Turning down a job inside your company

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Dear Joan:
I love receiving your weekly articles. They have helped me tremendously in my career. I never thought I would be asking you a question…but here it goes!
 
I was interviewed yesterday for a different position within our company. Half way through the interview, I wanted to run out of the room as I realized that the job was not a good fit for me. The interviewers were pleasant, I was well prepared and felt that I did a good job at answering their questions. But as the dialog progressed, it became apparent that this department was a train wreck.
 
Next week I am scheduled to interview with the Director and HR person for this role. I’m asking myself, how can I give it my all if I’m no longer interested in the position? Can I politely ask HR to withdraw my application or will that shed a bad light on me for future openings? Or, do I take a deep breath and do the interview and then pray I don’t get offered the job and no one will be any wiser.
 
I’ve already decided that if I’m offered the job, I will decline it. This situation has definitely put me in a quandary when applying for inter-company job vacancies.
 
Thank you!
 
Answer:
You are much better off backing out now than after the other department has invested time and energy in more interviews. If they go through the process of weeding out people and choose you, they will be very irritated that you have misled them. They will think “If she didn’t want the job, why did she go through the motions?” If they are annoyed that you were wasting their time and just “practice interviewing” it could sour them on future interviews with you. And they may even express their frustration to your boss and others in a position of influence.
 
The worst that can happen, if you pull out now, is they will be disappointed that you have chosen to withdraw. However, you can be diplomatic in your approach. For example, “I really enjoyed meeting and interviewing with the people in the X department but after serious reflection, I don’t feel that I am the best fit for the position. So, as a result, I’d like to withdraw my candidacy, so they can focus on other applicants.”
 
If you were interviewed by a senior person with a lot of clout, you may be worried that you will offend the person by turning down his or her job. You may even want to make a personal call to him or her. The danger in doing so, however, is that he or she may try to talk you out of it. You may be pressed into giving a deeper reason for your “fit” excuse. Perhaps a better strategy—especially if you think you might like to work in that department in the future-- is to send a polite email to both HR and the senior person.
 
Another reason to pull out now is that you will probably not interview well if you really don’t want the job. You will likely lack enthusiasm, or even say things that could come back to haunt you if there are future opportunities. If they remember you as someone who didn’t interview well, why would they even interview you again for a future job?
 
Finally, before you decide to say no to the job, try to reframe the “train wreck” as a possible opportunity. If you are the kind of person who knows how to solve problems and could help to clean up the mess, you could be passing on a career-making situation. I’ve watched a number of successful people build their careers by moving from problem to problem. They weren’t afraid to take a risk and took a bet on their own moxie. You next best career move might actually be a mess-- with your name on it.


Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616, mailto:info@joanlloyd.com, or www.JoanLloyd.com 
 
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