Sometimes job seekers have to reject employers, but how do you decline an interview without ruining future relations?

Employers aren't the only ones doing the rejecting in a recruitment process. Great candidates will likely have multiple opportunities coming their way, so how to decline an interview is an important consideration for them.

But why is it important to decline an interview thoughtfully? Are you certain that turning down the opportunity to meet is the right thing to do? How do you go about letting the employer down gently? You never know, you could be their number one candidate.

In this blog, we will explore all the above alongside five different templates of how to decline an interview. Reject an interview as you would like to be rejected: with empathy and grace.

Why might you decline an interview?

Before you sit down to consider how to decline an interview, you need to make sure that you are clear about your reasons. While there is no obligation to share them with an employer, an interview is a chance to shed some more light on a potential career path, so it is worth being thorough in dissecting why you are turning it down.

Put yourself first in any job search. Be ruthless in how you prioritize your time. If any of the following reasons ring true, send that rejection email.

  • Your personal plans have changed. If external circumstances shift and the role is not a fit anymore, do not hesitate to respectfully decline.

  • The company isn't for you. Any job search is an exploration of possibility. The first interview(s) may indicate that it is a bad place to work. Run away.

  • You have another job offer. Only turn down an interview for this reason if you have signed on the dotted line with an employer. Having backup options is no bad thing.

  • You haven't got time. If you are not ready to commit the time to an interview process, it is time to politely decline. Your dream job won't make you feel like this.

  • You decide not to move. Between 50-70% of employees are open to changing roles. Some will entertain speculative approaches. Many will choose to stay put.

Why does it matter how you reject an interview?

Hiring managers or recruiters may have hundreds of applicants for any given role. You can be sure that any interview invite is not sent lightly. Just as you are hoping to secure the best role, they may see you as one of the best potential candidates. It is important to think carefully about how to reject an interview invite for multiple reasons:

  1. They potentially want to hire you - let them down gently.

  2. You may want to apply for another role there in the future.

  3. The hiring manager may move to another potential employer.

  4. You might (just might) regret the decision and change your mind.

How you reject an interview reflects on who you are and may have real-life consequences. Here are five tips to consider:

Decline the interview only if you are sure

Every decision that you make in your job search process needs to bear in mind the potential return on your time. An hour traveling to an interview that you are almost certain to reject could be better spent doing some extra prep for something else.

Having said this, only decline an interview if you are sure that there will be better options out there for you. Once you have sent that rejection email (never ghost them), there is no going back. Make sure that you are not rejecting it because of interview phobia, take your time with your decision, and maybe talk things through with a friend.

Be mindful of softening the rejection

Whether it is an initial chat or a final interview, you will likely feel guilty that you are rejecting the employer. This then leads to a compulsion to explain the logic behind your decision in the hope that it will make the employer feel better. This is rarely helpful.

Don't write a long exploratory email about your rejection. You don't want to move ahead, and that is it. Adopt a gentle and positive tone that demonstrates that they made the right choice to invite you while at the same time saying that it isn't right for you right now.

Turn it down with a sense of urgency

Time can work in strange ways during a job search or recruitment process. While you might want to press the pause button on certain aspects of an opportunity, keeping potential employers hanging when arranging interviews will never end well. If you sense that a job is not for you, have the decency to turn it down swiftly.

Urgency is important as it shows that you know your mind. Leaving an employer wondering can also add to feelings of resentment later down the line. If you aren't moving forward, they will want to move quickly on other options. Alternative candidates may opt for other roles if they are not approached in a timely manner.

Politely decline the interview and keep it brief

While you will decline interviews at varying stages of the recruitment process, every rejection should be polite and brief. Allow them to move on with their process quickly. 

Declining an interview with an employer may be different from declining an interview with a recruiter, but it all comes down to the same thing: you are saving them time because you are likely not going to accept the role down the line anyway. 

Offer gratitude and add value where possible

Gratitude is free. There are likely countless candidates who would love to receive the interview offer, so be humble and grateful that you were the person to get the invite.

If you know any other suitable candidates (who are actively looking), the interview rejection email may be the time to mention it. Discuss it with the individual first and send their details in the correspondence. Networking is not a perfect science - you never know who is or isn't on their radar.

How to turn down an interview with a recruiter

Turning down an interview with an employer is very different from rejecting an interview with a recruiter. While an employer will likely only have one job that is suitable for you, recruiters may have any number of roles coming up in the near and far future.

It is important to develop meaningful relationships with recruiters, so while you may wish to get to know them, make sure that you don't waste their time. If the role that they suggest isn't right for some reason, let them your feelings (be as honest as possible so that they know what you are looking for). They will appreciate your candor. 

It is acceptable to turn down a recruiter interview about a specific role only to then ask them if they would like to have a more general chat about what you are looking for. Executive search professionals who work on specific mandates may be less willing to do this, but many recruiters do want to develop relationships with great candidates. 

5 Example templates for how to decline an interview

You don't want the role

Dear [Hiring Manager],

I appreciate your time and consideration in reviewing my application for the [job title] role, but regret that I will not be able to continue with the interview process. I would be more than happy to offer some feedback on my decision should you wish.

Best of luck with the recruitment process.


[First and last name]


[Phone number]

You accepted another offer

Dear [Hiring Manager],

Thank you for the interview invite for the role of [job title]. It would have been interesting to explore the opportunity, but I have recently accepted another offer. 

I wish you the best of luck with the role - I am sure that you will have many worthy candidates. If I can help with the search in any way, please do let me know.


[First and last name]


[Phone number]

Your situation changed

Dear [Hiring Manager],

I have very much enjoyed the interview process for the [job title] role thus far, so it is with deep regret that I am compelled to decline the interview for the next stage. My family circumstances changed unexpectedly, and I will be unable to commit to a permanent role at this stage.

I think that the job is an incredibly exciting opportunity, and I will do my best to recommend anyone from my network who may be a fit. I hope that we might be able to stay in touch in case a part-time role becomes available.


[First and last name]


[Phone number]

Rejection with referral

Dear [Hiring Manager],

I regret to say that I will not be continuing with the [job title] opportunity. It does not feel like the right role for me at this stage of my career.

I do appreciate you taking so much time to explain the demands of the role and I would love to refer one of my professional contacts, Sylvia Gaunt, for the position. I have shared the job description with her, and she would be interested to find out more. I am enclosing her resume and would be delighted to tell you more about her if you have an interest.


[First and last name]


[Phone number]

Recruiter rejection

Dear [Recruiter],

I appreciate your considered approach and invitation to the [job title] interview. This particular position is not the right fit for me as I am looking for a [job title] role in [industry name], but I would be delighted to have a general chat if you feel that there may be roles in this area in the near future.

I will do my best to think about any referrals from my network and I would be happy to connect on LinkedIn for future opportunities.


[First and last name]


[Phone number]

Of course, you won't be declining every interview. Chat to our TopInterview experts and get some personal interview coaching today!

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