I recently received an email from a jobseeker who asked whether it was appropriate to pull out of the interview process on her own initiative. While her question was about unemployment claim eligibility, I was curious to know why anyone would decline an interview in this competitive job market. Her response was that she was not comfortable with the job requirements. “I’m not sure it’s a good fit for me. It requires accounting experience, which I do not have. I did not realize it required an accounting background when I applied.”
What interested me about her response was that the employer obviously thought she deserved a look. These days, companies are flooded with applicants, and they seldom waste time talking to candidates that don’t seem to be a match. My personal opinion is that you should never turn down an interview opportunity, unless you have knowledge that the company is unethical or otherwise not worthy of your consideration. In this way, your job search is like dating. You don’t have to be convinced that you’re destined to marry someone in order to agree to have dinner with him. It’s by getting to know someone that you figure out whether you’re a good match. There are plenty of happy couples out there who didn’t feel the chemistry from the first moment they met.
Some jobseekers feel it’s somehow dishonest to agree to an interview when you have no interest in the job. If you knew everything about the job, the company, and your potential for advancement, it might be easy to know whether you are wasting the employer’s time – or yours. But you can’t possibly know enough to make a decision about a job until you have met and discussed these things.
There are several great results that can come from an interview even if you or the employer decides you’re not the best match for this particular opportunity. You might impress the interviewer enough that she recommends you to another hiring manager in the company – or outside it. I have shared resumes with my peers when I found a great candidate that just wasn’t a match for me. You might wind up creating your own job; it’s happened before. If you make a compelling case for your ability to solve problems, you might get a chance to be part of a new project, or be offered a consulting opportunity.
I strongly encouraged the jobseeker who wrote to me to go to the interview. The company may have her in mind for another position or a future opening. I hope she goes, and I hope she does a great job of selling herself. The absolute worst thing that can happen is that she doesn’t get called back. She may not get an offer, but she certainly never will if she pulls herself out of the running.