What's the best way to proceed with the interview process when I like the company but I'm increasingly unsure that I want a job right now at all?
February 26, 2011 2:58 PM   Subscribe

What's the best way to proceed with the interview process when I like the company but I'm increasingly unsure that I want a job right now at all?

I have decided that it is time for me to move on from my current job. Recently a recruiter introduced me to a company that has a reputation as a good place to work, seems to have interesting opportunities and projects, and that is going through a period of growth, hiring a large number of people. I had a phone screen there and was invited for an interview. However, as I have been going through the job searching process and seriously thinking about my future career, I am more and more coming to believe that what I should do next is spend some time working on some personal projects rather than immediately getting another job.

If I go in for an interview at this company, it is very likely that I will be offered a position, and that I would need to make a reasonably quick decision on whether to take it. I like the company and if I don't end up taking a position there, would like to maximize my chances of being able to successfully re-apply.

The question now: what should I do with the company? Should I schedule an interview anyway? It is, after all, quite possible that the interview experience would help me make up my mind about whether I want to work there. Or should I tell them that I've done some soul searching and decided I'm not ready to move on to my next corporate job? I think they would likely respect me more and that I would maximize my chances of being able to work there later if I cut things short now and didn't waste their time.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
If someone interviews with me, is offered a job, and then turns it down, I've wasted good time. It is unlikely I would even consider going through that process again unless they were so exceptional that I would be a fool not to hire them.

The only way to proceed is to be honest, up front, prior to the interview, about your ambivalence, you'll avoid burning bridges you might need later.
posted by tomswift at 3:07 PM on February 26, 2011

What are the things that make you feel like you don't want a job? Make a list of these things, then turn them into questions you can ask the interviewer. For example if you want to have the freedom to work on your own ideas, ask how much freedom you'll have to pursue your own ideas at this job.

Then take the interview (Remember, interviews are two way, you're interviewing them too.) Ask your questions. The worst that will happen is that they offer you a job and you can decline because of the unsatisfactory answers to your questions. You'll have solid basis for refusing it and you can explain to them exactly why. It's not burning a bridge. If they want you know it's a good chance they'll want you in the future.

The best that could happen is that the job gives you the things you're after and you'll get paid for it.
posted by Ookseer at 3:13 PM on February 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

An interview is a two-way street. They're learning about you and you're learning about them, with the end goal that both of you will make up your respective minds. So, if you have an open mind at all, I'd interview. But if you're dead set on not becoming employed again right now, I would tell them that before any interview - especially since, as you note, that will look more favorable if you later decide you might want to work for them.
posted by J. Wilson at 4:00 PM on February 26, 2011

If someone interviews with me, is offered a job, and then turns it down, I've wasted good time.

And if someone interviews with you and is not offered a job, then you've wasted that person's good time.

What's that you say? It doesn't work like that? Nonsense. Of course it does. There are hundreds of reasons that someone wouldn't take a job you offer them, and a lot of them are your fault if you're the company (not enough pay, benefits aren't good, didn't convince them that your company would be a good fit...).

OP, go ahead and interview. Feel no compunctions whatsoever about possibly not wanting to work there -- people do that All. The. Time. As you say, you're not committed to not working there. If there's a possibility, however slim, that they could convince you, then you're no more wasting their time than they would be guilty of wasting yours if there was only, say, a one in three chance that you get a job in favor of one of two other candidates.
posted by Etrigan at 4:50 PM on February 26, 2011 [6 favorites]

If someone interviews with me, is offered a job, and then turns it down, I've wasted good time.

A job interview is a negotiation. Either side can say no, and professionals should expect that they're able to do so without any hard feelings. If you as an employer can tell a candidate that you've decided to consider other candidates, why can't the other person say they've decided to consider other opportunities

OP: An interview isn't a commitment, but can be a valuable experience. Go for it - take the opportunity to shine your shoes and polish your interview skills, and who knows, maybe they'll really impress you, and you'll want to work for them. If not, thank them for their time and wish them the best of luck in finding a good candidate.
posted by mhoye at 5:06 PM on February 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

I think the point about wasting time was in talking about the potential for re-applying later. Of course people get interviewed and either don't get offered or don't accept the job - that's part of life.

But if you don't accept the job, you've pretty well burnt a bridge if you think you might want to apply later.
posted by CathyG at 5:08 PM on February 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Data point (and obviously not knowing your situation can't say it would work the same for you): I have currently been working for 4.5 years at a company for the same department with the same management where I interviewed for and turned down a position 6 years ago. The first time, after multiple interviews, they offered me a contract-to-hire position but the money wasn't enough to convince me not to take a different contract I was more interested in with a company I'd worked with before and politely told them that.

When I submitted my resume for the second position (which was full time - and funded at the enterprise level so not project dependent - so I was more interested), I was nervous about a burned bridge -- so much so, that I considered hoping they'd not remember me. However, I wanted to know whether or not they'd reject me based on this (especially rather than having them have the beat of recognition obviously on the phone or in person) so I mentioned our shared past in my cover letter, stressing why I was even more interested in this new position.

Turns out this was the right move as, because they remembered me, they didn't require a phone screening and I went straight to the first in-person interview. When we did meet in person, I was appropriately contrite about turning them down before but also explained why my recent experience made me a better candidate than I had been the first time around. Not only was the bridge not burned but I've always felt the offer they ended up making to me was more than I would have gotten if the first situation hadn't taken place.

And maybe even more importantly, because of what it said about the company's corporate culture, I was more comfortable accepting a full time position from people who were more worried about hiring the person they thought was the best fit for the job than holding grudges.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 5:50 AM on February 27, 2011

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