Canceling or rescheduling a job interview is a big risk if you're serious about getting the job, although interviewers understand that sometimes, applicants don't have any other choice. No matter how far in advance you reschedule, you're going to have to do damage control. Apologize for any inconvenience you've caused, and reiterate your excitement about the interview. Even if you have to cancel something else to make it happen, accept the first make-up slot the employer offers you.
If you need to reschedule an interview, it’s best to give as much advance notice as possible. The length of advance notice depends on how much time you have between when the interview was scheduled, and the actual interview date. As soon as you know you won’t be able make it, contact your interviewer. Recognize that the closer to the interview date that you wait to reschedule, the more you risk being viewed as unprofessional. If you’re able to reschedule the interview within one to two weeks before the intended date, you might be able to get away without giving a detailed excuse. You can say, “I’m having a scheduling conflict,” or “I didn’t realize I had prior a obligation on that day.” If you wait until it’s too near the interview date -- say, three or four days -- before rescheduling, your reasoning will need to be a bit more dramatic. In fact, it had better sound like it’s worth of blowing off your interview; otherwise the interviewer might assume that if hired, you won’t be able to properly prioritize your obligations.
Sometimes emergencies arise, and interviewers understand that. You might need to reschedule your interview on the actual day of the interview, but do so at your own risk. Do everything in your power to keep the appointment, since you might not get another chance. Even if you don’t lose your interviewer’s favor by wasting their time, they still might fill the position before you get a make-up shot. Still, if you’re sick, or contagious, or you’re afraid you’d make a worse impression by showing up than not showing up -- or if you have a real emergency -- make the call.
Give a good reason for postponing your interview. Your excuse should be realistic -- not too dramatic -- and should inspire a tiny bit of sympathy. Most importantly, your excuse should not make you look incompetent, unreliable, forgetful or unprofessional. Don’t say your car wouldn’t start, you got lost, or you overslept. Don’t say you forgot which day the interview was, or your babysitter didn’t show up. Don’t give an excuse that sounds like it could become a chronic problem if you’re hired. The safest bet is to say you’re freshly ill with a bad cold, and you’re afraid you’re contagious.
When you call to reschedule, don’t leave a message. Speak to your interviewer or contact person firsthand. If you do have to leave a voice mail, keep calling back until you reach her live. Remain gently persistent until you get a specific interview reschedule date and time.
Oubria Tronshaw specializes in topics related to parenting and business. She received a Bachelor of Arts in creative writing from the Santa Fe University of Art and Design, and a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from Chicago State University. She currently teaches English at Harper Community College in the Chicago area.