So you've been offered a job interview — congratulations! That interview is already on the calendar and you're hoping you’re well on your way to landing the gig. Then suddenly, something else comes up, too. And you have no choice: You need to reschedule your interview.
Showing up on time and prepared for your job interview is key when you’re trying to prove to prospective employers that you're reliable, punctual, and on top of your game. But sometimes life happens and you know you just can’t make it at the original time. How do you professionally rain check that one-on-one? Can you do it without jeopardizing your chances of getting the job?
While rescheduling an interview isn't ideal, it's not necessarily unprofessional depending on your reasons and how you deal with the situation. There is always a chance, of course, that an employer doesn’t have time in their schedule to accommodate a switch or that they need to fill the job ASAP. But as long as you follow some basic courtesy tips — and give your interviewer as much heads up as possible — the employer is likely to understand, and hopefully they won’t hold this scheduling snafu against you.
Ultimately, whether your reason to reschedule an interview is “good enough” is up to you. But some of the common reasons for rescheduling an interview are:
Your health: If you're severely sick, you’re not going to perform optimally and you risk infecting other people, including your prospective employer. Use your discretion here. If you have a slight headache and the interview is happening over Zoom, you probably don’t need to reschedule. But if you have a cough, fever, or any symptoms of COVID-19, no prospective employer wants to meet you in person—and they’ll think it’s way more unprofessional that you risked getting them sick than that you rescheduled.
A serious work obligation: While you're interviewing for a new job because you plan on leaving your current one, you don't want to burn bridges before you even have a verbal offer. Mitigate the chances of having to reschedule for work reasons by letting your prospective employer know up front that the scheduled interview date is tentative until you can confirm that you’ve been granted the time off.
A personal or family emergency: Any employer should understand that you need to reschedule if a personal or family emergency occurs, like a death in the family or your kid breaking a bone, for example. If they don't, you might want to reconsider your interest in working for them in the first place.
Once you know you’re going to need to reschedule an interview, follow these steps:
The more notice you give about needing to reschedule, the better. Your interviewer will likely appreciate that you let them know as soon as you found out about the scheduling conflict. Depending on how you've been communicating so far, you’ll want to either send an email or make a phone call ASAP. If you've been exclusively chatting on the phone to discuss the job and schedule the interview, you should call to let them know you’re sincere. Usually, though, an email is a safe bet.
Within the first two sentences of the email you should state plainly that you need to reschedule the interview. Getting directly to the point not only makes it less likely for someone skimming their email to miss it, but also shows respect for your interviewer’s time—rather than making them read a long story about your day before they even know why you’re reaching out. And make sure you explicitly state you need to reschedule. Don’t just tell the interviewer how busy you are and that you’re not sure what to do and hope they’ll suggest rescheduling.
If you’re comfortable sharing and you can come off professional while doing so, you should give your reason for needing to reschedule. If you don’t want to go into detail, a simple descriptor like “family emergency” or “unexpected work obligation I can’t get out of” will suffice. Even if you’re comfortable going into detail, keep your explanation brief—a sentence or less. Again, you want to show you respect the interviewer’s time.
Say that you’re sorry for any inconvenience you may have caused or be causing—not for the fact that you’re sick or that your children’s school had an unexpected snow day.
Make sure it’s clear that needing to reschedule hasn’t changed how excited you are about the position and thank them (again) for the opportunity to interview.
Show that you’re proactive about fixing problems by suggesting times or days when you will be able to interview. And suggest days you’re sure will work. Needing to reschedule more than once isn’t going to look great to a future employer.
If you need more guidance, check out this template you can copy and paste as well as an example that shows you what a rescheduling email might look like in practice:
Hi [Interviewer name],
I’m reaching out to let you know that I’ll need to reschedule our interview for the [job title] position that we had set for [day/date and time] . I’m looking forward to [discussing the job with you/learning more about the position/other aspect of the interview you’re excited about], but unfortunately, [brief explanation of why you need to reschedule].
Could we reschedule our interview for a later date? I am available [other days/times that you're available]. Let me know if any of those options work for you or if you would prefer another date or time.
I sincerely apologize for any inconvenience and appreciate your understanding in advance. I’d also like to reiterate that I’m very grateful to be considered for this position and have the opportunity to [reason you’d like to join the company/get the job].
Here’s how that template might look filled out:
I’m reaching out to let you know that I’ll need to reschedule our interview for the software engineering position that we had set for Thursday at 2 p.m. I’m looking forward to learning more about the position, but unfortunately, I need to have a root canal and the earliest opening is Thursday morning.
Could we reschedule our interview for a later date? I am available next Monday afternoon or anytime Wednesday and Thursday of next week. Let me know if any of those work for you or if you would prefer another date or time this week or next.
I sincerely apologize for any inconvenience and appreciate your understanding in advance. I’d also like to reiterate that I’m very grateful to be considered for this position and have the opportunity to join a team responsible for legendary software products like TechTock’s.
Whether you email or call, be sure to take note of your interviewer's response. Remember that an interview is a two-way street, and you're deciding on them just as much as they're deciding on you. How they choose to respond in a situation like this can be very telling of how this employer will be with regard to work-life balance if you do end up working for them.
Just be confident in your need to reschedule, be prepared for the possible outcomes, and be short, sweet and to the point. If you handle it professionally, and they're really interested in you, they'll make it work.
This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of Fairygodboss.
AnnaMarie Houlis is a multimedia journalist for a gamut of both online and print publications, as well as an adventure aficionado and travel blogger at HerReport.org. She covers all things women's empowerment — from navigating the workplace to navigating the world. She writes about everything from gender issues in the workforce to gender issues all across the globe.
Regina Borsellino also contributed writing, reporting, and/or advice to this article.