Cancelling an interview with a candidate is never ideal.

Maybe you’ve already made a job offer to another perfect candidate; the ideal person who fully embodies your company culture while boasting an impressive set of qualifications and experience.

Perhaps your organisation has had to close a position you were hiring for, either because of a lack of budget, an internal reshuffle, or because of a decision to postpone hiring.

Or maybe you simply need to reschedule an interview because of a calendar clash for a hiring manager or member of the senior leadership team.

Whatever the reasons for needing to cancel the job interview, this leaves in-house recruiters in a slightly sticky situation. A cancellation can discourage a great candidate from applying again in the future, causing your team to miss out on promising talent. It can damage your employer brand, especially if it happens last minute. And, even if there’s a very valid reason for cancelling or rescheduling, it can still make you appear unprofessional.

So, what’s the best way to cancel a job interview in a polite and professional manner? Here are our tips to manage this tricky situation.

Give as much notice as possible

What’s worse than cancelling an interview? Cancelling an interview at the last minute.

It’s important that you notify the job candidate of the cancellation as soon as possible. This is because they may have made travel and childcare arrangements for an in-person interview or booked time off work. Giving notice that the job interview will be cancelled or rescheduled as far in advance as possible makes it more likely that the job seeker will be able to change their plans. This minimises the inconvenience to them and makes it more likely that they will retain a good impression of your brand.

Plus, if you choose to reschedule the job interview, this gives you more opportunity to select a new date.

Stay polite and courteous 

Any recruiter worth their salt will already know the importance of being polite and courteous to job applicants. It’s essential that all communications with a candidate about cancelling or rescheduling a job interview are polite, and a genuine apology goes a long way. There’s no need to grovel, but explaining that you are sorry for the inconvenience is always a good idea when you cancel a job interview.

Moreover, any impolite or unprofessional cancellation shared online can do major damage to your employer brand. Before sending an email cancelling a job interview, imagine that email being shared on Twitter or quoted in an online review of your business; do you come off in a flattering light?

For this reason, it’s useful to have an email template prepared for this eventuality to ensure that the communication strikes the right tone. We’ve included some templates for your interview cancellation email at the end of this article, so don’t forget to check them out.

Be honest; don’t ghost

Despite being an extremely common practice among many organisations, ‘ghosting’ a candidate is akin to shooting yourself in the foot. It may seem easier to just cut contact but this unprofessional technique simply leads to frustration and disappointment from the candidate, ensuring that they will never apply for roles at your company again. Ghosting candidates damages your employer brand and reduces the likelihood of top talent applying to your vacancies, especially if the candidate tells their friends or reviews your organisation negatively on Glassdoor.

As a rule, it’s always better to politely inform candidates that you want to cancel their interview and give honest reasons instead of cutting contact. Explaining that another candidate has been selected or that hiring for the role has been postponed creates greater transparency and trust between the candidate and organisation, improving the candidate experience and making them more likely to apply again in the future.

Encourage the candidate to apply again in future

If they’re a great candidate who seems like a good fit for your organisation, remember to ask them to apply for other roles at a later date. This provides crucial encouragement and is beneficial to the candidate experience, making them more likely to stay engaged with your organisation.

As part of your talent pool, your internal recruiting team can reach out directly with roles the candidate might be interested in, and they can keep updated with vacancies that arise. It’s a good way to be proactive in your recruitment marketing strategy and create a talent pipeline for future hires.

Email template for interview cancellations 

Subject line: Cancelling interview for [Job title] position

Hi [Candidate’s name],

Unfortunately, we need to cancel the interview on [date and time] for the position of [job title].

Due to a change in hiring plans, we have had to postpone hiring for this position for at least six months. However, we were impressed by your experience and qualifications and we encourage you to apply for future jobs at [Company].

I’m truly sorry for having to cancel this interview. Thank you for taking the time to apply at [company name] and I hope that you will apply for other roles in the future.

Kind regards,

[Your name] [Email signature]

Template for interview reschedule requests

Subject line: Interview invitation (change in schedule)

Hi [Candidate’s name],

Thank you for your interest in the role of [job title] at [company name]. Unfortunately, due to a scheduling conflict we have to change the time of the interview at [current interview date and time]. Would it be possible to reschedule the job interview for one of the following dates?

  • [Date and time]
  • [Date and time]
  • [Date and time]

If you cannot make any of these times, please reply with your availability. I am very sorry for the inconvenience.

Kind regards,

[Your name] [Email signature]

Avoid cancelling in the first place

While sometimes having to cancel or reschedule is unavoidable because of factors outside your control, there are a few steps you can take to avoid having to cancel in the first place.

Use an interview scheduling tool to prevent scheduling clashes

Needing to reschedule interviews because of internal calendar clashes looks unprofessional and gives a poor first impression of your organisation. In an increasingly competitive market for talent it’s essential that you get interview scheduling right first time.

Fortunately, with the help of Hireserve ATS, scheduling interviews is a breeze. Our interview scheduling tool allows all interviewers to upload their availability, from which candidates can select their preferred time slot. With no need for email chains or time-consuming phone calls trying to find the right time for everyone, Hireserve’s interview scheduling tool helps you optimise your time and focus on hiring the right person.

Screen candidates more carefully to only invite the best to interview

Hireserve’s candidate screening tool also helps you reduce the need for interview cancellations by more effectively shortlisting applications. With pre-screening ‘killer questions’ for high volume recruitment and configurable ‘job specific questions’ which can be weighted in accordance with the role, the ATS helps reduce the number of potential hires called for interview and thus also lessens the need to cancel interviews.

Use seamless online interviewing for a hassle-free experience

Finally, using the online interviewing capabilities of Hireserve ATS allows you to optimise and streamline the interview process. A consistent and seamless process including automatically generated online video links ensures that everything runs smoothly, reducing your need to cancel or reschedule due to technical difficulties.

Want to try Hireserve ATS for yourself? Book a demo today or get in touch to find out more about how our powerful software can transform the interview process.


About the author

Tristan Potter

Tristan has a decade's worth of experience writing content and copy for organisations across Bristol and the Southwest of England. He has written on a diverse range of topics, including technology, philosophy, politics, and recruitment. His writing has appeared in The Drum, HR Grapevine, and The Guardian, among other publications. He joined Hireserve in March 2022.