How to End a Job Interview Early (Step-By-Step)

By Mike Simpson

When you land a job interview, you’re usually elated. But what happens if you get to the meeting, start answering questions, and something just isn’t right? Maybe the role doesn’t match your skills, or you’re getting a weird vibe. In either case, you want to get out of there ASAP, leaving you wondering about how to end a job interview early.

Sure, the situation above doesn’t happen a ton. But when it does, you want to make sure you have a reliable strategy. If you might need to end a job interview, here’s what you should know.

Reasons for Ending a Job Interview

Alright, before we talk about how to end an interview early, let’s take a look at why you might want to end an interview. After all, wrapping things up before the meeting is supposed to be over can seem like an odd choice on the surface.

The thing is, ending a job interview early isn’t unlike rejecting a job offer – something that happens in 17.3 percent of cases. Sometimes, you don’t realize what a job entails based on the listing alone. You only realize that it doesn’t match your skillset or preferences until you’re talking to the hiring manager. That might be because the job ad was vague or ambiguous, or you might be a victim of a bait-and-switch.

Sure, you could technically finish the interview out. At a minimum, it’ll let you hone your interviewing skills, and that’s never a bad thing. However, that isn’t always the best plan.

For instance, if you’re worried you’ll make a poor impression because your skillset doesn’t align with the company’s expectations, walking away could be a better choice. It lets you end things politely and professionally while preserving as much of your reputation as possible.

If it’s a bait-and-switch, staying may feel like a waste of time. Being upset or frustrated is also normal, and you may want to get out before the situation gets worse.

Another reason you might want to end a job interview early is if the culture fit is bad. Similarly, if the manager’s style obviously doesn’t match your needs or preferences, you may want to just walk away.

A rude hiring manager is another reason to head for the door. Whether it’s general unprofessionalism or worse – such as blatant insults, racism, sexism, or agism – you may have no interest in continuing the conversation.

Yes, there is some risk when you end a job interview early. In most cases, the hiring manager is taken aback by your decision, and that may not make a great impression even if you wrap things up politely. If that’s the case, getting an interview at that company later might not be an option.

However, calling it off means you aren’t wasting anyone’s time. Additionally, if it’s because the role is a poor match, that shows self-awareness. If the hiring manager is acting inappropriately, it lets you leave a bad situation before things get worse.

Ultimately, you just want to use the right approach. That way, if you end an interview early, you remain professional, keeping your reputation as intact as possible while allowing you to move on quickly.

Important Things to Remember When Ending a Job Interview

One of the key parts of how to end a job interview early is having the right attitude. Ultimately, politeness and professionalism are critical. Why? Well, because this is technically a rejection.

Announcing that you don’t want to finish the meeting means you’re telling the hiring manager you’re not interested. In the end, that’s often hard to hear, regardless of the reason.

Plus, the odds are high that the hiring manager wasn’t actually prepared for the idea that you might be the one to tell them “no” that day. By approaching the situation tactfully, you’re essentially softening the blow.

In some cases, it’s also wise to use the “it’s not you, it’s me” approach. By doing that, you’re not suggesting that there’s anything wrong with the role itself. You’re not saying that the job is bad for you. Instead, it’s that you aren’t right for it. Again, that softens your exit, making it a bit more palatable.

Finally, you want to get the timing right. In most cases, you want to wait for a clear transition point in the meeting. One of the clearest moments is when the hiring manager asks if you have any questions for them. However, there are other times that can work.

For instance, if the hiring manager is repeatedly asking about skills you don’t possess– making it clear that those capabilities are priorities – then you may want to initiate an exit then. Essentially, instead of answering another question that shows you aren’t the right candidate, you can segue into the fact that you don’t seem to be what they’re looking for, using that to end the interview early.

Ultimately, it’s best to find a natural point to interject. That way, your decision doesn’t seem to come from left field, and you don’t have to interrupt the hiring manager along the way.

MIKE'S TIP: While you usually want to time your exit carefully, you don’t have to wait if the hiring manager is being blatantly rude, hostile, insulting, or acting in an illegal manner. If that’s the case, you’re within your right to just get up, express your lack of interest in moving forward and head for the door. In the end, your safety matters most, so keep that in mind if the interview takes a potentially dangerous turn.

Step-by-Step Guide for How to End a Job Interview Early

1. Wait for a Natural Transition Point

As mentioned above, the timing of your exit matters. Barring extreme situations, avoid cutting the hiring manager off or interrupting. Instead, wait for a natural transition point.

Precisely when that occurs may depend on your reason for leaving. If the interview is generally pleasant, you can wait until they ask if you have any questions for them. Otherwise, you can interject when the hiring manager asks a question that aligns with your reason for an early exit.

2. Express Your Appreciation

Showing your appreciation to the hiring manager is an essential part of the equation. You want to make sure they know that you value their time and consideration, so it’s always wise to say so directly.

3. Say Why You’re Going to End an Interview

When you end a job interview early, you want to provide a basic reason. That way, the hiring manager knows what prompted you to remove yourself from contention.

In most cases, a concise explanation is fine. You can mention a skill, culture, or management style mismatch as your justification, largely leaving it at that. When you do, you’re showing self-awareness and don’t leave the hiring manager in the dark, making your exit easier to understand.

If you’re leaving because of inappropriate behavior, merely stating that the job is a poor fit is fine. You aren’t required to explain any further.

4. Ask If They Agree [Optional]

In some cases, you may want to ask the hiring manager for their input before wrapping up the interview. For example, if you’re getting the impression that there’s a skill mismatch but would be open to the role or working for the company, you can create an opportunity for the hiring manager to share their perspective.

Usually, you’ll explain why you think it’s a poor fit. Then, you’ll either ask if they feel the same way or close by saying, “If you agree, it may be best if we end the interview…” That way, if you’re misreading the situation, they can respond, or if they see things your way, they can be the ones to wrap things up.

Just understand that you don’t have to go this route if you have no interest in the role at all. If that’s the case, being definitive is best.

5. Thank Them Again

While expressing gratitude a second time may seem unnecessary, it’s always best to close with a “thank you” whenever possible. That way, your final impression is positive and professional.

If you use the approach in step four, wait until the hiring manager responds. If they agree with you, thank them for your time then.

If you aren’t asking for the hiring manager’s perspective, simply add the “thank you” part right after you share your reason. It puts a bow on things, making it clear that you intend to leave.

3 Examples of How to End a Job Interview Early

1. Poor Fit for Skills

When the reason you’re leaving is skill-based, it’s best to mention the capability in question, particularly if you’re giving the hiring manager a chance to interject at the end. That way, there’s an extra degree of clarity.


“While I appreciate you taking the time to meet with me, based on the questions you’ve asked, it appears that the job entails a substantial amount of [skill], which isn’t part of my repertoire currently. Knowing that, I feel that the role may be better suited to another candidate with prior experience in that arena. If you agree, it may be best if we end the interview here, giving you more time to focus on applicants that can better meet your needs.”

2. Culture or Management Style Mismatch

With a culture or management style mismatch, you’ll want to give the hiring manager insights into your reasoning. However, you can be a bit vague, referencing the issue in a broad sense.


“I want to say that I appreciate being invited in for an interview. However, it seems like the [company culture/team culture/management style] isn’t a match. Since that’s a big part of the success equation, I feel it’s best to remove myself from contention, ensuring you can concentrate on candidates that are more likely to thrive in the role. Thank you for your consideration, and I hope you’re able to find an exceptional match quickly.”

3. Inappropriate Behavior or Bait-and-Switch

When inappropriate behavior or a bait-and-switch is the reason you’re ending the interview early, you can be generic. In these situations, a quick exit may be a priority. Since that’s the case, embrace brevity and stay as vague as you’d like to ensure you can head out fast.


“While I appreciate being invited in for an interview, based on our conversation thus far, I don’t believe this is the right fit. Thank you for your time.”

If discriminatory behavior prompted you to leave, you do have the option of reporting it. You can file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or your state Department of Labor (or similar agency). Usually, the process is outlined online, and you can file electronically. Just be aware that there are typically time limits, so you’ll want to do so quickly if that’s a path you want to take.

Putting It All Together

Ultimately, figuring out how to end a job interview early isn’t usually as hard as it initially seems. If you’re polite and professional and choose the proper moment, you’re typically in good shape. Just use the information above as a guide. That way, you’ll know just what to say if you need to end an interview a bit ahead of schedule, regardless of the reason.

Good luck!

About The Author

Mike Simpson

Co-Founder and CEO of Mike is a job interview and career expert and the head writer at His advice and insights have been shared and featured by publications such as Forbes, Entrepreneur, CNBC and more as well as educational institutions such as the University of Michigan, Penn State, Northeastern and others. Learn more about The Interview Guys on our About Us page.