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How can I respectfully terminate the interviewing process with a company and end on a good note at the same time? I have had a few phone interviews but no formal meeting or visits yet, and in the process of this, been accepted into a graduate program.

I am interested in working for the company after graduation, but I have been offered a full-ride for graduate study which is also hard to pass up.

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If and when the company contacts you to schedule another interview, simply thank them for their time and explain that you've been offered an opportunity to attend graduate school on a full scholarship that you can't pass up. It would be basically the same thing that you'd do if you had accepted a job offer from another company between the time of your last interview and the time that they try to schedule the next interview.

If you haven't even met someone yet, I wouldn't proactively inform the employer of anything. Most people that are interviewed over the phone aren't going to be called in for a face to face interview even if the candidate thought the phone interview went well. It would likely be seen as a bit presumptuous to assume that the company was planning on calling you in for an interview before they've communicated that fact to you. Proactive communication is probably not going to save them any time-- whatever time they invested would have been invested immediately after the phone interview to decide whether to invite you for a face-to-face interview. Since there is no face-to-face interview scheduled, if you're invited and you bow out, the company will likely just schedule a different candidate in whatever slot you would have used.

From a purely selfish standpoint, it's probably slightly better for you if you want to work for this company in the future to wait and decline the interview if it is offered rather than pulling yourself out early. Best case, the interviewer likes you, asks you to interview, and then is a little disappointed that you're "the one that got away" when you decline and remembers you positively when you apply again in a few years. If you're a borderline candidate, or if they ended up phone screening a number of excellent candidates and weren't planning on interviewing you, the proactive notification makes them think "that's OK, we weren't going to interview him anyway" and that's what they remember when you interview again in a few years. Of course, in reality, it's unlikely that when you interview again in a few years anything you say or do now is really going to follow you-- you're likely going to be dealing with different people, people don't remember early stage candidates from years ago, HR files get discarded regularly, etc.

  • I was thinking along the lines of contacting them to let them know of my change in position- if I wait till they contact me, I believe they will already have made plans or set time aside to review my profile and plan interview times. – Garry Jul 11 '12 at 20:39
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    "Took another opportunity" will be understood as "went to work for a competitor", and while that happens all the time, I think going to grad school is different enough to be worth a specific mention. But I haven't actually done that, so I'm just speculating. – Monica Cellio Jul 11 '12 at 20:52
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    @MonicaCellio - Good point. Updated my answer. – Justin Cave Jul 11 '12 at 20:55
  • @le_garry - Expanded my answer. – Justin Cave Jul 11 '12 at 20:55
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    +1 If would likely be seen as a bit presumptuous to assume that the company was planning on calling you in for an interview before they've communicated that fact to you. – mhoran_psprep Jul 11 '12 at 23:14
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The earlier you tell them, the better. Since you're going to grad school (and not a competitor) there shouldn't be an issue. Just say, "Your firm is fantastic, I respect everyone that I met, and really want to work there someday. I just want to further my education for a few years first while I have the chance. Can we stay in touch in the meantime?"

If they like you at all, they will want to stay in touch. Send the HR rep, and the 1 non-HR person you connected with the most an email every 3-6 months (too much more is stalking, too much less and they forget you) saying, "Just dropping a line to stay in touch. Here's what I've been up to... Class X is great. I did project Y. How are things with you? How is the company?"

  • Whether this makes sense or not depends on the size of the company. As they get larger, this is more likely to be bit-bucketed immediately. – keshlam Dec 17 '14 at 4:09

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