Is there a tactful way to let a job know that their interview style turned you off and made you not want the job?
April 27, 2012 11:20 PM   Subscribe

Is there a tactful way to let a job know that their interview style turned you off and made you not want the job?

I had a second-round interview for a job that on paper sounds very much like what I want, but getting to meet the people who work there, in particular the executive director, made me very sure that this is NOT a place I want to be a part of. I want to let them know that I am not interested in working there at this point in a way that is polite and professional, but also gives them an indication that I felt like their interview style was very off putting.

This is a non-profit organization whose mission I care very much about, and I want them to succeed. But I can't imagine they'd be able to keep good candidates with their attitude. Everyone I met with was foreign, so I'm wondering if it was partly just a matter of them not understanding what a typical interview in this market would be like? For example, in two rounds of interviews that have taken a collective 3 hours, I've barely been given any opportunity to ask questions or even given any description of the job and expectations beyond the written job ad. I felt like at no point did they try to win me over or make the smallest effort to recruit me -- it was all just about grilling me.

Is this typical in some countries? To me it just seems like poor form. (For what it's worth, the job ad was pretty standard -- descriptive but still left a lot of questions unanswered.)

I've often likened job interviewing to dating -- and this would've been such a spectacular turn off that if it were a date, I'd probably try to gently let him know when he was inappropriate. Is there a way to do this in a tactful, professional way for a job? One of the things the ED mentioned was they struggle "to get the right people" and I felt like I had to bite my tongue to keep from saying "Of course you do, good people wouldn't want to stay here with this attitude."

Would just emailing them to say "Thanks for bringing me in for the interview. It's been really informative, but I don't think the organizational culture is a good fit for me and I wish you the best of luck filling the position" give them enough pause to realize they were off? (I realize that's not a terribly damning condemnation, but I would imagine that a candidate abruptly withdrawing after an interview would at least imply that they were unimpressed.)

There is a part of me that feels like maybe I want to be a little petty and do the 'they didn't dump me, I dumped them' sort of thing (I honestly have no idea if they'll bring me on to the next round -- there's definitely a good chance they could) but I've never left a job interview feeling so thoroughly frustrated. I wanted so badly to like them, but I just... couldn't.
posted by cedly to Work & Money (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
They will either not catch on or think it's sour grapes if you say this before the interviewing is over. You do have one chance to make an impression, and that's when they offer you the job and you turn it down and explain your concerns about the culture. That said, you might as well say something in an e-mail if you don't get selected. It's tactful enough to not burn any bridges, and there's a non-zero chance it will have some effect.
posted by michaelh at 11:29 PM on April 27, 2012

I think that you are saying that your primary concern is that you didn't get to ask questions. If that's the only big concern (and it might not be), why not try to arrange 30 minutes to ask more questions in person or on the phone.

As far as turning down the job... if you know you won't take it, I would just let it go until they ask you to do more interviewing. At which point you can simply state that "Component X" doesn't seem like a good fit for you, which will give them the opening to ask you to elaborate if they want. I have told interviewers that a salary seemed below my negotiating range, for example, and some asked for specifics, and some didn't.
posted by jander03 at 11:38 PM on April 27, 2012

Is this typical in some countries?

I'm an Australian, and that seems pretty typical to me of a public sector or larger community sector job interviewing process. Job interviews are done by selection committees who don't all necessarily know the specifics of the job you'll be doing: the committee is given specific criteria and makes a selection amongst the best qualified or suited people only according to those criteria. That's all. It might not be appropriate, in the organisation, for the people interviewing you to sell you on the job, and it definitely wouldn't be appropriate for them to try to win you in particular over, above other candidates.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 11:53 PM on April 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Some smaller organisations are normally well run and organised - but prone to having their interview process spoilt by occasional events that create chaos. If the people you talked to happen to fit into this category then they might be receptive to your message. Other organisations are just badly run and permanently chaotic. If this is the case then I believe you are wasting your time pointing out mistakes to them - just move on. It is worth trying to make a guess as to which type you were dealing with.
posted by rongorongo at 12:44 AM on April 28, 2012

If I found a genie in a bottle and had three wishes, I feel sure that one of them would be to go back and not take a job where I ignored red flags during the interview process. Actually, this happened more than once to me, so I feel pretty dumb for not learning this lesson faster. So my hypothetical genie would actually have to look at me and say, "which one?" Since these jobs turned out to be all they promised on paper, but were absolutely horrendous in other ways I never saw coming, I would be hard pressed to choose.

Anyway, the moral of the story is if you feel put off and uneasy after three hours in the interview process, run and don't look back. I would not try to change them by letting them know that you thought they handled this or that badly and turned you off. At best, they'll probably blow it off and, at worst, it could burn a bridge you may want to cross later. If I were you, I would write a nice thank you note letting them know that you appreciated their time (and maybe add a little something about how much you think of their organization and the work they do, since that is true) and say that you have accepted another position.
posted by melangell at 1:47 AM on April 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm an Aussie working in public sector, and no, this isn't par for the course. So it may be culture, but definitely not Australian public sector culture. I had some red flags for the current job, and wish I hadn't taken it, but lack of description/no questions was not a feature of the interview process. They weren't overly truthful about the job, but they were descriptive amd the question section is built into every job interview I've been part of.
posted by geek anachronism at 2:47 AM on April 28, 2012

I think the answer is "no." There really is no way to speak to them about this, except perhaps in the event that they offer you a job and you decline. And even then... yes, all you can say is "my experience in learning about the workplace makes me think it's not the right fit for me." (Been going through this with a friend recently, so we've talked a lot about this.) You don't know in what situation you'll run into any of these people again, for one thing. So being misunderstood and being "that weird jerk who was mean to us" or whatever doesn't serve your purposes in the future. Should anyone ask you for feedback (at the agency or elsewhere), this is valid to give. But we think the general principle here is to keep your counsel to yourself, particularly if it's unasked for. (I have a hard time with this myself! A very hard time!)
posted by RJ Reynolds at 5:57 AM on April 28, 2012 [3 favorites]

You have nothing to gain from this, but you might damage yourself professionally. Don't do it.
posted by bluedaisy at 7:04 AM on April 28, 2012 [4 favorites]

I also had an interview with a foreign-staffed non-profit whose mission I care about and in which the interview process was off-putting in exactly the same way, and I also wondered if it's a question of culture. I never found out: I took myself out of the running because the vibe was just too unpleasant and it wouldn't have been worth it to me to continue.
posted by agent99 at 7:17 AM on April 28, 2012

I've had this happen and said, "Sorry, I just don't think I'd be a personality/culture fit here."
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 8:26 AM on April 28, 2012

I think that you can say "I'm choosing to withdraw my candidacy because I just don't feel I'd be a fit here." But be aware that this usually is seen as a reflection on you, not on them. It'd give many companies little pause unless you were interviewing for a high level or influential position. If feedback is requested, then you can consider how to deliver it, but it's not really likely they would change their interview style to fit the needs of someone who isn't interested in working there - unless they are having a really hard time filling the position. I've worked with companies like this, and they generally feel like if you can't hack it at the interview, you'd struggle working there anyway. It is a test, on both sides.

The best way to think of this, I think, is that they did you a favor - this is how their company works and you know it's not a good fit for you.
posted by sm1tten at 8:54 AM on April 28, 2012

Thanks for your thoughts. I don't want to lie and say I've accepted another position -- I did that once years ago (when in fact, my reason for turning the job down was that it seemed painfully boring) and then had to awkwardly fumble for an answer when the HR woman asked if I could tell her where I'd accepted instead.

I think I'm beyond just wanting a chance to ask my questions -- after the first interview, that was where I stood, but now? Eh, I've just seen too many red flags and I realize I should be grateful that they've showed up so early (or maybe a little depressed that I've worked at enough dysfunctional places to spot the early warning signs). They're not worth my time and I sort of regret the amount of energy I put into their assignment. I suppose I could wait for them to get in touch with me, but there's a part of me that doesn't want to deal with the mixed feelings that might come with a job offer or a third interview for an opportunity that still sounds promising.

Maybe I'm just frustrated that in a difficult economy, job seekers get treated like they should be grateful for any kind of interview at all when in fact I am a strong candidate. I'm well respected and compensated in my current position and the only reason I was interested in this job is because I care about their mission. I think this goes beyond the recruiting process as well -- employers act like because there aren't a lot of jobs to be had, they can get away with abusing employees. I disagree, and I wish there was more I could do about it.

I am pretty sure I'll just send them an email that's vague and polite and says I appreciate their time, but I'd like to withdraw my candidacy and leave it at that unless they press for details, at which point, I'll still be vague and polite. If I run into these people down the line, well, it's hardly a bridge burned, but even more to the point, I know I don't want to cross their bridges.
posted by cedly at 8:55 AM on April 28, 2012

I don't think there's a good way to do this, and it's not your job to fix their problems for them.

The only option I see is, if you think you still could be interested, then if they contact you again (either to offer you the job or for another interview), make a point of letting them know, "You know, I love the work you guys do and I'm interested, but I have some questions before I can make up my mind, can you answer them or can you put me in touch with someone who can?" That would let you ask your questions, but it would also get your point across in a way that avoids telling them that they're fucking it up.
posted by J. Wilson at 8:58 AM on April 28, 2012

I would like to suggest declining post offer, after trying to up the salary. At that point you have them by the hook and they are more likely to hear what you are trying to get across.
posted by roboton666 at 10:01 AM on April 28, 2012

There's really no way to do this unless they initiate it. "I'm sorry, but I don't think this job would be a good fit for me," followed by a kind wish-well appropriate for your region. Only if they come back and say something like (and I had this happen once) "we've had more trouble than anticipated in the hiring process, and were wondering if we could talk to you about your hiring experience with us," then you can bring it up with their HR person/team. I got a short email of questions about their web site, resume submission, how people got back to me on the phone, how the interview was set up, my first impression of the office, etc., and there was opportunity to start a polite conversation with the sender. I still had to try to be hella diplomatic, though, because who knows when I'll need to cross that bridge again.
posted by introp at 12:35 PM on April 28, 2012

I have traveled 6 hours for an interview, being told that I am an idiot, that they don't need me and that they have much more qualified candidates and traveled 6 hours back. Yes, sure, it can be rough. It wasn't in the US and I actually think it may be common to just walk out on a condescending interview.

I heard of someone in NYC who had 10 (in words TEN) interviews for a job and then got rejected.

TL;DR It is a buyers market!
posted by yoyo_nyc at 3:09 PM on April 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

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