How to Cancel an Interview and Retain Your Reputation [2020 Updated]

how to cancel an interview

How can you cancel a job interview and still retain your reputation or professionalism? We’re here to tell you. Needing to cancel an interview is a fairly common issue. If you are a parent, there is going to be a large amount of potentially conflicting scheduling that you may not be aware of until nearly the last minute. You could potentially come down with a cold, have a car accident, or any other type of emergency situation (or extenuating circumstances) which would lead you to have to cancel. These are all okay!

First and foremost, don’t stress yourself out over what this means for your upcoming interview. In cases where we are feeling some level of stress on our personal lives, we often feel as though we need to translate that to our professional life, giving it more stress. Don’t do that! It’s okay!

The first thing you need to decide is what type of situation you are in. Are you looking to cancel the interview and schedule it for another date? Or are you looking to cancel the interview and remove yourself from the candidate list altogether? If you are looking to do that, I would recommend you see our guide on withdrawing yourself from the process altogether. If you are feeling sick or something in your personal life happened, then continue reading.

Important Considerations Before Cancelling

Whenever possible, it is important to remember a few rules whenever speaking with your hiring manager and requesting schedule changes. The first is that your hiring manager or interviewer doesn’t need to know your life story. In fact, over-explaining yourself can often lead the interviewer to feel like you may be difficult to work with or in need of a lot of management. Keep it brief, to the point, and don’t overshare your personal life.

The second most important consideration is the interviewer's time. Try to provide a brief email that is informative, tactical, and proactive. Meaning, don’t ask too many questions, try to consider the interviewer's time in your email to cancel your interview. Lastly, never be rude. You don't want to burn bridges.

When You Should Ask To Cancel The Interview

The moment you realize you need to cancel, you should do so. This considers the interviewer's time as well as any other employees which they have lined up for you to speak with. Often times, on-site interviews could mean speaking with 4-5 employees. And rescheduling last minute means you are disrupting potentially 4-5 people’s calendars. The sooner you can let the interviewer know, the more productive they can be on their end. This would be a courteous and professional act.

Though, not in every instance will you be able to cancel in advance. If you are in an emergency situation, then you’ll need to cancel last minute. And we have an email for you to use when that’s the case. Primarily, shedding some light on the situation but not sounding overly dramatic in your delivery. This will cause the interviewer to be empathetic to your situation and understand when you have to cancel last minute. Additionally, they can communicate that reasoning to the other employee’s when they cancel the meeting from their calendars.

An Example Email Having To Cancel An Interview Last Minute (How To Cancel an Interview)

If you are in an emergency situation, here is an interview cancellation email that you can use:

Dear [Hiring Manager]—

I sincerely apologize for having to do this last minute but I need to cancel my interview for [Date]. I was in an emergency situation which I will gladly explain during my interview sessions. This interview is of the utmost of importance to me, I would not reschedule if it were not a serious situation.

Can we move our interview to:
[Date option 1]
[Date option 2]
[Date option 3]

Thank you,
[Your name]

In this email you can see that we are giving some notice to the fact that the situation is very serious. You don’t have to go into detail until you are in person. From here you should be letting each person you are interviewing with knowledge about the situation and apologize for having to cancel the first interview last minute. If you want recommendations on great days and times to suggest your reschedule, read our article on best times to schedule an interview.

An Example Email Having To Cancel With Advanced Notice

If you have some time ahead of you and feel as though you can cancel without needing to go into much detail (like in our emergency situation example) then using a simple email template like this should suffice:

Dear [Hiring Manager]—

A scheduling conflict came up and I am unable to attend my interview on [Date]. Is it possible to move our interview session? I sincerely appreciate your flexibility and understanding.

Here are some dates which work for me:
[Date option 1]
[Date option 2]
[Date option 3]

Thank you,
[Your name]

From this email you can that we get straight to the point but are mindful of their time. We provide them with some available dates so that the interviewer doesn’t have to ask us and wait for a response before scheduling time with the rest of the team. This allows them to work quickly through the cancelation and get back to work.

Interview Cancellation FAQ's

Questions from job seekers related to canceling an interview.

Should I explain my reason for canceling?

It can be useful to explain why you want to cancel the interview. A valid reason to request to cancel can be helpful to the person you are intending to meet with. Especially if the reason is out of your control. Going through the cancellation process is not easy for both parties. The person you just canceled on has been inconvenienced. Telling them a good reason can make sure that they're willing to reschedule if that's something you really want to do.

How will this impact my ability to get hired by the employer?

Depending on the way you handle it, it may impact your employer greatly. If you don't handle it professionally, then you might be excluded as an applicant moving forward.

How should I cancel a phone interview?

In the exact same way that you would cancel any other interview. It doesn't matter that it's a virtual interview or on-site interview. You need to provide an acceptable reason and sincere apology for abrupting the interviewer's day. If you didn't answer the phone call, you should send the interviewer a message as soon as you can to explain why you missed the time interview slot and time.

Is it normal to cancel an interview?

Knowing how to cancel an interview is something that you'll need to learn in your career. At least once in everyone's career, they will have to cancel an opportunity to speak with a prospective employer or a sales opportunity. This is fairly common.

When should I send my cancellation email?

As soon as possible. Or if you missed the interview appointment, as soon as you can get to a computer and speak to the recruiter or person you were scheduled to meet with. You should be apologetic about missing your appointment and try to move forward. You should express why you want the job and express that you hope this doesn't impact your ability to get the job. Be sincere.

Will this impact my job search?

Well, yes. Because you are impacting the hiring process. Your potential employer isn't going to be able to help you if you can't work with them. The best thing to do is to accept their invitation to meet and try to make it work.

author: patrick algrim
About the author

Patrick Algrim is an experienced executive who has spent a number of years in Silicon Valley hiring and coaching some of the world’s most valuable technology teams. Patrick has been a source for Human Resources and career related insights for Forbes, Glassdoor, Entrepreneur,, SparkHire, and many more.


Help us by spreading the word