How to Decline an Interview

Is your skill set in high demand? If yes, you might find yourself invited to a job interview that doesn’t interest you and you might want to read up on how to decline an interview.

You want to say, “No,” but you don’t want to shut yourself off from future opportunities. Thus, it’s good to know how to decline an interview in a win-win way.

What Future Opportunities?

The invitation to interview provides you an open opportunity to forge a stronger connection with the recruiter and company reaching out to you. Even if you don’t like the company, the job, or the person, this matters because:

  1. Companies improve.
  2. There’s going to be another job. It might be perfect for you.
  3. Recruiters and hiring managers change employers. They might be at your dream company tomorrow.

How to Decline an Interview

Keep it simple:

“Thank you for thinking of me. I’m pretty engaged at Company X, but I do appreciate hearing about opportunities. Let’s see if I can help you find any candidates.”

Then use one of these approaches (listed in order of value):

  1. Introduce the recruiter to a great potential candidate(s).
  2. Confidentially give the recruiter the name of a great potential candidate(s).
  3. Ask yourself how you would source someone like you. Share your best idea(s).
  4. Introduce the recruiter to people you believe would be good sources.
  5. Confidentially share the name(s) of someone would be a good source.

(For another approach on how to turn down an interview, see the comment from Hope below — and please, share what has worked for you!)

Once You’ve Helped, Set the Future Up for a Win

Imagine a mutually positive future outcome and make some good luck by:

  1. Explaining what type of opportunity would interest you. Be reasonably realistic.
  2. Connecting with the recruiter on LinkedIn and other appropriate social networks.
  3. Providing a friendly offer to be helpful in the future.

Build Bridges, Don’t Burn Them

Take ten or 15 minutes to build your social capital. Make the investment. Your graciousness will resonate with people you help for the rest of your career.

Featured by: SmartBrief
Image: Canva
Updated May 2019

© 2015 – 2022, Donna Svei. All rights reserved.

Comments 3

  1. This is interesting…I had to turn down one as I was looking for a position when one of my parents got very ill, I used complete honesty. How much I appreciated the interview invite but something very important to me had come up…I mentioned how much I respected their company etc etc. The recruiter was extremely kind and asked that I follow up with her when all was settled. I did just that and found myself speaking with an area that needed some of my freelance skills. I worked with them for three months and still consider that company when looking again.


    Great illustration of the power of graciousness and follow up! Thank you, Hope.

  2. Unless you already have a job offer, there is no reason to turn down an interview. Just because you already have an interview doesn’t mean that they’re going to hire you. Job competition is tougher than ever these days; I’ve heard some statistics say there’s about ten applicants interviewed for every open position. So the odds are already stacked against you. Take every interview that comes your way until you actually get a job offer. If you turn down an interview without another job lined up, you’ve basically burned your bridges. They’ll be less likely to interview you should you apply there again because they won’t think you’re as serious and committed to their business. If you do get an accepted job offer, you can always call the other place to cancel you interview. It can take 2 weeks after your interview before they decide whether to hire you or not, so if you turn them down post interview due to an accepted job offer, they’re more likely to understand. That’s my two cents, anyway.

    Mark Sanders

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