In all circumstances, the best way to cancel an interview is to do it personally. Regardless of the cancellation reason, or whether you're the interviewer or the interviewee, don't just leave a voice mail saying, "We have to cancel our interview this Wednesday." The manner in which you handle professional obligations -- for interviewers and job seekers -- projects the manner in which you handle other professional matters.
Timing of Cancellation
If you are the interviewer, contact the applicant as soon as you realize that you must cancel the interview. Avoid waiting until the last minute to cancel -- it's not good business practice and it could reflect poorly on your organization if you procrastinate in calling the applicant to cancel. If you're the applicant, contact the interviewer as soon as possible to cancel the meeting. If you wait too long to cancel, the interviewer might not be interested in further consideration of your qualifications if it's appears that you didn't extend the professional courtesy of advance notice.
Interviewer Scheduling Conflict
If you're the interviewer and you have to cancel because of a schedule conflict, it's easy to explain why you have to cancel the meeting even if you have to postpone the interview indefinitely. Call the interviewee as soon as you recognize the conflict or change in plans. If you can reschedule right away, offer alternate dates and times. Otherwise, let the interviewee know that you can't reschedule immediately but that you'll send an email or call again within a certain period to set a mutually convenient time. Be specific about when you intend to call back.
Company Filled Job or Canceled Requisition
If you're the interviewer, and you have already selected the person you believe is the perfect candidate or if the job requisition is canceled, be honest with the other applicants. Companies that demonstrate forthrightness -- even if the news is not so positive -- exhibit good corporate citizenship, and they usually are well-respected among job seekers. For example, if your company decided not to fill the position, you can say, for instance, "Our staffing needs have changed and, regrettably, we aren't moving forward with interviews for the accountant position. I am sorry to cancel the interview. But I hope you will continue to monitor our careers page and apply for future roles that are suitable for your qualifications."
Interviewee Accepted Another Job
If you're a job seeker and have already accepted a job with another company, don't waste time exploring other options. Cancel previously scheduled interviews, telling the interviewer that you have accepted another job. It's the responsible thing to do and it releases that interview time for another job seeker to have a shot at the position. When you call the interviewer to cancel, you might say, "Thank you for inviting me to interview with your company. I was certainly looking forward to it; however, I believe I've found a position that's ideally suited for me. I regret that I have to cancel, but I needed to inform you of my decision to accept another role. Thanks, again, for your time and interest in my qualifications."
Interviewee's Change of Heart
That old adage, "If you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all," is as true during a job search as it is in personal relationships. If you discover information about the company that affects your interest in the job, it's better to simply say that you have decided to focus your job search in a different direction. Avoid telling the recruiter or hiring manager that you read an online forum that contained negative information or that you discovered you just don't want to work for the company. The professional way to cancel the interview is by saying, "Thank you for your interest, but I've decided to focus on other areas of my job search."
Ruth Mayhew has been writing since the mid-1980s, and she has been an HR subject matter expert since 1995. Her work appears in "The Multi-Generational Workforce in the Health Care Industry," and she has been cited in numerous publications, including journals and textbooks that focus on human resources management practices. She holds a Master of Arts in sociology from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Ruth resides in the nation's capital, Washington, D.C.