How to Cancel an Interview (with Examples)

Close-up of a woman's hand holding a sticky note that says 'Cancelled' /

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 apologise 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?

  • 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.
  • You’re really ill. If you’re sneezing and coughing left, right and centre, you’ll be doing everyone a favour by staying indoors. Indeed, if you decide to drag yourself out of bed and into the interview, you’ll do more harm than good, as you’ll fail to show your true abilities and you might even put the hiring manager off with your lurgies.
  • 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.
  • 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

Depending on the timeframe that you’re dealing with, the ideal method to cancel an interview is the same way that it was scheduled. Alternatively, you can choose between emailing, phoning or both by following the tips below.

1. Send an Email

Once you know that you can’t attend the interview, it’s advisable to send the hiring manager an email letting them know about your situation (provided that it’s at least 24 hours before your scheduled interview).

The Content of the Email

  • 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 rescheduling an interview.
  • Include a subject. A subject line is vital when you are cancelling an interview. You should keep this short and sweet and write something like: ‘Interview Cancellation: James Smith’.
  • Keep it short. There’s no need to ramble on and give an entire monologue 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.
  • Don’t forget to proofread. Although time is of the essence, it’s still imperative to proofread your email before you hit the ‘Send’ button. After all, if you’re in a state of panic, it’s most likely that you’d have made a typo or two. Consider running your email through a grammar and spellchecking tool like Grammarly or Hemingway Editor.

Email Sample

Now that you know the basics, here’s a template that you can use as an example to write your own letter.

Dear Mr Hiring Manager,

I hope you are well.

I’m contacting you to inform you that I will, unfortunately, be cancelling our interview for the Content Writer position that we had arranged for 9am on Monday, 11 February 2019.

I have revaluated my career goals and have decided to end my job search for now.

Many apologies for any inconvenience this has caused, and thank you once again for your time and consideration.

Yours sincerely,
James Smith

2. Call Ahead

I know it is 2019 and that barely anyone makes phone calls anymore, but a text message isn’t going to cut it in such a tricky situation like this. To ensure that you deliver a personal and professional message, it’s only respectable that you pick up the phone to let the hiring manager know you’re cancelling.

Example Script

If you’re unsure of what to say, you can follow the script listed below:

[Ring, ring!]

Hiring Manager: Hello?

You: Hi, Ms Hiring Manager. 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 as a family emergency has occurred. 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 once things settle. Have a good day!

HM: Thank you! Bye!

You: Bye-bye!

Things to Remember

Before we go, here are some final tips and tricks you need to keep in mind when cancelling an interview.

  • Give plenty of notice. If it’s a real emergency and you really 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.
  • 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 within your correspondence. You want to let them know the bad news without burning any bridges.
  • Naturally, you should apologise 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 later down the line.
  • Follow up by phone. If you’ve sent an email and haven’t received a response, you should follow up by phone. By calling, you can ensure that your message is received and that the interviewer can readjust their schedule.
  • If you’re cancelling the interview due to an unforeseen issue, but you’re still interested in working there, be sure to let the hiring manager know that you would like to reschedule for a later date and that you can discuss this further when you are back to your normal routine.

If you’ve followed 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.

Have you had to cancel an interview before? Let us know in the comments section below!