How to Humbly Decline an Interview

How should you decline a job interview? It's a simple task if done right, which basically means putting it in writing, keeping it short and being respectful of the interviewer, his company and his time. And there's also the view that even if you're not taking the job, you should accept the interview anyway.

Reasons Why You Shouldn't Decline an Interview 

Some career counselors think you should never decline a job interview - ever! You may disagree, but Monster Worldwide gives you five ways you could actually benefit from going to the interview anyway:

  1. It's an opportunity to practice your interviewing skills. Like any other skill, you get better with practice. 
  2. It widens your view of the marketplace, gives you an added perspective and allows you to better compare.
  3. It gets you into the mix. The current job offer may not be what you want, but it could eventually lead to an offer for a better job at the same company. 
  4. Sometimes the job you think you're interviewing for doesn't hold a candle to the job you might be offered if you go to the interview. It might even be the same job, which was just poorly described.
  5. Sometimes, especially when you're interviewing with human resources or a job hunter, going for the job you don't want can lead to an immediate offer of a better job. Who knows?

Reasons Why You Should Decline

In some circumstances, declining the interview is the right thing to do:

  1. The first, obvious reason is that you have already accepted a new job elsewhere. 
  2. Sometimes, you can't be sure that your current employer will not find out about the interview. And your current employer may not take this well. If there is a real risk, declining the interview is the safest thing to do. There will be other offers.
  3. You are now in the second or third round of interviews with the company (many sought-after jobs in high tech can require more interviewing than you'd ever imagined), and as you have become more familiar with the company, you see that you're not a good fit. 
  4. You have a trusted friend who works there, and she hates it. If her reasons sound well-founded, it's OK to pass.

How to Decline Without Leaving a Bad Impression

If you have decided to decline, your objective is to leave a good impression. The interviewer has 15 interviews set up over two days and if you are out, you are soon forgotten. And that's OK. But what you don't want, is to be remembered as that arrogant person who turned the job down. Follow a few commonsense guidelines to decline the interview:

  • Decline the interview promptly: You're making the job easier for HR or your headhunter and while they won't necessarily thank you for it, they won't be holding a grudge because you led them on and wasted their time either. Let them know that you are not coming to the interview, and the more concise your explanation, the better they'll like it. 
  • Email is popular for a reason: Email correspondence saves time for everyone, which is why in corporate America many managers no longer even have listed work numbers. 
  • Be respectful: if you are going to send your interviewer a short email declining the interview, do it in a way that shows you are respectful of your interviewer and of the company he is representing. If you would like some help writing it, consider the following interview decline model:


Dear Mr. Abernathy,

First of all, thanks for the offer of an interview for the job. I appreciate it. Circumstances I hadn't anticipated make it necessary to decline the interview at this time.


John Brown

And that's all you really need. If you want to elaborate on "circumstances," you can, but keep it short and sweet. Some plausible ways of elaborating without getting into too much detail are to add the following explanations:

  • I've recently accepted another job offer
  • My current employers have offered me a promotion

Some professionals advise a good reason for declining an interview is "I have concluded that I'm not a good fit for the current job," which isn't bad advice, but what's the point? Short and concise is always better.

If you have found out the salary offered is too low, don't write in your decline letter that the salary"won't meet my needs," because that's your problem, not the interviewers. But if everything else about the job sounds good, you could write "I like the company and I think I'd be right for the job, but the salary offered isn't acceptable. If there's a future opportunity at a higher salary, I'd appreciate being considered."