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During my final interviews for position A I realized that it is not right for me. Even if they come back with a great offer, it is extremely unlikely that I will be able to work well in that capacity.

I am planning to wait for their offer and then turn it down, giving my reason. They have another opening for a related position B where the same problem would not apply. Early on I discussed both positions with them and although I was more interested in B, I agreed to apply for A on their suggestion. If my rejection changes their mind and they offer me B instead, that would be great, but if they simply accept my rejection that's okay too. The problem is that now I don't know what to say to them next.

  • If I reach out to thank them and ask about the offer, it will sound like I'm expecting to take it. In reality it is unlikely (see the caveat above).
  • If I say nothing and let them get back first, it will be rude as I will not have thanked them for the interviews. I certainly appreciate the interviews and don't wish to be rude.
  • If I withdraw my application at this stage, it seems rude in that I'm not even giving them a chance to make the offer. Since the interviews are done I wouldn't be saving them much time or effort. I'm also concerned that it will exaggerate my problem with position A and offend them.
  • If I ask to be reconsidered for position B, it might not be good because earlier I had already agreed to the opposite (albeit with less complete information).

It seems like I have no good options. Is there a tactful way to handle this?

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    If you feel like knowing the number they offer can help give you confidence to guide talks with a potential employer in which you are interested, that can be a reason to allow them to continue for the time being. – Pete W Mar 5 at 2:24
  • Were the interviews for position A and B with the same people, entirely different groups, or two groups with slight overlap? – BSMP Mar 5 at 2:29
  • @BSMP Mostly same, with minor differences. – Therkilinde Mar 5 at 2:58
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    Waiting and then refusing may reduce your chances for getting position B. Creating a formal offer can be a lot of administrative work so hiring managers and recruiters can be miffed if an offer is rejected that they put a lot of work in and that they thought would be in the bag. This can make them less likely to recommend or consider you for position B since you unnecessarily wasted a lot of their time and effort. – Hilmar Mar 5 at 13:07
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Speaking as a hiring manager, I would appreciate knowing you don't intend to take the position before working on an offer for you. Having a candidate wait until they have an offer in hand might make me think they are inconsiderate, a time waster, and not a team player. Additionally, I would absolutely let the other hiring manager/recruiter know what the candidate did.

Personally, I would like a phone call or an email, something like..

"Thank you so much for your consideration for this position. I hold this organization in high regard and really would like to further my career here. As I had brought up in our previous discussions, I wished to apply to another position as I felt I wasn't the right fit for this one. As we have progressed though the process, It has become clear to me that I am not the right fit for this particular position. I wanted to give you the courtesy and let you know before moving further on this particular position and taking anymore of your time."

I would very much appreciate this and would share this in a positive note with the other hiring manager/recuriter.

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    Yes, letting them know is a good idea. The email seems a bit lengthy to me, but that's just a personal opinion, it addresses everything politely and professionally. – Kilisi Mar 5 at 3:51
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If you already know your feelings about a role then walk away early to make everyone's life easy. In your situation there may be more to it. How about this:

Thank you for considering me for position A. Having had the opportunity to discuss in more depth at the interview I realise this is not [yet] a role I could fulfil well or enjoy. As a result, I regret I must withdraw my application for position A. However as we discussed early in the process, position B is very much aligned with my skills*, experience* and future goals*. Given my expertise in X, Y, Z I would be extremely interested to explore whether we could continue the recruitment process with position B in mind.

*or whatever reasons.

adjust tone for your country/industry. The key points are that you are not going to take role A but still interested in the organisation and what you can offer.

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  • "I could not fulfil this role" , seems unnecessarily negative, why tell them you are bad at something you wont be doing? – SirDuckduck Mar 5 at 15:13
  • It signals that not only do I not want A, I'm not going to be able to do it, so don't try and talk me around. There's nothing wrong with being upfront about your relative strengths & weaknesses. – LoztInSpace Mar 6 at 2:34

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