You received an interview invitation for one of your job applications – congratulations!
But due to some unforeseen circumstances – or a change of heart – you can’t make it to the interview anymore.
So, what do you do?
Do you: one, panic and screen your calls? Or, two, call and apologize over and over again?
While ignoring the problem and hoping it will go away, or begging for forgiveness, might be the easy way out, it’s no professional way to cancel an interview!
So, to help you handle your interview cancellation with the utmost grace, we’ve devised an in-depth guide for you to follow.
Read on to learn about what qualifies as a good reason for cancellation and what steps you should follow.
When to cancel an interview
While you might think that your cat being abducted by aliens is a believable excuse for cancelling an interview, your interviewer won’t.
So, what is an acceptable reason for bailing on an interview at the last minute?
1. You have an emergency
A personal or family emergency is a perfectly acceptable and understandable reason for cancelling an interview. If it’s something that’s not sensitive, like a delayed train or flight, then be sure to tell them. But if it’s a delicate topic, you can simply explain that a family emergency has arisen.
2. You’re really ill
If you’re sneezing and coughing left, right and center, you’ll be doing everyone a favor by staying indoors. Indeed, if you decide to drag yourself out of bed and into the interview, you’ll do more harm than good; it’s not the same as calling in sick to work, so don’t do it. As you’ll fail to show your true abilities, you might even put the hiring manager off with your sickness.
3. You have an unresolved issue at work
An emergency at work is another good reason to cancel an interview. It can also show that you’re dedicated to your current duties and that you would be the same at the company you’re applying for if they decide to hire you.
4. You’re no longer interested in the role
Maybe you’ve found another role that sounds more like you, or you’ve spent some time looking at the current role and it just doesn’t fit with your current career goals. No matter the situation, if you’re no longer interested in the role, it’s best to cut your losses and tell the hiring manager the truth.
5. You accepted another job offer
If you’ve been job searching for a while, you’ll most likely have a few interviews lined up. And if you’ve already accepted another offer, there’s no use in wasting anyone’s time. In this instance, it’s common courtesy to email the hiring manager and let them know about your situation.
How to cancel an interview
Canceling an interview can be intimidating; you’ve worked hard to get this opportunity and now you’re the one turning it down! But do not fret, just take a breath and let’s go through some steps to help you cancel your interview in a professional and courteous manner.
1. Give plenty of notice
If you are dealing with a real emergency and you can’t give over 24 hours’ notice, be sure to let them know as soon as possible. If you just wish to cancel your interview and not reschedule, contact the hiring manager as soon as you’ve made that decision – hopefully more than a day in advance before the date of your interview.
2. Call if you’re canceling at the last minute
While there are multiple ways to cancel an interview, if it’s on the day of, or less than 24 hours beforehand, the best practice is to call the hiring manager and speak with them directly on the phone. That way, you won’t be stressing about whether they have received and read your email in time.
If they do not answer, leave a voicemail. Include the date and time of your interview and let them know why you’re canceling. Thank them for their time and let them know that they can call back with any questions.
3. Stay courteous
Bear in mind that your paths will most likely cross again in the future, especially if you work in a niche industry. Therefore, it’s important to be polite and honest through your correspondence. You want to let them know the bad news without burning any bridges.
Naturally, you should apologize for wasting the hiring manager’s time, as well as those who were involved in arranging the interview. “Sorry” can go a long way, especially if you’re hoping to reschedule an interview with them in the near future.
5. Follow up
If you’ve sent an email and haven’t received a response, you should follow up with a phone call. That way, you can ensure that your message has been received and that the interviewer has been able to readjust their schedule.
If you’re cancelling the interview due to an unforeseen issue, but you’re still interested in the role, be sure to let the hiring manager know that you would like to reschedule.
You can provide the interviewer with alternative days and times that work for you in order to show you are eager to meet with them, thus gracefully rescheduling your interview.
Don’t give too much unnecessary information. Your interviewer doesn’t need to know too many details about the reasons you need to reschedule as long as you give a clear explanation.
Canceling via email
Depending on the timeframe that you’re dealing with, the ideal method to cancel an interview is the same way that it was arranged. In most cases, that would be via email.
Things to keep in mind
There’s a right way to cancel an interview via email; let’s look at a few tips to keep you on the right track.
1. Get the name right
I know you’re in a panic but for all that’s good in the world, make sure that you get your interviewer’s name right. Not only is it super embarrassing, but it also ruins your chances of getting another interview.
2. Include a subject
A subject line is vital when you are cancelling an interview. You should keep it short and sweet; something along the lines of ‘Interview Cancellation - James Smith’.
3. Keep it short
There’s no need to ramble on about how devastated you are that you can’t make it and how bad your day has been. Instead, keep your message short, professional and apologetic.
Although time is of the essence, it’s still imperative to proofread your email before you hit ‘Send’. After all, if you’re in a state of panic, it’s likely that you’ll have made a typo or two. Consider running your email through a grammar and spell-checking tool like Grammarly or Hemingway Editor.
Now that you know the basics, here’s a template that you can use as an example when writing your own email.
Dear Mr Johnson,
I hope you are well.
I’m contacting you to inform you that I, unfortunately, have to cancel our interview for the Content Writer position that we arranged for 9am on Monday, 11 February 2019.
After reassessing my current career goals, I have decided to postpone my job search for now and maintain my current position.
Many apologies for any inconvenience this may have caused and thank you once again for your time and consideration.
Canceling by phone
I know that barely anyone makes phone calls anymore, but a text message isn’t going to cut it when cancelling an interview. To ensure that you will deliver a personal and professional message, pick up the phone to let the hiring manager know you’re cancelling.
Things to keep in mind
This may not be your preferred method, but as we have discussed, sometimes it’s necessary to cancel an interview via phone, so you need to be prepared. Let’s go over a few things to focus on when you’re calling to cancel your interview.
1. Write it out
Just because you’re calling on the phone doesn’t mean you can’t write down what you want to say before you call. Spend some time and write out some bullet points to keep you on track when you’re on the phone.
2. Slow down
A lot of people start talking fast when they get nervous so try to slow down! You’re communicating some pretty important information so it’s imperative not to speed through it. Consider it a great opportunity to practice good telephone etiquette.
3. Make you reasons clear
Try to get through your planned speech without getting sidetracked by other points, leaving room for questions. Ensure you’re communicating all your points clearly so there’s no room for miscommunication on the reasons behind you canceling the interview.
4. End with a thank you
The most important tip of all: always end with a thank you. Your hiring manager has spent a great deal of time on your interview process even if it hasn’t taken place yet, so, no matter the reason you’re canceling, be sure to recognize that, and thank them for their time and energy before you end the call. No matter the situation, a "thank you" is one of the best ways to politely end a conversation!
Phone script sample
If you’re unsure of what to say, you can follow the script listed below:
Hiring Manager: Hello?
You: Hi, Ms Roberts. This is James Smith. I have an interview scheduled for tomorrow at 9am for the Content Writer position, but unfortunately, I won’t be able to make it due to a family emergency. I am really sorry for the short notice and for any inconvenience caused.
HM: Oh, I’m sorry to hear that, James! Do let us know if you’re available in the near future and we can reschedule.
You: Thank you so much! I’ll be in touch in a few days so we can rearrange.
HM: That’s fine, I will keep an eye out for your email. Thank you! Bye!
If you follow the advice above, you shouldn’t worry about your professional reputation or letting the hiring manager down. You have handled the interview cancellation professionally and won’t be tarnishing any professional relationships. Just remember a few key items when canceling an interview:
- You can cancel by phone or by email but consider the timeline when deciding between the two and be courteous of the hiring manager’s time.
- If you send an email proofread it first and if canceling over the phone, then go over a script. You can sound a lot more professional if you take a little extra time to do this.
- Always end with a thank you. Whether you’re rescheduling, or canceling all together, recognizing the hard work of the interviewer will always go a long way!
Have you had to cancel an interview before? How did it go? Let us know in the comments section below!
This article is an updated version of an earlier article originally published on January 22, 2019 and contains contributions by staff writer Shalie Reich.