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Unfortunate situations sometimes come up that we can’t control; life throws punches and we have to try to roll with them in the most professional way possible. For example, you have a valid reason to cancel an interview but don’t want to lose the opportunity or make a bad first impression. What do you do?
In my interviewing experience, I'll consider giving a candidate a second chance after cancelling an interview if they're professional when canceling and proactively suggest another time to meet. If a candidate proactively suggests another time, it displays a continued interest in the position. Acceptable reasons to miss an interview are illness, a family emergency, or work conflicts.
Canceling an interview because of a family emergency
While most recruiters have no problem with someone canceling an interview for a genuine family emergency, I'd be cautious about how you define this. To be blunt, the idea of a “family emergency” is sometimes overused by candidates, which can lead recruiters to be skeptical. While recruiting, I had multiple people try to reuse the “family emergency” excuse more than once. The first time, I can give the benefit of the doubt, but repeat usage definitely starts to seem more like a "cry wolf" situation.
Canceling an interview because of work commitments
Work conflicts are also a valid reason—and ones that can actually work in your favor. If I’m considering bringing you into our company, I find it admirable that you show loyalty to your position at your current company even while looking at other options.
Again, be wary if this is your excuse. If you schedule an appointment in advance, try to do your best to stick to the appointment. If you think you could have a scheduling issue, let the interviewer know in advance. Sounding confident in your schedule and then needing to change last minute due to a work related conflict can make you sound disorganized.
Canceling an interview because you have another offer
If you've already accepted another position, the paper work is done, and you're certain you're staying with the company, it would make sense to politely cancel your interview elsewhere. Thank the interviewer for their time and inform them you've accepted another position. If you're still interviewing, nervous, or doubting your interest in the position and debating cancelling your interview, I'd recommend following through with it, if only because you never know what's in store: your preferred choice might not come to fruition, or you might just meet someone who will change your career for the better.
How to cancel an interview professionally
If you have a valid reason and need to miss an interview but still want to be considered for the position, the most professional approach is to email your contact, and then follow up with a call.
Include the following in your email:
Sometimes you have to make the best out of a bad situation. Employers recognize when candidate handles themself well in unexpected and unpleasant situations. If a candidate can maintain professionalism, positivity, and be proactive in their interest, it’s hard not to give them a second opportunity.
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