Skip to main contentA logo with &quat;the muse&quat; in dark blue text.
Advice / Job Search / Interviewing

What You Need to Do When You Decide to Drop Out of a Job Interview

person on laptop
Hero Images/Getty Images

During a long job search, it can seem ridiculous to turn down an interview. Even when it’s obvious that a position is totally wrong for you, there are always reasons to see it through anyway. Sometimes you think you could use the interview practice. Other times, you’re convinced that you’ll learn something about the company or the role itself that will change your mind.

The truth is that it’s perfectly fine to drop out if and when you realize you wouldn’t accept the job. But there are a few things you should do before (and after) you make the final call.

Don’t Rush the Decision

It’s easy to hear a couple things during the process that make you say, “Geez, this place sounds insane! I’d better run out of this room before they offer me this terrible job!” While you should pay attention to potential issues along the way (such as these red flags), it’s also important not to jump to conclusions based on one or two early-round interviews.

At this point, ask yourself why you’ve started considering dropping out. In my experience, there are two reasons people initially get to this point: they’ve either heard something that rubbed them the wrong way, or there’s something deeper (and more personal) going on.

If it’s the former, take advantage of any future interviews to discuss your concerns with the employer. But if it’s the latter, take it from me—reflect on your motivations for dropping out before you follow through on it. I once canceled an interview the morning I was supposed to meet with the hiring manager—all because I was afraid to try something new. In hindsight, that was immature of me and I wish I could take it back.

Find Someone You Trust and Ask for Their Feedback

A few years ago, I was going back and forth about a role I was interviewing for—and no matter what I did, I couldn’t figure out how I felt about the company or the job itself. A few things I heard were really exciting, but others made me want to rip my hair out.

There were a few conclusions that were easy to come to on my own, but eventually, I realized I needed to speak to someone I trusted about my situation.

For me, getting a chance to say the things I was thinking out loud to another human being was a great way for me to process all the information I had. It’s also a great way to answer a lot of the questions you have about fitting in at this potential organization. In my case, after I told someone about what I had learned about a particular company, she responded by saying, “Rich, you’d go insane at that job. Why are you even considering it?”

Let the Hiring Manager Know ASAP if You’re Pulling Out

Again, there’s nothing wrong with deciding that you don’t want a job that you haven’t finished interviewing for—but once you make that decision, don’t sit around.

And don’t overthink it! A simple email that doesn’t go into a whole lot of detail will suffice (seriously). With that said, if you think you’ll ever want to reach out to this person again or apply for a role a few years in the future, make sure to personalize it. Especially if you’re a few rounds in, multiple people have invested time in meeting with you and you want to leave the door open for any future opportunities.

Here’s a template you can use:

Dear [Hiring Manager’s Name],

Thanks so much for taking the time to consider me for the [position you’re interviewing for.] I’ve truly enjoyed meeting with you and discussing [a specific you spoke about]. However, I’ve decided to go in a different direction at this time.

I look forward to [seeing the product we discussed go live / continuing to follow the company’s success / watching the CEO speak at that conference / anything that would give you a reason to reach out in the future if needed.]

If you have any questions, please let me know.

[Your Name]

In an ideal world, you’d only go to interviews for jobs that you’d be excited to take. However, the reality is that you’ll probably end up sitting in conference rooms, talking about positions that don’t interest you right now. That’s OK!

Rather than writing off this interview as a worthless meeting, think of it instead as an opportunity. You not only got practice speaking to strangers (always valuable), but if you play your cards right, you might make a new connection in your field.