Pulling out of the Process


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.

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6 thoughts on “Pulling out of the Process

  1. I agree! I have benefited tremendously from going to “poor fit” interviews. Years ago, in an interview at a growing PR firm, the manager said, “I just wanted to meet you, your cover letter was compelling. You aren’t qualified for the job, but I’ll keep you in mind if I hear of anything.” Two weeks later, I got a call from one of his client companies, interviewed and landed a great job.

    Great advice, Candace.

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  2. What about, when you have gone on several interviews, still interviewing and finally get that job offer you have been waiting on? If you are offered a job, and choose to accept that, how would you address telling the other companies you are no longer available, and need to pull out of further consideration (2nd round interviews), because you have now accepted a job from another company?

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    • It’s a good problem to have, and it all depends on your timeline. If you have interviews scheduled closely together, I might go to the others even if you have accepted an offer. Offers have been known to be revoked or delayed, and it would be a good idea to see the process through with the other companies. Leave your interviewers with a good impression; your new job or their second choice may not work out. Of course, after you begin work at a new company, you’ll have to send polite regrets to any interviews still pending.

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  3. It’s a mistake to think that candidates are there at your leisure, and will make themselves available to be interviewed for any role that you please as opposed to the one you actually advertised and they applied for. I’ve had this happen to me twice: once when the role in question was clearly far more junior than had been advertised, and once when I was asked to attend a second interview for a role that the company felt was more senior and that they felt would be attractive to me, but that in fact represented a career path that would have bored me to death. (I’m a highly-experienced software developer, and in the second case instead of the technical role they’d advertised the HR manager concerned mistakenly assumed I’d be interested in a role that would have involved team and project management instead).

    I had no qualms about turning down a second interview in either case. It’s one thing to *offer* an interview for an alternative position. However, it’s quite another to act as if the role you originally applied for is no longer on the table, and to try and railroad candidates into being interviewed for roles they haven’t expressed an interest in. In both cases, I’m a busy person, and I don’t have time to waste interviewing for roles that hold no interest for me. If a prospective employer can’t even respect your decision about which role you actually want to apply for, how likely is it that they’ll listen to you about anything else if you’re foolish enough to actually accept a job offer from them?

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  4. I’ve pulled out of interviews before, and would do so again. It’s attending interviews when there’s been a material change in the opportunity that would be wasting anyone’s time further. I’ve had recruiters play bait and switch, advertising one role only to reveal that another less appealing position is on the table *after* I’ve agreed to interview. *That* is wasting people’s time. I’ve had HR drones presumptuously send me emails telling me that they “require” me to fill in an application form that resembles a telephone directory, 95% of which asks for information that is already provided on my CV, the remainder of which is completely inappropriate before any job offer is on the table. What gives these people the idea that it’s OK to as for referee details before any conditional offer is made? Or copies of your passport?, credit checks?, or “emergency contact numbers” for next of kin? I even received one such form – from a recruiter, who should know better – that indicated they “required” to know all of the other companies I was interviewing with, and the names and contact numbers of the hiring managers concerned. Oh, what?, would you like their business, home line or cell phone number? Because I’m Just That Gullible.

    When those sort of requests are dropped on me between my agreeing to be interviewed and any interview actually taking place, I already know I wouldn’t accept any job with an employer that was that bureaucratic or via an agency that was that dishonest, no matter how well any interview might go. So, I cancel the interviews rather than waste my time or the hiring manager’s time further.

    The lesson here is clear: don’t drop unreasonable demands on good candidates between their agreeing to interview with your organisation and any interview taking place. If you do, we might just decide your process isn’t worth our trouble and take our skills elsewhere.

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  5. I’m considering pulling out of an interview tomorrow. I gave the date when I was available assuming that I would control the interview prep. Instead, the recruiter has controlled it very tightly and demanded I be available at her pleasure and furnish work product exactly as she specifies. She claims this will help me feel better about myself and prepare me to ace the interview; however, with the meeting looming less than 24 hours away, I couldn’t feel worse about myself or the job if I tried. I still don’t know who I am speaking with, nor did we discuss any insider information that could have actually helped me. Instead, I have wasted the entire week formatting barely operational text boxes containing text written by the recruiter, laden with corporatese.

    I regret two things at this point:

    A) Going out for this job at all.

    B) Having a career, period. I’ve been out of work for awhile and I love it. I have not missed being bullied, steamrolled, or put in stressful situations that further harm my already poor health, not for one day. I am fantasizing about blowing more interviews. My husband and I talk frequently about me becoming a housewife. I would love nothing better than to delete my linkedin and other sites, tear up my resume and set it on fire, along with all the interview suits I don’t want, wipe my hands clean, and never look back. My only career goal in life since age 16, when I started feeling sick, was to retire.

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