You seem nice, but this isn't the job for me
July 7, 2010 12:25 PM   Subscribe

How does one gracefully back out of the job application process?

I'm sending out a lot of applications lately. Some are for potential dream jobs, but some are just for gigs I think I'm qualified for that I'm interested in learning more about. Often, the job description is sufficiently vague or general that there's a lot I don't know about it unless and until they get in contact with me. Whenever I get a phone interview or other initial contact, I try to sound (and be) as enthusiastic and interested as I can. I don't want the search for a perfect job to be the enemy of getting an adequately good one.

It occasionally happens that after an initial phone interview, they explain more about the job, send a writing test, or otherwise ask me to interact with the product, and I figure out that I'm not a great fit for the job after all.

I don't really know how to back out of the interview/application process gracefully and without hurting feelings or burning bridges. I mean, I seemed enthusiastic during the first contact, so suddenly going, "Actually, no, nevermind" seems strange. I can't just say "Upon further perusal, I don't like your product." In the past, I've said I'm accepting another offer even when I'm not. I don't like to blatantly lie and I worry it could come back to bite me.

So what are the magic words to thank someone for their interest but not move forward with the process? Not my real name email address:
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (7 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
If you don't mind a white lie, just tell them you've gotten a position elsewhere and wish them luck on their search. There's a lot of unemployed folks, odds are good they have a lot of other folks also interviewing as well.
posted by yeloson at 12:30 PM on July 7, 2010

This article has some good guidelines.

I've been in that position, but typically rejected a job offer because I decided to stay with the company I was with - which is a bit different. As long as you are polite and graceful, most companies will be fine with whatever reason you cite, even if it is just "While I appreciate the offer, I'm just not sure I'd be a good fit."
posted by routergirl at 12:33 PM on July 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Thank them for their time and say that you feel the company just isn't a good match for you. Remember, the interview process is always a two-way street - an opportunity for both parties to figure out whether you belong in their company. You don't need to feel guilty so long as you're polite about it.
posted by lizbunny at 12:36 PM on July 7, 2010 [2 favorites]

It's fine to just say "I'm sorry, but I don't think I'd be a good fit," but it can be worth (politely!) explaining why you don't want the job. If the salary isn't high enough, for example, say so - they might bump it up a bit.
posted by Mr. Excellent at 12:46 PM on July 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Do call them to thank them for their time directly. I did this earlier this year after receiving an unexpected raise at my current job, and although I dreaded the conversation (as a person who dislikes phones in general), I was ultimately very glad I didn't cop out and write an email.

If you're looking for a way to re-frame the conversation so it feels less like you're rejecting them, offer to pass along the hiring manager's contact info to any likely candidates you know or may meet in the next few months.
posted by deludingmyself at 12:47 PM on July 7, 2010

I'm a fan of adding "at this point in time" to the end of "this isn't the right fit/position for me" to keep doors open.
posted by cestmoi15 at 1:14 PM on July 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

I've done this before, and I must have done it well because at least once I've been able to go back and accept a different job with the same company later.*
I always say, "Thanks for taking the time to explain the position you have available, I really appreciate it. After reading your clarification, I don't feel that it would be a good fit for me because _________.

However, I would definitely be interested in any future positions which are more _______, such as _____, ______, or _____."
HR managers know that this kind of thing happens. Maybe the format didn't allow for enough explanation of the job duties, or maybe they failed to mention something important in the ad.

If you just got squeamish about the company for no real reason you could always fall back on "insufficient opportunities for advancement" or "not the pay range I'm looking for right now."

* I usually ran into this when a high tech job turned out to be happening on Windows servers instead of Unix/Linux ones. That's a pretty clear-cut case of a bad fit that can't be helped.
posted by ErikaB at 6:34 PM on July 7, 2010 [2 favorites]

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