BLUF: 90% chance I won't take job, should I continue to interview?

After my first round of interviews for a new position, unless they wow me in the second round, I'm not likely to accept an offer the company I'm talking to. I followed the MT model for interviewing and closed the second round without even thinking about it. Upon reflection there are several things I heard that give me pause and I'm happy enough where I'm at I'm not likely to jump without something more compelling.

My take: I can't turn down an offer I don't have, and there's still a chance they may sell themselves better. I should go through the process before deciding.

A friend of mine argues I'm in a fairly small industry and shouldn't have them spend the time going through second round and possibly preparing an offer that I'm not likely to take.

Should I go through the process?

mercuryblue's picture
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I have done this, and see considerable benefit to doing it, and very little downside.

I have turned down roles at the point of offer more than I have accepted them - I've even turned down the same role twice! I have also had organisations who turned me down in an interview process come back to me a couple of years down the track wanting to talk again. The important thing is to do it in such a way that you don't burn a bridge. This is even more important in the small industry situation, as companies in such industries tend to be a mesh of interlocking former-and-future-colleagues, and you never know who you'll come across in the future.

It is ABSOLUTELY acceptable for a company to take you to any number of interviews, with any number of people, over as extended a period as they like, in as many and varied locations as they like - and yet still for them to say to you at the end - "Thanks but no thanks" and walk away from the table. It is likewise acceptable for you to attend various interviews etc and at the end say the same. You are under no more obligation than they are.

The benefits of continuing with an application - You can't walk over a bridge you haven't built. Applying and interviewing gives you get a better feel for the whole of what the company has to offer and to explore your fit there. And who knows? - you may change your mind. You may find it is better than you thought, or that there is an opportunity there that you weren't previously aware of to work on something that you find particularly interesting, or a great person to work with - or whatever. Or, if this isn't the right role for you, there may be something further down the track that is. It's great interview practice for the one you DO want. You are extending the number of people who have seen you and are impressed by you. And so on! So it comes down to the question of - when do you pull the plug, and how do you do it in a way that doesn't burn a bridge?

In my experience (not the US, so it may be different there), the selection process goes through interviews etc, then reaches the point where they have narrowed it down to one person. Next comes reference checks and preparing a formal offer. I will be interested to hear others' experiences, but I have *never* received a formal written offer without a verbal indication beforehand that I was the candidate of choice. In my view, if I'm not interested in the role, this is the time to pull the plug - after I have had all the interviews and discussions and had my opportunity to check out the company, but before they do all that work (technically, I have not had an offer at this point, so you would be correct in saying that I do not have an offer, but I think it counts as a win anyway). As well, once you have a formal offer in your hand, if you say "no" they can think it is about details of the offer (eg pay) and that maybe the offer is up for discussion, whereas withdrawing your application before then makes your position clearer.

How I handle it and what I say has depended on the situation (and is never fun), but it's critical to handle it professionally, to thank them, and so on.

afmoffa's picture

I hadn't thought of it in quite this way:

"As well, once you have a formal offer in your hand, if you say 'no' they can think it is about details of the offer (eg pay) and that maybe the offer is up for discussion, whereas withdrawing your application before then makes your position clearer."

That's a helpful insight. Withdrawing from the interview process earlier on might be taken to mean "no matter what happens, I don't want to work for your company"

mercuryblue's picture
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Wanting any individual job is about quite a few things - the role as it is, the role as it might be, future opportunities beyond the role, the manager, the company, the industry, the location, the terms of the offer, the timing, how much you need to change your current situation - and so on. Getting a job offer you want to accept is about ticking the boxes on enough of those things that it works for you. (I'm not idealistic enough to pretend you have to get all of them lined up in order to sign - and everyone has their individual deal breakers and deal makers!).

I hope I didn't come across as implying that I think "No matter what happens, I don't want to work for your company" is an appropriate message - that's a bridge-burner. The message in this situation would be more like "This role we have been discussing is not the right role for me at present" (and be prepared to explain why), in a way that will be understood as meaning something other than "I'm holding out for more money please".

John_Henry's picture

Under ordinary situations, you should continue to interview unless and until you are ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN that you won't take the position.

I recently turned down a company before getting an offer.  The ONLY reason I did so was the job posting was overseas and my family decided that they didn't want to move.

NJames's picture

I'm of two minds on this one. One part says make a clean break and don't waste your time or other people's time and end the interview there. But if you're not interested in position but remain interested in the company, it might be worthwhile to continue the process and maybe there might be another position for you. Plus, more interviews always gives you a chance to hone your skills.


vicrb's picture

... and I haven't made up my mind yet.

I think you have to balance the pro's and con's each time this happens.

I was invited to this process that was initially for a more tech/sales support position and now there is an opportunity in this smaller company related to production operations (with a construction project in the first step). I'm not really much into either but that would bring me back to a larger city and closer to my family (this means my parents, brothers/sisters/aunties/cousins/nefews) -- and that is what really is appealing to me at this moment.

On the other hand, I recently returned to my home country after an expat assignment, and changed the business unit in the Corporation where I work. At first I was in a position of lesser projection, but now I'm a key member of this very important project, doing the things I feel are what I really like. The issue is this will send me (possibly) somewhere in the Country with very little resources for the modern life that I like (tech shops, broadband, good cell phone reception, cable tv) and things that are important for my family (like a good school for our kid, potential workplaces for my wife, good medical care).

My wife took a call from this new company Friday, and we sense they want to make an offer -- and I don't know if I'm ready to take it or decline.

I enjoyed seen this topic, and the approach from Mercuryblue makes sense to me -- and that thought is what kept me going even though I don't feel very much like taking the position if an offer really comes.


Mark's picture
Admin Role Badge

Until you got something, you got nothing. You can't turn down nothing.


ChrisBakerPM's picture

You mention that you are 90% sure you wouldn't want the job, not 100% clear you don't want it. So it is worth continuing the interview process.

But I would prepare for the rest of the process by thinking out clearly what your misgivings are:

  • If there are further interviews, see if you can probe these issues and gauge whether they could be resolved. That also gives the potential employer a chance to, as you say, sell themselves better on these points. Better chance of success than passively waiting for them to guess your concerns and sell themselves on those particular points
  • If you are offered the job, the organization might be willing to negotiate over the things that concern you. You will be able to negotiate more effectively if you have thought through what (if anything) would make it work for you.
  • If you are offered the job and do turn it down, parting impressions will matter - it's always possible that they will have a job that you 100% want (or 100% need) at some point in the future. So you want to leave them with a professional impression - which means giving them reasons that they will understand for why you declined their offer.

Hope that helps. And don't accept an offer if you still have serious misgivings!