You Don’t Want the Job–Now What?

During the interview, you learn a great deal about the position and the employer. So what happens if you decide that you don’t want the job? I’ve certainly been there before. The most important thing is to handle things in a way where you don’t burn any bridges. The good news? It’s quite simple and makes you look supremely professional.

The mid-interview technique

If you’re still in the interview when you realize you don’t want the job, you have a couple options. I have had several occasions where I chose to end the interview. I felt that to continue would be a waste of everyone’s time. So instead, I diplomatically ended the conversation, saying something like “[interviewer name], I really don’t want to waste your time here. Based on the information you’ve given me, I know this just isn’t going to be the right match, and here’s why…”

This approach has yielded nothing but incredibly favorable responses. For me, the key elements are honesty and diplomacy. It’s essential to give the interviewer a real, honest reason. If the real reason is awkward, however, keep reading into the next section.

If this method is just too direct, then certainly finish the interview like normal. If they invite you back, you’ll have to respond promptly to their request and let them know where things stand. But if they don’t call you, then you’re off the hook. However, if you’re feeling like the position isn’t a match because of a personality issue or a concern about cultural fit, it may be best to get the jump on the situation to ensure a tactful handling of things. That brings us to the next method…

For situations where the truth would hurt

Let’s go with the example where you’re not jiving with this prospective supervisor. That would certainly be an awkward conversation to have! Here, I would suggest a proactive thank you note right after the interview. After you thank the interviewer for their time, you can then add something to the effect of “While there are many great things about the opportunity we discussed today, I have decided to pursue a different direction at this time.” First, the beauty of that statement is the fact that it’s wrapped up within a thank you note. No interviewer can ever be upset that you’re saying thank you. And the other benefit is that the statement doesn’t tend to generate follow-up questions.

The job offer that you just can’t accept

Here, we’re not talking about taking the negotiation approach where you pretend you don’t want the job. This is for when you truly don’t want the job. While it often feels easier to leave a voicemail, send an email, or worse, just never respond, these approaches tend to burn bridges.

Saying no to an offer requires a specific reason as opposed to a general statement about taking a different direction. When someone is making an offer, they’re in a bit of a vulnerable spot. They’ve met with you and several other individuals, but they have decided to invest in you. This investment involves money, time, energy, and many other resources. Plus, you won them over! It’s a business decision yet still somehow a bit personal for those involved. When you say no, it’s a form of rejection, which most of us don’t particularly enjoy.

However, it’s quite well received when delivered properly and in a way that provides closure. The best route is to have a real conversation that involves some thank yous and an explanation as to why this is just not the right direction for you to take at this time. It does not have to be a lengthy explanation. The person on the other end of that conversation will leave the situation not feeling rejected, and you will manage to deliver bad news without tarnishing your name or reputation.

Written by: Adam Lafield, Recruiter & Marketing Specialist