How to Decline a Job Interview [EXAMPLES]

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June 4, 2020
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min read

Here's a common scenario: you're on the job hunt and apply to several different open positions at once. You get more than one invitation to interview, and after doing a little more research, you decide that you'd rather pursue one opportunity over another.

Companies know that not every candidate will accept their interview invitation, let alone accept a job offer. The thing to remember is that you never know when you will cross paths with the hiring manager or recruiter again, so it's important to keep things polite and professional in all your communications.

In this article, we'll discuss how to decline an interview invitation and also how to reject an actual job offer during your job search. The key? Be polite and gracious in all your communications. We'll break down the steps of how to turn down an interview invitation, as well as how to decline a job offer. With these tips, you'll have a better understanding of the best way to decline an opportunity when it just isn't the right fit.

Consider how you landed the job interview in the first place

When on the job hunt, there are a few different reasons you might end up with a job interview. Let's talk about how you might be landing an interview in the first place.

Most obviously is that you applied for a job. You saw the job posting, read the job description, and felt excited for this particular job title, driving you to submit an application. Sometimes, job candidates apply to several jobs at once, which means you may get several job interview opportunities at once.

You may also be faced with an opportunity to interview for a job you didn't apply for. This happens when recruiters reach out to job seekers with job opportunities they're looking to fill. If a recruiter reaches out to you, you will want to respond professionally and within a timely manner. Within Teal's Job Application Tracker are communication templates to guide you in your response to a recruiter.

Use communication templates within Teal's Job Application Tracker to respond to recruiters.
Use communication templates within Teal's Job Application Tracker to respond to recruiters.

Another common scenario is hearing from connections in your network who want to bring you in to interview, effectively skipping the job application step. This could be through career connections, your alumni network, you LinkedIn network, etc. You want to be sure that your LinkedIn profile is optimized to be a top applicant for recruiter searches.

A great way to check your LinkedIn profile is to download Teal’s Free Chrome Extension which includes an automated LinkedIn Profile Review. Once you install the extension just go to your profile page and click on the Teal logo. You’ll see a list of recommendations on how best to optimize your profile.

Teal’s Free LinkedIn Profile Review Chrome Extension
Teal’s Free LinkedIn Profile Review Chrome Extension

Some might argue that it's a good idea to interview for any job presented to you. Perhaps it would be an opportunity to practice your interviewing skills, make new connections in your industry, or learn about new jobs for the future.

Within Teal’s Job Application Tracker are tips and resources to help you practice interviewing.

Use the Practice Interviewing tips within Teal’s Job Application Tracker to help you present your best self in an interview.
Use the Practice Interviewing tips within Teal’s Job Application Tracker to help you present your best self in an interview.

So, why would you decline an interview offer?

What are some reasons for declining a job interview?

Here are some common reasons for declining a job interview:

  • You're only pursuing the jobs that sound most appealing. If you applied to a few different jobs and received a few different interview opportunities around the same time, you might decide to pursue only the one that intrigues you the most, while declining early on the others.
  • You aren't really looking for a new job. If someone else approached you about a job opportunity but you weren't looking for a one in the first place, then you might decline the interview because you aren't interested in making a move at the moment.
  • You have personal reasons not to. There could also be personal reasons you decide not to take a job or an interview. Perhaps your values and best interests don't align with the company's mission statement. Or, maybe there's an issue with other personnel. It could be that the job just doesn't interest you and you would prefer to pursue other opportunities.
  • You've already interviewed once, and it's not a fit. It could also be that you've already sat for a first-round interview and decided that the position isn't for you. If the opportunity for a second interview comes up, you'll know you want to respectfully decline the opportunity and withdraw your candidacy without burning bridges.

Whatever the case, you should always contact someone at the company to let them know. Don't “ghost” the hiring team—that is, don't leave them hanging without any communication at all.

It's never a good approach to ignore a meeting request or phone call. This could create a bad reputation for you, and you might want to stay connected with your primary contact at the company for any future opportunities.

If you're in the middle of the interview process and your circumstances have changed, reach out and let the recruiter or hiring manager know. It's important that you handle everything related to your job search with care, respect and professionalism.

Keep track of each person you've contacted or has contacted you regarding an interview in Teal's Contacts Tracker. Regardless of what you will say when you contact them, it's helpful to have their contact information organized in one place.

Use Teal's Contacts Tracker to stay in touch with connections and never miss a follow up.
Use Teal's Contacts Tracker to stay in touch with connections and never miss a follow up.

How do you politely decline a job interview?

If you decide to decline an interview opportunity, here are a few tips to ensure you put careful thought into your response and don't burn bridges.

  • Always respond. Even if you aren't interested in the opportunity, let the recruiter know. You might say that the timing isn't right, or that you aren't looking for new opportunities at the moment.
  • Keep your options open. Let the hiring team know you would be interested in future opportunities and to keep you in mind. Offer to connect on LinkedIn or otherwise stay in touch. This level of professionalism can create a great impression of you as a job candidate and keep the door open for other interviews moving forward.
  • Be gracious. Use polite language in all communications. Phrases such as “thank you for considering me” and “I appreciate you reaching out” work well.

By sending just a short response to a job interview invitation, you're showing that you're a professional who respects the interviewer's time.

Here's a sample of a courteous email you can send back to a recruiter or hiring manager if you want to turn down a job interview:

Hi [Hiring manager/Recruiter name],

Thank you so much for considering me for this position at [Company Name]. It's not a good fit for me at this time, but I would be happy to stay in touch about future opportunities. Thanks again!

Best regards,

[Your name]

[Optional link to your LinkedIn profile]

What are some reasons for turning down a job offer?

Sometimes, after the rounds of interviews, the candidate has hit each point in the hiring process and ends up receiving an actual job offer—only to turn it down. It's not uncommon or necessarily impolite. After all, there are many reasons to decline a job offer.

Here are a handful of reasons for turning down a job offer:

  • It's a salary issue. When considering a job, it's important to consider the salary as well as benefits. There's often room for negotiation when it comes to salary and benefits. But if there's just no way to find a number you and the company can agree on, then that might be a reason to decline the offer.
  • You recently accepted a job with a different company. If you've been interviewing with different companies at the same time, you might need to turn down one job offer in order to take a different, better offer instead.
  • You decide to accept a counteroffer from your current position. If you receive an offer from another company and your current company presents you with a counteroffer, it might be something to consider. If you decide to take the offer and stay with your current company, then you'll need to decline the incoming job offer.
  • Your current situation has changed. Sometimes, midway through the interview process, your situation changes and you no longer want or need to leave your current job. If that becomes the case, you can politely decline any job offers that you receive.
  • It's just not a good fit. Until you go through the interview process and learn about the new position, the company, and the people you're working with, you don't always have a good sense of what it'll actually be like to work somewhere. Sometimes, after some thought, you might realize that a job is not a good fit for you after all. In that case, you may decide to decline the offer.

How to turn down a job offer

Turning someone down can be uncomfortable. While the hiring team might be disappointed to hear you aren't accepting the job offer, they know it happens. The thing to remember about declining a job offer is to handle it the proper way; that is, graciously and respectfully.

Here is a sample email you could send back if the offer came via email:

Hi [Hiring manager],

Thank you so much for the offer to work at your company. I've given it a lot of thought, and I have decided to move forward with a different opportunity. This was not an easy decision, but it's the best option for me at this time. I truly appreciate the opportunity to get to know you and enjoyed meeting your team.

Thanks again,

[Your name]

If you are offered a position over the phone, it might make the most sense to call back to decline. If the offer came from the hiring manager, make sure that is who you ask to speak to.

Here are some potential talking points for the person who offered you the role.

  • Thank you very much for the opportunity. I regret to tell you that I will be declining your offer. This was not an easy decision, but it's the one that is right for me at this time. All of my interviews were wonderful, and I hope you find the right candidate for the role.

You might be asked for more details on why you aren't accepting the role. You don't owe an explanation, but you can share if you feel comfortable doing so. If you have to leave a message, leave a simple message asking them to call you back. Don't decline the job opportunity over the phone.

In the end, focus on what you want and what you think is best for your long term career. Whatever decision you make will be the right one for you at the time.

So, now what? No matter the circumstance for declining a job interview,  manage your job search with Teal, a free job tracking software that lets you track and store important job hunting details all in one place.

Use Teal's Free Job Application Tracker to help you organize and manage your job search.
Use Teal's Free Job Application Tracker to help you organize and manage your job search.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it better to decline a job interview by email or phone?

It's generally more professional and convenient to decline a job interview by email. This provides a written record of your communication and allows you to carefully craft your message. However, if the invitation was extended over the phone or if you have a personal relationship with the hiring manager, a polite phone call may be more appropriate.

How can I decline a job interview without burning bridges?

To decline a job interview without burning bridges, express your appreciation for the opportunity, be honest but diplomatic about your reasons for declining, and maintain a professional tone throughout your communication. It's also courteous to respond promptly, as this allows the employer to move forward with other candidates.

Should I provide a reason for declining a job interview?

While you're not obligated to provide a detailed reason, offering a brief and genuine explanation can be helpful. It could be as simple as the role not aligning with your career goals or having accepted another offer. Keep your reason positive and constructive to leave a good impression.

Monica Stockbridge

Monica Parpal Stockbridge is a content marketing writer, freelance journalist and author. She writes about career growth, technology, outdoor recreation, higher education and more from her home in Colorado.

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