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Great advice from The Lawyer Whisperer

October 24, 2017

How to withdraw your candidacy without burning a bridge.

Julie Q. Brush

The Question: I’m deep in the interview process for a new job, but just received a big raise from my current employer. So I’d like to withdraw my candidacy. How do I do so without burning a bridge?

There are several factors that can influence a lawyer to enter the job market and pursue his/her next opportunity. One of them…is money. Being paid “too little” can lead a lawyer to believe s/he is undervalued, unappreciated and unheard. These feelings can breed resentment, which starts setting in and escalates until a boiling point is reached. It is at this time, a lawyer makes the decision to explore the market and confirm what his or her value is…or is not.

It sounds like money was a material factor in your desire to pursue other opportunities. And now that that issue has been remedied, your interest in leaving is gone (at least for now). But you are in deep discussions with another employer – presumably one that has spent time and energy pursuing your candidacy. So how do you withdraw without burning a bridge? Does it even matter if you’re not going to take the job anyway?


How you exit a process is just as important as how you enter it. So you’ll be judged on your approach when withdrawing your candidacy. What’s the best way to do it?

Notify The Employer.

Obvious, I know. But you’d be surprised at how many people disappear into the ether after they are no longer interested in a job opportunity. So while this should go without saying, I’m going to reiterate it here: If your interest in a job opportunity has ceased…for whatever reason…communicate your withdrawal to the employer.

Do It Yourself.

Many times, recruiters represent candidates for specific opportunities. And many times, candidates rely heavily on recruiters to deliver bad news to employers. Despite this common dynamic, in this situation, I strongly recommend that you deliver the message yourself. If you make the effort, the employer will appreciate it and you’ll feel better about it too. If you’re flying solo without a recruiter, it goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway) that you should proactively reach out to communicate your intentions.

Notify The Employer Immediately.

Be considerate of an employer’s process and let them know immediately after your decision is made so they can move on. Because chances are pretty darn good they needed this position filled yesterday.

Deliver The Message Real Time.

Yes, I know what you are thinking: “Come on Julie, email is sufficient in this day and age.” Maybe so. But the highest quality candidates will deliver this kind of bad news real time. Why? Because it’s the professionally courteous thing to do given the employer’s investment to date. It will also make a positive impression and enhance the relationship you have started to cultivate, which could pay big dividends should your paths cross again (and they most likely will). No meeting required – a call is sufficient. If you receive the hiring manager’s voicemail, leave a short message asking for a few moments of his/her time to discuss your candidacy. Or, send an email to schedule time for a live call.

Provide A Thoughtful Explanation.

Employers always want to know the real reason for a candidate’s withdrawal. So give it to them. You don’t have to feel bad or uncomfortable because the reason has to do with money either. What to say? Below is an example:

“Hi Charles, I appreciate your time in taking my call. I wanted to let you know that I just learned that my employer has given me a considerable raise. Part of the reason that drove me to consider another opportunity was that my compensation was quite low – and as a result, I felt undervalued in my current role. My manager really stepped up and reiterated how important my contribution is to the firm/company. So I’ve decided to give the firm/company a longer commitment and need to withdraw my candidacy for your opportunity. I sincerely appreciate the time and effort you and your great team have spent getting to know me. This is a terrific role that any lawyer will be fortunate to land. I’m sorry that our timing didn’t work out this time, but I look forward to our paths crossing again. Thanks so much for your understanding.”

Even with the best intentions, a candidate may pull the plug on an otherwise successful interview process when confronted with a game-changing event. And if this occurs, ending the process must be executed with grace, appreciation and maturity. Because whether or not you cross the finish line, how you conduct yourself in the process is a reflection of You. And rest assured…will be remembered for a long time to come.

Like this

David Steinberg, Corporate Counsel, River drive construction co. Inc./Langan Development, LLC

The candidate who got the raise should be careful. I received a story from a recruiter: They were representing a client who got an raise to stay, at his position, and he stepped away from the job through the recruiter. Who then received a call from the employer who had just given the raise. They were hiring to replace the guy. Seems they wanted to control the timing, and didn't want the empty space. So they gave him a raise to keep him, but the fact that he wanted to leave turned out to be a reason to let him go. They just didn't want the seat empty. Maybe the lesson is, once you have decided to go.....GO!!! You've crossed the Rubicon. Don't look back.

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