard of assertiveness? Keep this term top of mind—it might completely change your professional career and more. Assertiveness is the ability to speak up while respecting others. It’s about expressing your needs and desires, clearly and confidently, without coming across as either passive or aggressive. “It’s knowing what you want and what you don’t,” explains career coach Bruno Guirado, “It’s stating your convictions, often firmly, but without coming across as overbearing.”

By showing assertiveness at the moment and canceling an interview, you’ll avoid creating a negative impression and also show you can advocate for what you want. Recruiters are likely to appreciate your candor. Assertiveness is increasingly listed by employees as an important soft skill for job candidates.

Developing assertiveness can be a long and personal path, but when it comes to canceling a job interview, here are nine tips you can apply.

  1. Make a quick decision: If you know you have to cancel an interview, do it as quickly as possible. The longer you wait, the greater the potential harm to the company. Take quick action and don’t keep the recruiter waiting—it will demonstrate both respect and consideration.
  2. Call directly if possible: A phone call is the best way to cancel a job interview as it shows you’re taking things seriously. If a call isn’t possible, a formal email will also suffice.
  3. Stick with your decision: If you’ve decided to cancel your job interview, communicate this without hesitation or over-justification. Be concise and respectful.
  4. Be clear and direct: Express yourself clearly and concisely without using vague or ambiguous language. Include the essential information, such as the reason for canceling, without getting lost in the details.
  5. Remain polite and respectful: Both with the words and tone of your message. Apologize for the inconvenience, even if you have valid reasons for canceling.
  6. Remain reactive and listen to their response: If any questions or concerns are raised by the recruiter, respond quickly and professionally.
  7. Be honest: Don’t invent excuses. Share your true reason for canceling, succinctly and honestly.
  8. Offer an alternative: If you want to reschedule or stay in contact with the company, let them know.
  9. Use assertive language: For example, phrases like, “I’ve decided to …” or, “I have to …” rather than hesitant turns of phrase.

Sample emails for canceling a job interview

Not sure how to tell a recruiter you need to cancel your job interview? To make sure you’re on point, here are a few sample messages you can use, depending on your personal situation.

If you’ve accepted another job offer

Dear (recruiter’s name),

I want to start by saying thank you for the opportunity to interview for the role of (position name). Having taken some time to reflect, I’m writing to let you know that I’ve accepted another offer, so I need to withdraw my application.

Wishing you every success with your recruitment.

Kind regards,
(Your name)

If you have a health issue

Dear (recruiter’s name),

I’m writing to let you know that I won’t be able to make the interview planned for (date and time), due to ill health. If you’re available another time I would love to reschedule the interview at a new time that’s convenient for you.

I apologize for any inconvenience. Thank you in advance for your understanding and flexibility.

Kind regards,
(Your name)

If you have a scheduling conflict

Dear (recruiter’s name),

Unfortunately, due to a schedule conflict, I won’t be able to make the interview we have planned on (date and time). I’m really interested in the role and would love to reschedule at a new time that’s convenient for you.

Please accept my apologies for this last-minute change and thank you in advance for your understanding. I hope we can meet soon.

Kind regards,
(Your name)

If you’ve changed your mind about the role

Dear (recruiter’s name),

Having taken time to reflect, I have decided to focus on a different career path. As a result, I need to cancel our interview for the role of (name of role) on (date and time).

I apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. Thank you for considering my application. I wish you every success in your search for the ideal candidate for this role.

Kind regards,
(Your name)

Canceling a job interview is a bit like defusing a time bomb—do it carefully and all will be well. But be warned, if you get it wrong, your professional relationships may blow up! Fortunately, with a little finesse and good timing, it’s something you’re totally capable of handling.

If you need to cancel a job interview, choose your words with care and do it like a pro: with style, grace, and a secret smile that says, “I know what I’m doing.” By navigating stormy waters with aplomb, not only can you save the day, but you might also open doors for the future. After all, canceling a job interview isn’t the end of the world.

Translated by Debbie Garrick

Photo: Welcome to the Jungle

Follow Welcome to the Jungle on FacebookLinkedIn, and Instagram, and subscribe to our newsletter to get our latest articles every day!