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How to Politely Decline a Job Interview Without Burning Bridges

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When I was in college looking for an internship or job, I would apply to almost everything that sounded remotely interesting and accept every interview. Getting the opportunity to interview anywhere was a big deal itself, so I never said no.

As I got older and had some work experience under my belt, though, I realized that there’s value in saying no. Sometimes you just need to decline an interview for one reason or another.

Potential reasons to decline an interview include:

Not the right fit
Perhaps you applied to a job and had an initial call with the recruiter, only to find out the industry, job duties, or company just wasn’t exactly what you had in mind. Perhaps compensation just wasn’t on par with your expectations. Or maybe the job involved more travel than you’d like. Whatever it is, you just don’t see the job being the right fit for you.

You’re happy with your current job
In my view it never hurts to see what else is out there, and keeping your interview game strong is valuable. But hey, if you love your current job and see no reason to leave, that’s awesome!

You’ve accepted another job offer 
Another great reason to decline an interview: you’ve already accepted another job offer. Ideally, you’ll want to have actually signed the paperwork or even started the new job before declining interviews elsewhere. It’s not uncommon for a job offer to get reneged for one reason or another, so you want to be totally sure about your future employment before declining interviews.

How to decline a job interview

Declining a job interview shouldn’t be treated lightly. Once you say no to an opportunity, you likely won’t get a second chance at it any time soon. So be 100% certain before making this decision.

Once you’ve made up your mind, here are some sample emails you can send to decline the job interview.

Declining an interview from a recruiter’s cold email: 

Hi [name],

Thank you for reaching out to me about the [job title] position at [company]. I am currently not looking at new opportunities at this time, but appreciate your time and consideration.

Would love to stay in touch for future opportunities when the time is right. All the best in your search.

Thanks again,

[Your name]

Declining an interview after you’ve had a phone screen: 

Hi [name],

Thanks again for taking the time to speak with me the other day about the [job title] role at [company]. After careful consideration, I’ve decided not to pursue the opportunity at this time. Best of luck in your search for the right candidate.

Thank you,

[Your name]

Referring someone else to an opportunity instead: 

Hi [name],

Thanks again for taking the time to speak with me the other day about the [job title] role at [company]. After careful consideration, I’ve decided not to pursue the opportunity at this time.

That said, I’d love to introduce you to my colleague [his/her name], who is highly interested in the role. [He/She] has [description of their skills/experiences] and would be an asset to any organization. Please feel free to contact [him/her] at [their email].

Thank you,

[Your name]

Tips to keep in mind when declining an interview:

  • Keep it short. You basically just want to include a sentence thanking the recruiter for their time and consideration, letting them know you’re withdrawing your application, and potentially staying in touch for future opportunities. If you want to refer someone, include a line for that.
  • Be professional. Recruiters understand not every opportunity is the right fit, and won’t hold it against you for withdrawing an application. Use one of the interview decline templates above and you should be good to go.
  • Be vague. Don’t feel obligated to provide an exact reason why you’re not interested in the opportunity. If you think it makes sense to say why as they consider you for future opportunities, you certainly can, but you don’t have to.
  • Respond quickly. You should have a good idea of your interest level fairly soon after you learn more about an opportunity, so just let the recruiter know as soon as possible.

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