Canceling a Job Interview at the Last Minute: How Not to Mess Up

Despite your best intentions, there may come a time when you need to reschedule a job interview at the last minute, if not cancel it altogether. This is a scenario that should (justifiably!) make you very nervous: After all, there’s a high risk that, by canceling, you’ll create such a bad impression that you’ll kill any chance of ever working for that particular firm.

However, you can cancel or reschedule in a way that leaves you and your interviewer on good terms. Here’s what to do:

You Have to Say Something

It might be tempting to skip out on the interview without saying anything. That would spare you the awkwardness of a phone call, right? And besides, the economy is really good right now, especially in tech; there’s no way that ghosting on one interview will harm your chances at landing a job at another company, right? Right?

Wrong. The tech industry is a small one, and recruiters and hiring managers talk to one another about candidates. If you try and skip out without advance warning, word will get around.

“The world is small,” Johnny Taylor, president and CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management, recently told CNNMoney when asked about prospective candidates skipping interviews. “You are compromising yourself. You don’t know how this will show up to hurt you later.”

So yes, you have to speak up. Nor can you leave it up to an email or text: for something like this, you absolutely need to pick up the phone and do things face-to-face (or voice-to-voice, as it were). After you have that call, make sure to send a follow-up email so that everything is clear to everyone.

…But Don’t Try to Over-Explain…

Many people, when nervous, have a tendency to ramble on. Avoid this as best you can when canceling an interview, even if you’re tempted to provide a long-winded explanation for your actions.

If you want to reschedule, something as simple as, “Unfortunately, I can’t make this time due to unforeseen circumstances. Can we reschedule for a later date?” can work.

If you want to cancel, you should make absolutely clear that you’re canceling (as opposed to trying to switch dates and times). You can keep it short and sweet: “While I appreciate you considering me for this role, I’ve decided to remove myself from consideration for the position,” is probably just fine.

…And Make Sure to Apologize

While you want to keep the cancelation short, you absolutely must apologize. Remember that you’re not just inconveniencing the hiring manager or recruiter; there are a lot of staff who were adjusting their schedules to accommodate you, especially if you were penciled in for a panel interview. You’ve caused a scheduling pile-up; just accept that, and make sure that the other side knows how bad you feel about it.

An apology is doubly important if you intend on rescheduling; it can mean the difference between the hiring manager saying “Sure” or “Nah.” It doesn’t have to be long or verbose, just sincere. A simple “I’m so sorry!” can do wonders.

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3 Responses to “Canceling a Job Interview at the Last Minute: How Not to Mess Up”

  1. These are courtesies for the companies where we have to apologize to them for not being able to make an appointment for an interview.

    The reverse should also be true. When will companies start apologizing to candidates for the crap they pull.

    How about not getting back to us in reasonable time frames to set up interviews or to even apologize to us when we have not made the cut and so much more! This a two way street! Yes???