Community Question: Would you end a job interview early if you realized you didn’t want the job?

Photo credit: untrained eye, Creative Commons/Flickr
Photo credit: untrained eye, Creative Commons/Flickr

We often talk about the importance of finding the right fit when looking for a job. In addition to analyzing the job duties, it’s important to assess whether the organization’s culture and values will allow you to grow and be successful.

However, what if you realize that you don’t want to work at an organization during a job interview? On The Workplace – StackExchange, a writer shares how a friend left a job interview once he realized it wouldn’t be a good fit:

He knew half way through that he wasn’t going to fit in with the culture. It was an all day interview where everybody was given chances to grill him. He was criticized as being wrong for not following very dogmatic principles to the letter of the law. He was also concerned that nobody really seemed to care much about his relevant business experience and really only judged him intensely on his programming skills, which he felt was only one aspect of his software development experience. It was an open floor plan where everybody wore jeans, t-shirts and sandals. The vast majority were in their early 20’s with the oldest person and lead developer being 30. They expected him to be involved in side projects and code for fun when he wasn’t in the office.

At one point when he was asked to move to another conference room he decided he had enough and said that he was done with the interview and wanted to leave. The room was apparently shocked and dismayed. He politely asked where the elevator was, at which point somebody snapped the answer at him pretty harshly. He could feel sudden hostility from everybody in the room at the time…

I am confused by this because a while ago I had left an interview early as well when I was without a doubt certain that I wouldn’t fit well and the interviewers acted in much the same way as my friend described, incredulous and hostile.

Is this behavior considered inherently rude on the interviewee’s part?

If anything I would guess that you are doing them a favor by not wasting any more of their time than necessary but maybe I am wrong?

Readers chimed in with various perspectives. Some said he was right for leaving the job interview if he knew he wouldn’t be happy there; others focused on whether his comments were professional and if he jumped to conclusions; and some noted that it’s simply rude to abruptly end an interview.

What do you think? Would you leave a job interview early if you realized you didn’t want the job? Is there a right way or a wrong way to end an interview?


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    • Julie
    • March 18, 2013

    I think its definitely reasonable to leave early – again to not waste any more time on either side – if you know that you would not be a good match. If it were a short interview (~1hr) I may wait until the end to let them know but if it is a day long ordeal – leaving definitely seems like the right idea. Of course its all in how you say it also. And I’d probably still send a thank you note for their time, just to be civil. You never know when you’ll cross paths with someone from that org at a different org that you may actually want to work for – especially in the non-profit world. Also – if you’re the sort to be upfront like that and they don’t appreciate it then they obviously wouldn’t want you working there any way.

    • jacinta hall
    • March 18, 2013

    i did about 6 weeks ago. i didn’t have the time to waste, sneaking away from my then terrible job to have a painful interview with a company i would obviously never want to work at.

    1. Excellent article and so well timed with many new college graduates embarking upon their first job interviews. The earlier post from Julie ” its all in how you say it” is good advice. Be kind. Try to finish the interview. It is often seen as a professional business courtesy. Remember that the people you meet during interviews are often going to remember the candidates that made a poor impression as much as those that were finalists. If you absolutely must leave, instead of asking where is the elevator as mentioned in the article, consider using the correct moment in the interview for bowing out. When the first hiring manager asks you if you have time to meet with J. Jones, the Director of Big Wigs, that is business etiquette for do you want to meet J. Jones and continue the interview. If you do not want to meet the Big Wig Director, be polite. Thank the interviewer for offering you the opportunity to meet the Big Wig, then say something positive about the company, the interviewer and their consideration of you. Politely explain why the position differed than your expectation. Give the interviewer the last word. The interviewer will thank you and kindly show you the door. Send a thank you note.

        • JanetK
        • July 11, 2013

        I agree with the above. I have interviewed a couple of people who bowed out during the interview process (which for our company is about 3 hours). The person I remember did it as courteously as possible – as mentioned above. I was a little surprised, but understood. I know that our company is not for all candidates. I told him I appreciated his frankness, and that I thought it sensible of him not to waste my time or his. For me, interviewing people is very time-consuming, so if someone really doesn’t want the job, I’m fine with them bowing out, if they do it discreetly and courteously.

    • Stacy Riddle
    • March 20, 2013

    I would leave a job interview if I Didn’t think it was a good fit I don’t believe, in wasting there time or mine.

      • chris
      • March 20, 2013

      Hi Stacy, I read your post and agree that leaving/stopping a job interview appears to be a claim of saving everyone’s time but, there’s a business etiquette piece, a professionalism, a social grace that is lacking when candidates abruptly end an interview. This topic of whether to stay or go in the middle of a job interview speaks to a social IQ. Because I am choosing to be blunt, I’d say my social IQ just kicked me in the head – I know better. I have been in interviews where I wanted to leave as soon as I shook the manager’s cold fish handshake. I stayed, was polite and six months later after I declined the position, I was offered the manager’s job instead. Apparently, I wasn’t the only person that did not like the manager during candidate interviews but, I was the only person with the business acumen to carry myself with composed dignity (this manager was awful).

    • Bud Feuless
    • March 25, 2013

    Let the interviewer know that you are seeing strong indicators there is not a fit and let them take it from there. Who knows, they may have something else that is a better fit, but you also want to behave with integrity and show respect for the time of those who would be interviewing you. The problem in the main article is that the interviewee handled this poorly and sent a negative message in the way he declined to continue the process, rather than explaining that he was not seeing a good fit at that point. The interviewers, who had all taken time from their busy days to see him, got the message that he didn’t want to waste HIS time continuing, so, of course, they were upset. Burning bridges in that way is never a good idea. If you ever have to do this, just remember, explain the issue openly before jumping to end the interview, always convey respect for the interviewers’ time, and let the interviewer then decide whether to end the interview or suggest something else. Good luck!

    • JhonDaAnalyst
    • September 26, 2013

    I left an interview early today. The guy was a real stiff. He was talking like I had the job already, but then proceeded to state his expectations. Needless to say, after he mentioned that he liked to micro-manage I immediately stood up, shook his hand and thanked him for his time. I think he was shocked. I had a feeling it wouldn’t work out. It was for a patient services rep position and he also mentioned that he would be able to tell if I wasn’t on the phone with a patient. WTF?? I ran for the door!!

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