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Great advice from The Lawyer Whisperer

December 20, 2016

After my job interview my interest level has waned. Is it ok to withdraw midway through the process or should I keep an open mind and complete it?

Julie Q. Brush

When applying for a job, a candidate actually knows quite little about the entirety of an opportunity. S/he knows who the employer is (sometimes even this is anonymous) and has a sense of the required criteria based on a written job description, which itself varies in detail. With this limited information, a candidate’s interest in moving forward is typically comprised of a desire to learn more.

On the flip side, an employer deals with limited information as well. While a resume can fill in many blanks – practice details, chemistry, culture fit and all around “presentation” are unknowns that exist before the first “Hello”. So the interview process is one of education and discovery for both parties. And is essential to determine whether a fit exists…or doesn’t.

In your situation, you had an initial interest in this opportunity and wanted to explore it further. After meeting with the hiring manager (and/or perhaps others in the organization), the information you learned diminished your interest. In the event the employer remains interested, you’d like to know whether it’s best to pull the plug now or hear them out in the event your interest could be reignited.

So, what’s the best direction to take? In order to know, start by answering the following questions:

  • What new information have you learned that has caused your interest in this opportunity to decline?
  • How much has your interest has waned?
  • Do these new variables compromise your core wants/needs?
  • Is there still information you don’t know or have that could change your mind about the opportunity? If so, what is it?
  • Are there still things about this opportunity that appeal to you? If so, what are they?

After you answer these questions and your interest is still “Eh”, then I recommend that you pull the plug now – as chances are extremely remote that you’ll change your mind. In addition, people are off the charts busy and it’s important to be respectful of their time if you have determined that you’re not inspired by this opportunity. So in these circumstances bowing out now is the professionally courteous…and right thing to do.

If you do withdraw, it is ideal to connect with HR and/or the hiring manager real time (if you have made a good connection with the hiring manager I recommend contacting him/her directly with your notification). If you get voicemail, it is fine to leave a substantive message followed up by an email. If you prefer to connect via email only, that is ok too. But provide the courtesy of being specific about your reason for your retreat – as employers genuinely want to know.

Below are a few examples for messaging your withdrawal:

“Robert, I wanted to thank you for the opportunity to interview for the Director position at Company A. You have built a terrific group and the commercial function is cutting edge. As I learned more about the role in greater detail, it was clear that the majority of the responsibilities involved supporting the sales team. While I enjoy that work, I am seeking a more diverse position with a strong product and open source component to it. So I don’t think this position will be a fit for me. If a broader position arises, please do keep me in mind. Best Regards, Allison Chang”

“Stephanie, thank you for taking the time out of your busy day to meet with me on Tuesday. I enjoyed learning more about the employment associate position with Firm X. After giving it careful thought, I’ve decided to withdraw my candidacy. While I’m attracted to the firm and the opportunity to work with you, the role is almost purely litigation focused and I am seeking a more even split between litigation and counseling. I wish you the best of luck in filling the position. Many thanks again, John Anderson.”

“Ellen, it was great meeting you on Wednesday to discuss the IP position with Company Z. I appreciated the opportunity to be considered, but after learning more, the role is much broader than I’d prefer. I would like to continue to have a pure patent focus and do not wish to take on a wider set of responsibilities so I think it’s best that I withdraw my candidacy. Best of luck with filling the role. Best, Miguel Kelien”

If you think your interest might be increased with more meetings, then proceed ahead. But understand what you’re looking for that could make the difference. Then ask the specific questions that will yield the most relevant information.

The beauty of an interview process is to provide both employer and candidate with the opportunity to learn more about each other. And after learning more…determine whether to say I do. Neither party is expected to know whether it’s the perfect fit before the process begins. So if you have doubts midway through, take a pause and reassess. If you seriously question the fit, it’s best to move in a different direction sooner…rather than later.

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