How to Decline a Job Interview Invitation (4 Simple Steps) [+ Example Emails]

After submitting a job application, an applicant may have decided to pursue a new opportunity or maybe the applicant learned more about the position, like the proposed base salary. If the applicant feels like the job opportunity isn’t worthy of a job interview, it can be useful to send an email or letter letting the hiring manager know.

After receiving the interview invitation, respond quickly to the interview offer. An email response from the candidate within 24 to 48 hours is considered good business etiquette. This helps the interviewer move onto another candidate quickly. And can help with the manager's interview process, keeping the business relationship intact.

When responding to an interview invitation with the intent of declining it. It can be helpful to provide a reason for the employer. Keep the reason formal and professional. A good reason might include:

  • Circumstances in the job search have changed. Like the need to relocate. Or desire to no longer relocate.
  • Already accepted another job offer.
  • The salary and benefits are not a good fit.
  • Deciding on another career path or career goals.
  • Deciding to stay with a current employer (staying with a current job).

These reasons are considered acceptable (a valid reason), professional, and will help the prospective employer feel more secure in moving forward. A bad reason would be to mention disapproval in the company culture. Here are bad examples of reasons:

  • Displeased with the company culture.
  • Simply isn’t “my dream job”.
  • “I got a better offer somewhere else”.
  • Having multiple job offers and needing more time.
  • The job title isn’t important enough.

By mentioning a reason like the one above, it can make the candidate exempt from a future opportunity. And on some level, tells the recruiter or hiring manager that they are lesser than. As a job seeker, it’s important to retain professional relationships even when deciding to withdraw themselves as a job candidate.

A job interview invitation might come in various forms. The first might be to take a phone interview. If deciding to withdraw after the phone interview, the sample emails below are still applicable. If the decision to withdraw is after a second interview or if being asked to go on a second interview, the sample emails below are still applicable.

A recruiter is going to be comfortable with candidates dropping out of the running during the recruitment process. It is a normal part of the human resources process. Because it may take one to two weeks to perform an interview and move the candidate forward, a recruiter will acknowledge that qualified candidates may move onto a new opportunity.

How to Decline a Job Interview

Below are the steps to decline a job interview.

  • Respond to the interview invitation quickly. Within 24 to 48 hours.
  • Respond with a polite, simple email (rejection letter), informing the hiring manager of the reason for deciding to decline the offer.
  • Be clear about the desire to withdraw as a job applicant for the open position.
  • Ask to be informed of future opportunities if circumstances change.

Try to avoid sending a rejection letter when there’s a scheduled interview. It’s best to reject the job interview in advance rather than withdrawing from the interview after it has been scheduled. Declining early, rather than accepting and canceling will leave a good impression on the interviewer.

Declining a Job Interview Sample Letter (Generic)

Below is a sample email declining a job interview.

Hi Jessie —

Thanks so much for your interest in me as a job candidate. I really respect the business and XYZ company's culture. I would love nothing more than to be able to work with the world-class team that’s been created over there. Unfortunately, I’ve decided it’s best for me to stay with my current employer after discussing the next few quarters goals.

I hope we can stay in touch and speak about future opportunities if the conditions have changed.

Thanks so much, Jessie,
Robert

Declining a Job Interview Due to Salary Sample

Below is a sample email declining a job interview due to salary and benefits.

Hi Jessie —

Thanks so much for your interest in me as a job candidate. I really respect the business and XYZ company's culture. I would love nothing more than to be able to work with the world-class team that’s been created over there. Unfortunately, after reviewing the base salary and compensation, that won’t work for me and my family. I hope you can understand that I’d love to be part of the team, but I have to consider supporting my family and the current cost of living.

I hope we can stay in touch and speak about future opportunities if the conditions have changed.

Thanks so much, Jessie,
Robert

Declining a Job Interview Due to Location Sample

Below is a sample email declining a job interview due to the location of the office.

Hi Jessie —

Thank you so much for considering me for this opportunity. I'm really grateful that XYZ Company would even think of me when it comes to the job title of Product Designer. Right now, I'm trying to pay off a significant amount of student loans. And I'm doing everything I can to reduce my cost of living. After looking at where the office location is and how much time it will take me to get to the office, I have to withdraw as a candidate.

Unfortunately, it would be too costly for me to get to the office. I sincerely apologize for the inconvenience this may cause. And I hope that we can stay connected in the future for other job opportunities.

Thank you so much, Jessie.
Robert

Declining a Job Interview Due to Accepting Another Offer Sample

Below is a sample email declining a job interview due to accepting another offer.

Hi Jessie —

Thank you so much for considering me for this opportunity. I'm really grateful that XYZ Company would even think of me when it comes to the job title of Product Designer. I was in the running for a few positions. And, I wanted to inform you quite quickly that I've decided on another job opportunity. Please know that it was a difficult decision for me. And I consider the team, the company, the objectives—all noble and incredible opportunities. For me, this came down to a few very minor details.

I hope we can stay connected and when future job opportunities arise, that I can still be considered. Because I would love nothing more than to have the opportunity to work closely with the rest of the team and work closely with the company.

Thank you so much, Jessie.
Robert

Declining a Job Interview by Phone

Below is a sample script declining a job interview by phone.

Hi Jessie. First, I want to say thanks for jumping on the phone with me today to speak about the opportunity at XYZ company. I wanted to do this by phone because I felt like it was more respectful. But, I have decided that this opportunity isn't a great fit for me. I want to say that I have a really strong respect for the business, the leadership team, and the team that I would be working with. In my opinion, it's a world-class team that I would love to work with. Unfortunately, the job functions are simply not something that I'm as passionate about as I once was. And I need to evaluate what that means for me and for my career. I hope you can understand.

Job Interview Decline Tips

Follow these tips as a job seeker and job applicant in order to decline a job interview without burning a bridge.

Keep the communication shorter

A heartfelt, sincere message is key. But, be sure not to express a long story that the hiring manager might not resonate with. A simple explanation is the best way to provide some evidence that the job interview is going to be declined and why. The story should take roughly 2-3 minutes to share. Rather than explaining a story that takes 10-minutes to 15-minutes in order to complete.

Show evidence of supporting the team

It's important to communicate how much respect is being given to the team, the company, the leadership, and more. Share a personal and sincere message in the job interview decline email that suggests great respect for the team. This will be well received by the hiring manager. And is a key part of being considered for future job opportunities.

Don't be too brief

While formal communication is key, it's okay to go slightly into detail. Many job seekers make the mistake of being too brief with the hiring manager. While it's true—being brief is key. It's important to be sincere and heartfelt. And limited communication can come across as negative, cold, or potentially be misinterpreted by the reader. Be sure to use sincere feelings and express some emotion behind how the decision was made to decline the job opportunity and job interview.

Communicate quickly

This can't be said enough, don't play games with the hiring manager. As a job seeker, if there's awareness around not wanting to take the job interview, inform the hiring manager right away. This saves the hiring manager time and ensures that the job applicant's "self-image" is going to be upheld and respected. Those who wait multiple days to respond to emails from the hiring manager are not those who are going to receive a significant amount of respect from the hiring manager.

Additional Resources

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, Recruiter.com, SparkHire, and many more.

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