A reader writes:
I had a really frustrating interview situation recently. I applied for a job based on the posted job description, which was for a generalist, with a list of maybe 10 areas of responsibility. Exactly what I’m looking for. In the past, I’ve had jobs under this umbrella where I only did one thing … and I HATED it. My cover letter lays this out plainly.
I logged on for my Zoom interview. “Tell us why you’re interested in this job.” I basically give the same elevator pitch from my cover letter. Looking for variety, want my next role to be general, not so specialized, learn more things, etc. The interviewer responds, “Okay. So this role is 100% X.” I’ve done X before, and would be miserable doing it full-time. I said politely, “That sounds pretty different from the job description.” They acknowledge this but give no explanation, and proceed with the interview.
I’m immediately so disappointed (because if the job was what they described, it would have been ideal) and angry, because it’s not easy for me to take time off from my current gig and now I have to sit through a 45-minute interview for a job that I would never have applied for if they had advertised it accurately. Then after the hiring manager interview, HR hops on. I say the same thing: “I was a little thrown off, because what they described was so different from the job description.” HR says, “Oh yeah, to be honest, we had a lot of jobs open and we didn’t have time to write a bunch of job descriptions, so we just put up a catchall posting.” (!!!)
It did occur to me to just end the interview as soon as they described the job, but I didn’t have the nerve.
Afterwards I was venting to a family member about the situation, and I said I was planning to email them that day to withdraw from consideration. He reacted really harshly and said that I can’t make myself look bad just to stick it to a bad interviewer, and that I should wait and see what they say. He also thought that if I waited for them to come back with an offer, maybe I could somehow negotiate into the job I wanted, but if I withdraw from the process, I’m giving up all my bargaining power.
This seems extremely unlikely to me. My feeling is (a) there is no way in hell I’m taking this job, so why not save them some time, and b) I think just riding the wave of the interview process for a completely different job would actually kind of weaken me as a candidate. I apply judiciously to jobs and I make it clear I’ve thought very carefully about my next move, so wouldn’t it look weird if I was just like, “Oh, you want me for a job that bears no resemblance to what I applied for and told you I’m interested in? Great!”
So … am I right about this, or is my frustration getting in the way? I have to admit, part of why I want to withdraw is because I do want to subtly make the point that they wasted my time, but I think I also have valid reasons for withdrawing immediately. Do I?
Don’t take your family member’s guidance on anything job-related, because this is weird advice and they have a slightly unhinged perspective on how this stuff works.
First of all, it’s normal to withdraw from a hiring process when you realize you wouldn’t accept the job. People do that all the time! It won’t make you look bad; it’s a perfectly normal and professional thing that routinely happens in hiring processes. Hiring managers don’t think, “What an unprofessional candidate, having the temerity not to want to pursue our job!?” They think, “Oh, too bad. Okay, thanks for telling us.” It’s far better for an employer to have you drop out at whatever point you know you wouldn’t take the job, rather than invest more time in considering you and possibly cut loose candidates who they would have kept in the pool if they’d known you weren’t interested.
Withdrawing also isn’t about “sticking it to” your interviewer … largely because it won’t do that. They’re not likely to be devastated or even realize that your withdrawal is supposed to be Making A Point. It’s a thing that happens and in most cases they’ll be pretty blasé about it.
As for waiting to get an offer and then trying to negotiate it into a completely different job, that is not typically an option. Occasionally you might find an employer that wants you so much and has currently unfilled needs that you could fill that they’re sufficiently motivated to create a new position for you, but that’s very much the exception, not the norm.
Also: it’s totally okay to end an interview early if it becomes very clear that the job isn’t for you. It doesn’t always make sense to do that — sometimes it’s smart to finish the meeting anyway, especially if you think you might want a job with them in the future (not because it’s bridge-burning to politely end the interview, but because there can be benefit to getting to know each other more as you let the conversation play out). But if it’s very clear to you that you wouldn’t accept the job, you can indeed explain that what you’re learning makes you realize the job isn’t for you. That’s especially true when the job they describe is different from the one they advertised; in cases like that, it’s fine to say, “Ah, the ad made it sound much more X. I’m really looking for Y, so it sounds like this wouldn’t be the right fit.”
As with most things job-related, you should factor in how much you need a job. But if you have options and are willing to walk away from jobs that aren’t right for you, this is fine to do.
Leave a Reply