How to Politely Decline a Second Interview or Withdraw Your Application (with samples)

image of two women seated in an implied interview situation to depict How to Politely Decline a Second Interview or Withdraw Your Application (with samples) by Aurora Meyer on Dispatches from the Castle

We’ve previously talked about always taking the call and accepting an interview when the opportunity comes up.  What do you do if after the interview you’ve decided this job isn’t the one for you? As nerve-racking as it may be in the moment, it will always be worth it to trust your gut feelings now than to regret it later.

The most important thing is to remember you as the interviewee hold half the power. If something feels off about the job or the management or it just isn’t a good fit (and you either currently have a position or have another interview lined up) you can do one of two things:

  1.  wait for the interviewer or recruiter to reach back out to you (typically this is for a second interview) OR
  2.  send the interviewer a note thanking them for the opportunity and asking to withdraw your application.

Here’s what I have used in the past:

Thank you very much for considering me for the position of [position] with the [Organization]. After careful consideration of the responsibilities and time requirements [or other two elements that may not make this a good fit] as indicated in the interview, I would like to withdraw my application for the job. I sincerely appreciate you taking the time to interview me and to share details about the position and the mission and goals for the [Organization]. I wish you luck in finding the right person for the position.

The recruiter or interviewer may react one of three ways:
  1. Be appreciative of you not wasting their time and may even (politely) inquire further
  2. Not respond at all
  3.  Tell you not to apply with the company ever again.

How you respond to the interviewer or recruiter asking for more information is completely up to you. I’ve provided additional detail in some instances and not in others. How you respond depends on what the interviewer or recruiter is asking and if ensuring the relationship needs to be positive (because for example, the community is small and you might run into them regularly, the person is very well known in the field or you might be interested in another position with the company in the future).

If you get a burned bridge response and you don’t need to keep the relationship positive, count your lucky stars you did not continue in the process as the company has revealed quite a bit about how they work with employees.

How to Ask Your Network for Help (templates included!)

image with hand and graphic representations of people in white depicting How to Ask Your Network for Help (template included) by Aurora Meyer on Dispatches from the Castle

Is there a specific organization you are interested in or job title you are looking for in your next position? No matter where you are in the search process, you absolutely must start making connections with organizations or individuals who can help you make that step.

You should start by scouring the openings at those organizations and measure your current skills with what they are looking for in a new hire.

Additionally, I would suggest reaching out to a friend of a friend or a former colleague to see if you could be connected to a recruiter or a hiring manager, ideally, through an email. LinkedIn is a great place to find connections (just make sure your profile is professional and up to date!).

For example, you could asl your mutual connection to send an email like this:
Hi NAME, my friend [YOUR NAME] is looking to [get back into the industry, take the next step in her/his/their career, change career paths, etc.] and is very interested in our organization. I wanted you to meet her/him/them in case you have any openings that might be a good fit for her skill set or you might have time to connect. I’ll let you two take it from here!”

Here’s an example I recently wrote:
Hello, NAME! I wanted to introduce you to our mutual colleague NAME. [DETAILS about who colleague NAME is and the connection/reason I’m writing].  She’s [job title plus a job-related compliment or achievement] and is an all-around really fantastic person. 

[mutual colleague NAME], please meet NAME. [DETAILS about NAME is and the connection/reason I’m writing. NOTE: this should reflect what you wrote above]. She’s [current job title and reason you are introducing these two people]. She’s [job-related compliment or achievement].
I will let the two of you take it from here!
Aurora 

Then as the person who is looking to make a change, you could reply, reiterate your interest in the organization and inquire if the person would be willing to talk [phone is preferred, though email can also work] suggestions and recommendations to make your candidacy stronger.

You did not build a network to look at, do not be afraid to use it! 

Other Duties as Assigned

Other Duties as Assigned Post Image depicting a computer with Job Description written and a keyboard by Aurora Meyer on Dispatches from the Castle

Almost all job descriptions use the phrase, “other duties as assigned” and this might give some candidates pause, but it shouldn’t.

According to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management for federal employees, the clause, “other duties as assigned” is meant to refer to minor tasks related to a certain position.

“Because minor duties normally do not affect the classification of the position, are usually unimportant to work operations, and change frequently, it is generally not necessary to mention them in the position description,” according to the Classifier’s Handbook. “A statement, such as “Performs other duties as assigned,” covers such situations adequately.”

While some employers may abuse this, there are a few ways to inquire about what these could look like during the interview. As a candidate, you should ask:

  • What about the job isn’t included in the job description?
  • Can you share some examples of projects or responsibilities that could be included in other duties as assigned?
  • Could you share some examples of opportunities for stretch projects?
  • How do you respond to employees noticing something and correcting it or bringing it to your attention?

As both a manager and an employee, I have found that more often than not other duties as assigned may include filling in for someone who is on vacation, mundane tasks such as getting and sorting the mail and opportunities to grow your position or scope of responsibilities. 

The mundane tasks or ones that are completely out of the scope of your job description can be looked at one of four ways:

  • One-time requests to be helpful (ok but be mindful of when and if these cross a line or become more than just once in a while)
  • Other departments asking for your help without going through your supervisor (this article from Muse has some great suggestions for how to navigate those)
  • Covering for a team member as needed (vacation, sick, etc.)
  • General helping out (noticing the copier paper is low and refilling it for example)

A quick word of caution, don’t let the mundane tasks take your time away from your actual job responsibilities because it could prevent you from future opportunities to grow your position or scope of work. 

While the mundane tasks can be seen as ways to be a supportive team member, opportunities to grow your position or scope of responsibilities are what will continue to make you valuable as an employee. Mundane tasks accomplish a specific goal, stretch projects are growth opportunities and are a good indicator of trust. 

(Note: there is a difference in growing your position and scope of responsibilities and coming in with a know it all attitude or intention to fix everything you see wrong. I often recommend those just starting with an organization give it at least six months and ideally a full year before asking for stretch projects or opportunities to try something new. However, during that time, your supervisor may give you stretch projects or opportunities and you should absolutely take those.)

The best supervisor I’ve ever had once told me, my job is to give you the tools to be successful, the objectives you need to achieve and the timeline. How you create that success and reach those goals is up to you. 

In other duties as assigned, you can find opportunities to learn and hone new skills and gain experience to elevate your career. 

Why you should always take an interview

Image of a notebook with the word recruitment depicting Always take an interview by Aurora Meyer on Dispatches from the Castle

I’m an advocate of always taking the recruiter, headhunter or friend’s call when it comes to potential job opportunities. You should always be willing to hear about what is available and more specifically why that person thinks you would be a good fit.

If you are offered an initial interview, I also advocate for taking it, even if you absolutely love your current job.

First, this will give you low-stakes interview practice, something every person needs.

Second, this will give you information about what skills and other tangible items are currently in demand in the marketplace.

Third, it could be the absolute best position in the world and perfect for you but you won’t know unless you go.

For those who may be worried about their current employer finding out, you do not have to tell them (unless you are contracted and do have to tell them) why you are taking the day off. Beyond that, a good supervisor will understand and maybe doing the same thing themselves. Furthermore, an organization sees you as replaceable. If you quit today, they would begin the process of finding someone to fill your role tomorrow. Unless you are contracted to do so, you do not owe your employer blind loyalty.

At least take the call, you won’t regret it.

Negotiating A Job Offer Beyond Compensation

Image of Negotiating Beyond Compensation by Aurora Meyer on Dispatches from the Castle

A mentee of mine recently completed negotiations for her dream job and as I reflected on the advice I gave her a few things stuck out.  None of the advice I gave her is necessarily something I created. Instead, it is a culmination of the advice I’ve received and the things I’ve learned along the way myself. 

In this particular situation, the salary offer was firm and the benefits (such as health benefits start date, 401k match, insurance premiums, etc.) were also non-negotiable. Taking those elements out of the negotiation actually made it easier for her to ask for some of the quality of life benefits that meant as much as salary to her. 

Know Your Perfect Offer

When she started interviewing, she wrote out what her perfect offer would look like. I encouraged her to include a salary range, paid time off and dream big items. 

Her list included: 

  • salary range reflective of her experience and education
  • a dedicated stipend for continued learning which could include conference attendance and travel and online certificate programs
  • PTO time (combined sick leave and vacation) to at least match what she currently has
  • sign-on bonus or relocation expenses
  • dedicated salary review timeline with benchmarks
  • student loan reimbursement
  • if permanent work from home situation office furniture allowance 

She used several websites to review the salary range including Glassdoor.com, bls.gov/oes, salary.com, payscale.com and LinkedIn. Then she only applied for positions that were within her range.  

After you receive a verbal offer

Once she received a verbal offer, she made a tiny (and very common!) mistake in naming a number above the initial offer. In retrospect, she should have asked for the full offer to compare the benefits and leverage with the knowledge of the company. 

Since she was number specific, it wasn’t a big surprise when the recruiter came back that the salary was firm but there was an annual bonus tied to yearly company profits. At that point, she asked a few additional questions such as confirming the position will remain remote even after the pandemic and the estimated travel associated with the position. 

Then she waited for the written offer. 

Written Offer Next Steps

Once she received the written offer, she was able to counter with some of the other items on her perfect offer checklist.

“I’d like to take the job, but since we were apart on salary, I’d like to discuss other ways to bridge the gap. As this is a dedicated remote position, I’d like to specifically discuss the paid time off, the possibility of a sign-on bonus, dedicated continuing education stipends, student loan assistance and the salary review timeline. Is this a good time to talk about how we can bridge that gap?”

She was then quiet and let the recruiter take a moment to hear what she was saying. 

The recruiter thanked her for her feedback and said he would get back to her as soon as possible with the answers to her questions. 

At this point, she knew whatever he came back with was the ultimate offer and she would not be able to negotiate again. (Note: two rounds of negotiation is about the max before the recruiter starts seeing red flags.)

The recruiter came back with a small sign-on bonus, the opportunity for a salary review after six months and an extra week of vacation. Knowing she may be able to renegotiate the continuing education stipend in the future and the sign-on bonus would be used for office furniture, she accepted and made sure to say how much she appreciated the recruiter’s work on this offer and that she would be signing it as soon as she received it. 

When she received the offer and reviewed it to make sure everything they discussed was in the offer letter, she signed it and returned it. Then she followed up with a phone call to the recruiter to let him know the signed offer was in his inbox, again thank him for his work and reiterate her excitement about joining the team. 

Then What

She made a few notes to discuss with her manager at the first opportunity that made sense. As she and her manager began discussing the first post-covid all-hands meeting that would involve her travel, she made sure to ask for details on how are travel expenses are handled and what is included. 

As it came close to the designated time for her annual salary review, she sent an email to her manager noting that she would like to schedule a meeting for her salary review and after checking her boss’s calendar offered three dates and times. 

After six months in the position, she is still happy with the outcome. It didn’t meet all the items on her perfect offer list but it met more than she expected. 

Two additional resources for job package negotiation:
https://www.forbes.com/sites/lizryan/2017/06/06/most-people-wont-negotiate-a-job-offer-but-heres-why-you-should/

https://www.shrm.org/ResourcesAndTools/hr-topics/benefits/Pages/when-and-how-to-negotiate-benefits-with-workers-and-job-seekers.aspx