Race to the Top: Got the job, but don’t want it. What should I do?
A: This is a difficult situation that very few people ever really think about. It’s also rare. I hope you are very clear about what happened or why you changed your mind. What I have heard most often is that people learn something during the interviewing process that becomes a serious source of concern. For example, you pick up information about a possible restructuring or layoffs, which is, of course, a cause for concern. If it’s something like this, I would suggest calling the HR representative you have been working with during the interview. A simple, straight forward approach will go a long way. Your message should be along the lines of: “Hello Mr. Brown, I’d like to talk to you again about the position at XYZ company. I really enjoyed meeting the team – they all seem very talented. I did have a brief conversation with one of my future colleagues and he suggested there might be structural changes. I’d like to know if that’s true and if it will have an impact on my position.” Then, pay very close attention to the answer. And ask follow-up questions as needed. If satisfied with the answer, send a thank you email and reassess your decision to not take the job.
Now, if you simply changed your mind, you should probably still start with the HR representative or the hiring manager. It really depends. Ask yourself: who did you spend the most time interviewing with, but it’s usually the HR person. Here’s your obvious challenge: he or she may wonder why it took getting to the end of the interviewing process to make this decision – and that can quickly prompt questions about whether you have intentionally wasted people’s time, and that can have real repercussions, sorry to say. So, take that into account and follow a similar strategy with the HR representative. Prepare ahead of time – outline what you want to say, and do not, under any circumstances lie – it will come across and now you have a different and I think bigger problem than you had before. Again, keep it simple: “Mr. Brown, I’m calling to talk to you about the job. It really sounds like a great opportunity and I know you want the right person in it. I have given it more thought, considered the amount of time I would likely spend doing X [insert a big part of the job], and I think it would be best for the organization to consider another applicant.” Then, be prepared to go a little deeper, but you will still need to reiterate. “Yes, Mr. Brown, I know this is unusual, and I really appreciate all that you have done to get me to this point. But, I would not feel comfortable moving forward, knowing that there might be a better fit out there.”
Look at it this way, if you can deal with this complex issue, you can most likely deal with some, if not all, of the other complex issues you will need to deal with throughout your career.
Lilyanne has worked in corporate America for 25 years and has supported eight CEOs. She wants to answer your career questions – so you can get ahead at work. Email your questions to Lilyanne@racetothetopcareers.com <mailto:Lilyanne@racetothetopcareers.com> , firstname.lastname@example.org or through your favorite connection to the Houston Forward Times.