What to Say When Turning Down an Interview

When people send out a resume for a job, what they are usually looking for is a chance to land an interview so they can sell themselves to the company. However, not every interview invitation holds the same allure for job seekers. If you don't think an interview with a prospective employer is in your best interest, for whatever reason, don't feel obligated to agree to the interview. Politely tell the interviewer that you've decided to decline the interview request. It needn't be a lengthy explanation about why you are not interested, but it must be a professional one.

Be Professional

In your cover letter, you probably included at least one trait to suggest that you have the sort of values a prospective employers looks for in candidates. Whether you described yourself as "professional," "committed," or "highly principled," the manner in which you decline an interview is an opportunity to exemplify those traits you claimed to have. A polite response to the recruiter's hiring manager's invitation to interview you will serve you well.


A dignified response to the interview request is especially important and something you can easily compose. You needn't give details or a specific reason why you don't want to interview with the company, but you should prepare a script if you intend to decline the interview via phone. Express your appreciation for the interview invitation, yet decline in a manner that preserves the interviewer-applicant relationship you developed thus far. You never know when you might apply to the same company for a job better suited for you, or if the company will contact you again with an opportunity that interests you. If you're pressed for an answer about why you're not interested, simply tell the hiring manager that you decided to explore your options with other employers or that you're suspending your job search. Never make negative statements about the company as to why you don't want to interview.

Email Response

The size of the company could determine how you respond to the interview request. If you applied to a large organization, you might not have the type of direct or personal contact with the interviewer that you would have with an HR staff member who works for a small business. Therefore, write a brief email that begins by stating your appreciation for the company's interest in speaking with you. For example, after you have identified yourself and your reason for writing, you could write an introductory paragraph such as, "Thank you for the opportunity to interview with you for the executive assistant position. I'm pleased that my qualifications and experience warranted a closer look to determine if I'm a good fit for this position."

Telephone Response

Most recruiters don't anticipate applicants turning down the offer to interview, so a personal approach usually is best when you deliver the news. Don't leave a voice mail to decline the interview, unless you've made at least two or three unsuccessful attempts to reach the interviewer by phone. Once you reach the interviewer, begin by identifying yourself and expressing your appreciation for the interview invitation. For example, you might say, "Hello, Ms. Smith. Do you have a moment? My name is Mary Jones, and you recently invited me to attend a job interview with your company. First, I'm very pleased that you appreciated my qualifications enough to have me in for an interview. Thank you. But, I regret that I have to decline the interview. I'd like very much for you to keep my resume on file should my situation change or if XYZ Company has future openings that suit my qualifications."