How to Decline a Job Interview Gracefully

how to decline a job interview gracefully

Most of the time, getting an interview request is excellent news when you’re looking for a new job, and it can be a surprise when you’re not actively looking for a job. However, you may know for sure that the job you’d be interviewing for isn’t a good match, and in these situations, it’s better to decline the request than to waste everyone’s time. Still, it’s essential to do it respectfully and professionally when turning down an interview opportunity. 

Anyone who has gone through an interview process knows that it can take longer. Even an initial phone interview requires taking time out of your day so that you can focus on the conversation. Then, if you make it past the initial discussions, interviews typically only get more prolonged and intense. Suppose you show up to an interview for a job you know you aren't interested in pursuing, which would considerably be disrespectful of the interviewer's time, or, worse—if you accept the interview out of obligation and then ghost by just not showing up. You’re not only relaying the message that you don’t respect this person’s time, but you’re also potentially closing the door to working with this company and or this individual sometime in the future because they’ll remember this behavior. If you know that you’re not interested in a job, it’s better for everyone if you simply withdraw your candidacy. 

Ghosting isn’t an excellent way to take yourself out of the running for a job, so what is the right way to decline an interview?

When to Decline a Job Interview

A blanket explanation for why you would want to turn down an interview request is because you don’t want the job that’s up for grabs. So, what are some reasons you might not want the job? 

The most likely reason you may not be interested in a job is that you know it will not be a good fit. You might be able to determine this simply from reading the job description or after looking at the company’s employee reviews, or it might not become evident until after you’ve made it through one or two interviews (meaning you have to withdraw yourself from the process). Aside from that “gut feeling” many of us get when something just isn’t right, here are some other signs or reasons that a job may not be suitable for you:

  • You disagree with the company’s overall mission
  • The job doesn’t align with your personal career goals
  • The salary range listed is significantly lower than what you need
  • It doesn’t seem like a good culture fit
  • The job description/scope of work is too vague
  • The company has a bad reputation (as an employer or within its industry)
  • The offer came out of nowhere and didn’t seem legitimate 
  • You have another job offer that you’re planning to accept
  • You’re happy with the job you have
  • The job description explicitly states a schedule or work setup that won’t work for you
  • It’s a lateral move that wouldn’t be to your advantage
  • The recruiter or hiring manager is pushy or seem dishonest
  • Their interview process is unnecessarily long and or requires unpaid test work
  • The job sounds uninteresting 

It’s important to note that it’s not always wise to decline an interview if you don’t want the job because there are situations where it might still be advantageous to chat with someone. For example, suppose you don’t want the job solely on something that could be negotiated (like a job title, a reasonable salary increase, or flexibility). In that case, it’s worth talking to the recruiter or hiring manager to see if there is room for negotiation. Similarly, suppose you’re not interested in the job, but the employer. In that case, it’s still a good idea to agree to chat with the recruiter (just let them know ahead of time that you’re not interested in this specific job but that you’re open to other opportunities). 

Declining a Job Interview Professionally

Whenever you don’t want to accept the interview, it’s best to professionally inform the recruiter or hiring manager. How much information you give when you decline depends on the situation. For example, suppose you’ve made it through a couple of rounds in the interview process and have decided to withdraw your candidacy. In that case, you might want to provide more of an explanation for your decision than you would if you were just declining a cold email invitation from a recruiter. Regardless of the situation, though, professionalism and grace are a must. 


Often, you can decline interviews via email. The same language and tone apply if you’re turning down the opportunity over the phone or video chat. Still, you’ll need to modify the messages as necessary for the flow of conversation. See the examples below for scripting purposes.

If you’re declining a first interview/phone interview:

Hi [Name],

Thank you for reaching out and for thinking of me for this opportunity. At this time, I’m happy in my current position, and I’m not interested in something new. Please feel free to reach out again in the future if another opportunity opens up that you think I’d be a good fit for. 

Thanks again,

[Your Name]

If you’re turning down an interview at a company you’re interested in:

Hi [Name],

Thank you for reaching out about this position. It looks like a great opportunity. Unfortunately, it doesn’t align with what I’m looking for right now. However, I am very interested in this company, so I’d love to set up a time with you to discuss any upcoming openings that might be a better fit for me. What does your schedule look like this week? 

Looking forward to talking soon,

[Your Name]

If you are withdrawing from the interview process:

Hi [Name(s)], 

Thank you so much for taking the time to discuss the [job] opportunity with me today. I enjoyed our conversation. Unfortunately, after some reflection, I don’t think this role will be a good fit for me right now, so I’d like to withdraw my candidacy from the position. 

I very much appreciate being considered for the job, and if another opportunity opens up that you think I’d be a good fit for, please don’t hesitate to reach out. 

Thanks again,

[Your Name]

Remember, regardless of the situation, you can provide as much or as little explanation for your decision as you think is appropriate. Suppose you just generally didn’t like the people you interviewed with or if the company’s employee reviews were particularly scathing. In that case, you don’t have to share that information (in fact, it’s more professional not to). A short, polite response is perfectly acceptable. The most important thing is to show gratitude and to sign off in a way that won’t burn bridges. 

Your Time Is Valuable

Interviews can take a long time, and there is no reason to spend your valuable time learning more about a position that you’re not interested in accepting. It can be tempting to jump at every offer that presents itself to you. But your time will be better spent looking for and discussing opportunities that align with what you need. It’s okay to be picky. It’s good to be picky, just as long as you do it with grace. 

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