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Great advice from The Lawyer Whisperer

October 19, 2016

What is the best way to withdraw my candidacy for a new job without burning a bridge?

Julie Q. Brush

There are several factors that 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.

During this exploration, events often occur that remedy the issue that is driving a professional to leave – whether it be a more desirable offer from another employer, more money, a better title and/or more responsibility from your current one…or simply the realization that you’ve got it pretty good where you are. Regardless of the reason, if you are in deep discussions with another employer– presumably one that has spent time and energy pursuing your candidacy, 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 and the quality of your actions when withdrawing your candidacy. So what’s the best way to do it?

Notify The Employer Immediately.

If you’ve made your decision to withdraw, be considerate of an employer’s time and process and let them know immediately so they can move on. Because chances are, they needed this position filled yesterday.

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, if you are 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.

Deliver The Message Real Time.

High quality candidates will deliver this kind of bad news real time. Why? Because it’s a respectful thing to do given the employer’s investment to date. 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. If scheduling makes it impossible for a call, an email will suffice. But don’t skimp on the content.

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 about the reason either. And remember, always express your thanks and appreciation. What to say specifically? Below are a few examples:

  • “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.”
  • “Sandy, first I wanted to thank you for providing me with the opportunity to interview for this position. You and your team are amazing and the position is exciting. I wanted to let you know that I recently received an offer from a company that has appealed to me for a while and the position is too compelling to pass up. It was a difficult decision, but I’ve decided to accept it and wanted to let you know immediately so you can move forward with your search. It was great meeting you and I look forward to keeping in touch.”
  • “Allison, thanks for taking the time to talk. I have really enjoyed meeting you and the team, but as I’ve progressed in the interviews, I’ve realized that this position is narrower than what I’m seeking for my next move. So I don’t think there is a fit at this time. If another position opens up that incorporates broader responsibilities, I would be interested in exploring it further.”
  • “Andrew, thank you for the opportunity to interview with your firm. I’ve enjoyed getting to know everyone and learning more about the position. While the role is appealing, I’d like to withdraw my candidacy. After doing the drive a few times to my interviews, I don’t think the commute will be sustainable for me over a long period of time. I wouldn’t want to let you down as an associate, so knowing this I think it’s best that I withdraw. It was great meeting you and I hope to stay in touch.”

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 some time to come.

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