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If I've decided during the hiring process but before receiving an offer that a particular job isn't the right fit, how can I withdraw my candidacy in a professional manner and without souring the relationship?

A few weeks ago I was approached about a position abroad in a large company. I had one positive interview with the hiring manager for this position, and a second one two weeks after, with the hiring manager, a senior expert and a HR person. After that I got very positive feedback and an overview of the typical offer package and the next steps in the process (on-site visit, reference check, ...).

The company and the job are very interesting but I'm starting to think that this is not the best step to take for my career or if the offer. I would feel kind of bad to interrupt the hiring process when they have shown such interest but it also doesn't make sense to continue talking if I already know that I won't accept the job.

I am going to evaluate the pros and cons on my own and decide whether to decline or proceed to the next steps, but assuming that I decide to withdraw from consideration, how do I tell the company that in a professional and non-condescending way?

  • Was it made clear when you applied that the job would require relocation internationally? – Jane S Jun 18 '16 at 10:46
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    "The typical package seems interesting, but it involves relocation to a foreign country" - if there is even a small chance of a package that doesn't involve relocating, you should tell them that you don't want to relocate. Then they will either end the process or they will find a local opening for you. – Brandin Jun 18 '16 at 10:57
  • Highly related but not a duplicate as it (and its related questions) are all about rejecting an offer: What is the best protocol for courteously declining a job offer? – Lilienthal Jun 18 '16 at 11:22
  • OP, can I edit your question to basically drop your personal situation and instead leave only the core question of professionally withdrawing from consideration in a hiring process? As you've said whether you decline or proceed is a personal call and this question would be more useful if it covered a generic case. – Lilienthal Jun 18 '16 at 11:25
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    @JaneS yes it was clear from the beginning that the position would require relocation, and I am generally open to it. However, I have a family and the decision isn't exclusively mine. – BConic Jun 18 '16 at 13:29
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Just thank them for the kind offer and say it is not ideal for your personal circumstances.

Wish them the best.

  • Thank you for your answer. One thing I am wondering though: until now, I was in "hiring process mode", meaning that I would try my best to show my motivation and convince them I was a good match for the role. Don't you think a suddenly reserved and vague comment like this would make me look foolish ? Shouldn't I try to justify why I changed my mind ? – BConic Jun 18 '16 at 18:38
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    @AldurDisciple: No, this is perfectly normal. It is generally assumed that you are pursuing more than one opportunity at any given time, and of course you are going to have to refuse all but one of any offers you may receive. – Kevin Jun 18 '16 at 22:01
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    @AldurDisciple If you're concerned about justifying the change of mind, just say you "decided to pursue other opportunities." Send an email to the recruiter and the hiring manager so they're aware as soon as possible. – Strikegently Apr 2 '18 at 11:35
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    @AldurDisciple I did exactly this once and be sure the hiring manager will be disapointed but that's life. Just be polite and pragmatic, you don't need to justify anything – jean Apr 5 '18 at 19:55
  • you could add that while you're very interested in the company, you've come realize that the next step for your career is 'X', while they are offering 'Y'. Add that you could see yourself reapplying in the future if 'X' becomes available. – LeLetter Apr 5 '18 at 21:20
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There's various routes you can take - obviously I can't speak to what your full reasons are for wanting to withdraw and I will say that it's best to try and at least be honest where you can.

The key to doing this professionally is to make it clear that the reason you are withdrawing is not because of anything wrong with the job or the company (even if it is I would advise avoiding that route) but rather that continuing isn't the best choice for your circumstances right now and to stress that really you have the company's best interests at heart in not continuing when you don't feel that you can follow through.

The relocation aspect (especially with it being to another country) is really your ace in the hole here - everyone understands that moving to another country is a really big deal, more so when you have a family.

Something like:

With regret I'm going to have to withdraw from the application process. I'm really grateful for the opportunity you've given me and for the time and effort you've invested in me so far but after careful consideration I don't believe this is the right move for me and my family right now and I don't want to take up any more of your time and take this any further if I can't commit 100% to this move.

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+500

Employers know that hiring processes involve a lot of variables for both the employer and the candidate, and either party is entitled to bow out prior to things becoming official. The first point for you to consider is that it's not unusual or disrespectful to withdraw from consideration.

You mention,

I would feel kind of bad to interrupt the hiring process when they have shown such interest

Consider this: it would be much worse for the employer if you were to know in your heart that it's the wrong decision, but continue anyway. As long as you're interested, it makes sense to continue. The minute you're sure you're not interested, it makes sense to withdraw. Bowing out any later than that is unfair to the employer (and, arguably, yourself).

Given that, we now arrive at your question:

how do I tell the company that in a professional and non-condescending way?

If you look at expert advice for bowing out of hiring processes without causing disruption or earning a bad reputation, the consensus is to focus on a few points:

  1. Be prompt. Covered this above. As soon as you are sure, tell them. Otherwise, you ARE wasting their time. They need to be focusing on candidates who are interested, not those who aren't.
  2. Be brief. You do want to make it clear you're not interested, but you do not (generally) want to ramble or go into detailed specifics. Specifics are where you can get into trouble, because you're giving them something they may feel they can dispute or argue. (or, worse, something they'll be offended by). Staying generic prevents this.
  3. Be polite. Approach the communication as if you're writing a thank you, versus a "rejection" of their interest. Convey gratitude at the opportunity. If you are serious about considering different positions there in the future, make that clear.
  4. Think about the long term relationship. If there's a clear reason why other positions may be a better fit, it's OK to mention that (as a way of addressing the obvious question of "why would they want a different job with us if they didn't want this one?"), but keep it high level and be thoughtful - you don't want to say, "I didn't get along with the person who interviewed me, but I might get along with someone else" but you could say, "I'm looking for something more technical" or "I'm looking for something more customer-facing" or "I'm interested in something with more of a focus on individual contribution versus management."

An example if you're interested in future opportunities:

Dear (Hiring Manager), Thank you for the interview yesterday. I appreciated learning more about your organization and the position you're trying to fill. After careful consideration, I have decided to withdraw my application, as I've found the position you're trying to fill isn't the best fit for me. I wish you luck in your search and I hope to stay in touch in the future about other opportunities - especially if you have a need for a more technical skill set (complete this sentence per above) as that fits better with the direction I see myself going in the future. All the best, (Candidate).

If you're not interested:

Dear (Hiring Manager), Thank you for the interview yesterday. It gave me a good chance to learn more about your organization and the position you're trying to fill. I appreciate your interest in me as a candidate, but after more thought, I have decided this won't be a good fit for me and I must withdraw my application. Thank you for the consideration, (Candidate).

High quality employers - the kinds of places you'll want to work for - will understand that interviews are a two-way street and it's a sign of integrity and thoughtfulness for a candidate to carefully consider their fit in a role and a workplace - they may be disappointed by a polite, brief, and timely withdrawal, but they won't count it against your reputation.

Some references for the three points mentioned above, more are available online:

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Despite your concerns, I would suggest not to withdraw.

You're already this far into the process, you might as well use it to find out more about your current market value.

Since you are unsure about the job, this is the best context in which to do a hard negotiation for a high salary. If you actually get it, it might yet change your opinion on the job. You might think this is wasting their time, but I've seen people change their opinion on these matters quickly when the right numbers were in place.

And even if it fails (i.e. they do not offer you a salary good enough to consider them), it's negotiation training and interview training that will help you in your future.

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