Wow! Can you imagine, walking out of a job interview? One would have to have a very good reason for exiting an interview prematurely, yet when it does happen it’s generally because you recognise that you won’t be happy working for that employer.

Most of us are terrified at the thought of leaving a job interview before it has officially concluded. In fact, no matter how good or bad the interview we often feel we are obligated to see the process through. I mean, shouldn’t we feel lucky, if not privileged, that we have been shortlisted for the job role? With this mindset, we give complete control to those interviewing. And the interviewer will, more often than not, believe they are in control of the meeting. What you must realise is that you too must feel like you are good fit with the organisation that is considering hiring you.

There are a host of reasons why one might call an early end to a job interview. Some of the more common reasons include:

The interviewer is very late in commencing the interview:

How long would you wait beyond the agreed interview time before exiting the building? I think if you had to wait more than thirty minutes without the interviewer communicating a valid reason that explain the delay, then you are well within your rights to leave. Your time is valuable as is your self-respect.  And you’re not getting paid to sit there, right? One scenario I am aware of is when a prospective employer forgot they had scheduled an interview with a candidate. Their effort to organise another interview was not well received and that employer lost the opportunity to hire a highly valued candidate.

They lied to you about the job role:

Employers write job adverts, give out position descriptions and may even make themselves available to discuss a job role in more depth prior to an applicant applying for the role. The interview however reveals a very different picture of the job than that communicated previously. The job hours are more excessive, the job location is some distance away or the money offered is significantly less, regardless of the contrast, it often comes as a shock, and not a pleasant one. This difference between what was presented and what is factual can be enough to make you realise that this is not an appealing position. In this case, you can politely state that now that you have a greater understanding of the position, you realise that it is not what you are looking for and excuse yourself from the interview.

The interviewer is rude, insulting or distracted:

We’ve already discussed the tardiness of the interviewer and exiting before the interview has even begun, but what if once in the interview you got a bad impression? Some interviewers predominantly talk about themselves and their successes, failing to focus on the task at hand. Others fire questions at you, not really listening to your responses. Some ask questions that are inappropriate and in some instances illegal. I am aware of one occasion where one of panel of interviewers was so engrossed in her nails she almost didn’t realise the interview had concluded! As she was the person to whom the successful candidate would answer to, it came as no surprise to me to see the job application withdrawn. One must respect their peers or the working relationship will not be a positive one. And as we all know, respect is a two way street.


Counter offers made are more favourable:

When in the market for a job we apply for several available positions. We attend multiple interviews and before we’ve had a chance to complete all the interviews we are offered a position, or two. We still attend the remaining interviews just in case they are a better fit than that already offered. At some point within that interview we realise that this position isn’t going to stack up against what we’ve been offered, or possibly counteroffered by our current employer. If this is the case, let your interviewer know that you don’t think you are the right candidate for them. You do not need to explain why, but thank them for their time and quietly exit.

The interviewer is simply looking to extract all your great ideas from you:

Believe it or not, an interviewer may not have you in mind for a role, but due to your working history (past/current employer and working experiences) they see a conversation with you as an opportunity to gain insightful industry information for free. If you feel you are being probed for solutions to their problems, you can share enough to sustain their interest, but stop short of sharing trade secrets. If this appears an issue for the interviewer, perhaps their interest in you is not genuine. An exit at this point will have you feeling good about not selling out you current/past employer.

Red flags can pop up any time throughout the recruitment process, making you feel uneasy. And if you feel uncomfortable, don’t expect that feeling to dissipate once employed within the organisation. Your instincts are to be trusted. And no one appreciates their time being wasted, including the interviewer. So if you sense this is not a match made in heaven, then walk away. Do so respectfully and professionally. There may come a time in the future where the contacts you made will present a more favourable opportunity for you. In the meantime, be aware that there are many employment opportunities out there, finding one that works for you is what you really want.

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