by Meridith Levinson

Bowing Out of a Job Interview with Your Reputation Intact

Sep 16, 20083 mins

How do you tell a hiring manager that you’re no longer interested in the job he has to offer?

Consider the following scenario:

You’re being courted by an employer, and you’re excited about the prospect of a new job. Your current job isn’t all bad, but you’ve been there five years and are interested in something new.

You ace the first round of interviews with the HR manager and with the hiring manager at this company that’s pursuing you. So the very next day, the hiring manager calls you back for a second round of interviews, to meet with two other honchos. You dazzle the employer again during your second tour, and now the hiring manager is even more interested in your expertise.  He calls you to invite you back a third time for interviews with staff members and with a consultant.  

At this point you begin to wonder if you’re ever going to get past the interview stage, but since you’re interested in a job with this organization (note that this is NOT an executive-level job), you agree to more interviews. The third round of meetings goes just as swimmingly as the first two, and you’re certain that the next time the hiring manager contacts you that it will be to offer you a job.

The hiring manager does contact you again, but unfortunately it’s not to offer you a job. He wants you to take on a small consulting assignment (with no mention of pay) as yet another step in the process of vetting your expertise.

This request rubs you the wrong way. After all, you’ve interviewed with the company on three separate occasions with at least a half dozen people. You’re a professional. You have the experience they’re looking for; it’s on your résumé; and you’ve demonstrated it during the many job interviews.

As you consider this latest request, you recall some red flags that cropped up about the job and about the organization during your job interviews and you begin to realize that this employer may not be the right one for you. You decide that you no longer wish to invest any more of your time in the interview process with this company. But how do you do tell that to the hiring manager?

What would you do in this situation? How would you go about gracefully bowing out of the interview process?

This is what I’d do:

I’d send an e-mail to the hiring manager thanking him for his time and the opportunity to meet with so many people at the organization. I’d mention how much I enjoyed speaking with them and exchanging ideas, but that unfortunately, a major project has unexpectedly come up with my current employer that I’m committed to, that I must see through to completion and that limits the time I have to pursue opportunities outside of my current gig.

Would you take a different approach? Let me know what you’d do.