How to back out of a job interview process?
August 4, 2017 10:58 AM   Subscribe

I applied to two jobs. I got an offer from Job #1 and accepted it. Then I got invited to an interview with Job #2 and went. (I assumed I was out of the running when I accepted with #1.) I realize now that this is kind of a Big Deal and could use some advice about how to get out of it.

Short version: I think I need to tell Job #2 that I already accepted Job #1 and back out of Job #2's process. Job #2 knows I had applied to two jobs and asked about the timeline. Do I level with them? A proposed script is at the bottom.

More detail (and what I was thinking): Early in my career, I felt it was a horrible betrayal to leave my current job for another. After learning to ignore that instinct and that leaving one job for another was "just business," I thought that this fell in the same category. In fact, leaving before starting seemed like LESS of an impact on an employer.

Having done some hiring myself, if someone backed out after accepting a job, sure, it would be annoying, but ... half of every work day is full of annoying things; that's why you get paid to deal with it. So I'd most likely think "well, that's just business" and not hold it against them much in the future. (I mean, if I made them an offer for a second job in the future, we'd have to have a conversation like "you're not going to back out again, are you?" and if they backed out THAT time, then it'd be seriously personal. But if they did it to me once, okay.)

But I'm learning that I'm in the minority here and that everyone else disagrees. And I do like the job I accepted; I'm not positive I'd prefer the other one. It seems like it's not worth the relationship impact.

So, now I have to back out of the second job interview process. They know I applied for another job and asked about the timeline, so that's an opening, I guess.

Can I level with them as I've done here -- reassure them that I was interviewing in good faith, but that I've now thought more about the impact on the other team and realized that it wouldn't be appropriate? Someone recommended acting like my acceptance just happened, but I'm not one to go around lying. And if it had just happened, I would've contacted them. Ugh. Thoughts? Complicating factor, these two groups are adjacent enough that they collaborate sometimes.

Here's my proposed script: "Hi, Sally. I wanted to call and talk to you in response to your question about the timeline for the other job. The situation is actually that I was offered a job a week or so ago, when I didn't realize I was a serious candidate for this job, and accepted it. I remained very interested in this job, which is why I continued to interview. But I have realized what a problem it could create for their team if I backed out now. I originally thought it wasn't different than moving from one job to another, but I'm realizing that it's different from that. So I wanted to call you and apologize and let you know that I need to back out of this process, regretfully. I'm very grateful to you for having considered me, and I'm sorry that I didn't realize this sooner to minimize the impact on you. I'm still devoted to the work we've discussed, and am glad to have had a chance to talk with you more, and I look forward to working together in [our adjacent context]."

Thoughts or suggestions?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (21 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You're way overthinking this. Your script is simply: "Thank you for the time and attention you spent considering my candidacy for position B. I will be withdrawing from consideration because I have recently accepted another position."
posted by matildaben at 11:03 AM on August 4, 2017 [101 favorites]

I agree with matildaben.

I don't think it's particularly important for Job 2 to know that you received the offer from Job 1 before you interviewed with them. From their point of view, the effect is the same if you got an offer from Job 1 the day before or the day after your interview with Job 2: you are no longer a candidate for a position from them. Sharing the additional information isn't helpful to them, so why do it?
posted by layceepee at 11:05 AM on August 4, 2017 [4 favorites]

What matildaben said. People withdraw from job candidacies all the time, at any stage in the process. Not only is not a big deal, it shouldn't even be annoying.
posted by maurreen at 11:07 AM on August 4, 2017 [7 favorites]

Politely withdrawing your application to Job 2 is fine, and I like matildabean's script. Your proposed email strikes me as deeply unprofessional, and unlikely to leave Hiring Manager 2 with a good impression of you.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 11:11 AM on August 4, 2017 [19 favorites]

Thirding matldaben. That is almost verbatim what I said when responding to an interview invitation from Job 2 when I'd already accepted Job 1.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:12 AM on August 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

Wayyyyy too much information in your script. You are not obligated to "level with" them in any way, and they will not even blink at this news. All they need to know is some variation of "Hi, Sally, I need to withdraw from consideration for position B as I have recently accepted another position. I really appreciate your time and am grateful for the opportunity to have been considered. Many thanks, anonymous."
posted by anderjen at 11:12 AM on August 4, 2017 [28 favorites]

Fourthing mathildaben. That's a good script.
posted by Pacrand at 11:14 AM on August 4, 2017 [2 favorites]

Fifthing mathildaben. Keep it simple.
posted by WizKid at 11:20 AM on August 4, 2017

I just went through this very thing! I actually got asked by Job 2 for my references while I was waiting for written confirmation of a verbal offer from Job 1, and I was also scheduled for a second interview with Job 3.

I told them (one over the phone, the other in email) something like "I have to withdraw myself from consideration because I've accepted another job. But I really enjoyed meeting with you and learning more about your organization, and I wish you luck in filling your open position. Thanks again for taking the time to meet with me." That's it! Less purely businesslike than the above example, in case you find that sort of phrasing cold. It got a good reaction from both parties. One woman even said to keep them in mind as my career progressed!
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:29 AM on August 4, 2017 [3 favorites]


But I'm learning that I'm in the minority here and that everyone else disagrees.

Whoever this 'everyone else' is, they are doing you no favors. You're not in the minority on this at all. An interview is like a date, and this friend/friends are telling you the job equivalent of "he bought you dinner, so you HAVE to sleep with him!" Ignore this and all subsequent job advice from them.
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:36 AM on August 4, 2017 [11 favorites]

I'm not even 100% sure you need to stop interviewing with job 2 if you haven't formally accepted job 1 yet. (Have you signed an offer letter?)

Find out what your options are, get both offers on the table. You're selling yourself short if you don't. You owe *nothing* to either company.
posted by empath at 11:38 AM on August 4, 2017 [14 favorites]

Nthing matildaben's script. Not going into fine details is not the same as lying. Having been in the hiring manager's place, I think she is going to thank you, be appreciative you let her know now instead of later, and go on to the next person on her list. Sure, she might think, "Too bad, I sure wish Anonymous were available--she seemed like a great candidate," but she'll be too busy continuing the hiring process to think about you much more than that.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 11:39 AM on August 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

As a hiring manager, I understand when people drop out of the process for a routine reason like having accepted another job or deciding they're going to move to a different city or whatever. It happens.

It only annoys me when they feel the need to tell me in a way that wastes my time (like scheduling a phone call to discuss it instead of just emailing). matildaben's script is perfect.
posted by grouse at 11:45 AM on August 4, 2017 [9 favorites]

BTW, the main reason my script is the way it is, is because all the time I'm not spending reading AskMe, I'm reading Ask A Manager. That'll help you with all your work-related questions.
posted by matildaben at 12:21 PM on August 4, 2017 [6 favorites]

Ha! I also based my script on Ask A Manager!
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:32 PM on August 4, 2017 [2 favorites]

You can even continue to interview with Job 2, and if you get an offer from them that you like better than Job 1, you can back out of Job 1. It’s less ideal than withdrawing as a candidate, but it’s still perfectly reasonable behavior.
posted by Rock Steady at 1:04 PM on August 4, 2017

This is a nonissue. Job 2 need never know you previously accepted with Job 1, as Job 1 (and you) won't be telling them. And no one is going to grill you on the precise timing. Just do as matildaben suggests.
posted by bearwife at 1:07 PM on August 4, 2017

This happens all the time and isn't a big deal. Assuming you want Job #1 and don't want to pursue Job #2, you just tell them. Your script seems way too long, apologetic, over-explainy and wishy-washy to me. It just takes a while to get to the point and you're overthinking this, in my opinion.

"Hi Sally, just wanted to follow up with an update: As it turns out, the process with the other job moved more quickly than I anticipated -- they made an offer and I have accepted. I really appreciated your time and getting to learn about your company, but I have to withdraw myself from consideration. I think you guys are doing great work in (Area X) and I wish you the best of luck in your candidate search! Thanks again for your time and hope we get to cross paths again someday."

Or something like that.
posted by AppleTurnover at 1:19 PM on August 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

You can say simply what they would tell you: "I've decided not to move forward with this position. Thank you for your time." This can happen at any point in the process.
posted by rhizome at 1:37 PM on August 4, 2017

Not only is this not a big deal, it's not even a big deal to stay in the running at Job 2 and then back out of Job 1 if you get a better offer from Job 2. (This is assuming that you've not yet signed anything with Job 1. If you have a contract then you kinda need to stick to it.) I mean, it's a slightly bigger deal, but it's the kind of annoyance that the folks at Job 1 will get over in less than a day, if they're at all professional. Your script in that case (to Job 1) would be something like:

"Hello, I regret to have to inform you that I must rescind my acceptance of the Senior Widget Processor position at WidgetCorp. Another company [DO NOT NAME THE OTHER COMPANY] has recently made me an offer that I just can't pass over, and I'm going to have to go with them instead. I apologize for withdrawing so late in the process, but under the circumstances I feel like this is the only choice that makes sense for me. I wish you success in finding another candidate to fill the position."

That sort of thing is also not unheard-of; people are frequently in a position where they need to accept an offer to keep the door open at one company, while secretly hoping that an offer from another, even better company will come through in a day or two. It's still just business. Of course, if you've signed a contract accepting the offer at Job 1 then that's pretty much that and you need to let Job 2 know that you're pulling out.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 4:22 PM on August 4, 2017 [5 favorites]

matildaben has it. Furthermore, Sally will not even care why you're no longer a candidate. She just wants to know whether to proceed with you or not.

You need apologize for nothing. It's not unprofessional of you to accept a job while interviewing for another job. That's called acting in your own interest.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 6:37 AM on August 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

« Older Let's create a 5-6 week Salad Guide, with plans...   |   Asian Trail Mix Staple: glazed umami rice puff... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.