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To interview or not to interview: how to decide whether to go for a job that may not seem perfect

Date: 16 May 2019

A train track forks in two directionsHere’s your dilemma: a recruiter or hiring manager has come across your CV. They found you on LinkedIn and approaches you with an interview opportunity that you haven’t sought out. The problem is that the role doesn’t seem, well, perfect. It’s not exactly what you want, and you didn’t even apply for it. 

So what do you do? Do you go for the interview or not? 

Randy Chan, Head of DSJ Global, APAC, believes candidates should view unsolicited approaches as a gift and advises them to act fast when such opportunities arise. “When it comes to job openings timing is everything, so seize the day. Otherwise, you may miss out on a great opportunity.” 

It’s also important to remember that even if a job doesn’t seem perfect ‘off the rack’, hiring managers can tailor roles for the right candidate, according to Matthew Wood, Director of DSJ Global, UK.

“They can shape a position around your skills to take full advantage of the value you bring. Especially if you’ve got a niche skill or are leading the way in new technology,” asserts Mr Wood.  

Why it may be a good idea to go for the interview

There are many reasons why interviewing for a job you don’t think you want can be a good idea. Here are a few things to consider. 

Treat it as a ‘recon mission’

Going for an interview can be a great way to get market ‘intel’. Information and insights into the company and industry; to see what opportunities are out there; see what the market is looking for and what you could be worth at another company. You may also learn about new projects that you weren’t aware of.

There may be more to the role than was evident from the job description. Or maybe the company just sounds like a fantastic place to work and you want in. You wouldn’t learn any of this without meeting and talking with them directly. So if you’re open to learning more and maybe being pleasantly surprised, give it a go. You may wind up with an offer that’s too good to pass up!

Recruiters are one of your best sources of intel. They often have access to inside information that is not publicly available. For example, “at DSJ Global we are often supporting clients as they embark on large transformations of their procurement or supply chain departments. But these projects are rarely widely publicised. The only way potential candidates would find out about them is through specialist recruiters like us,” says Matthew Wood. 

It’s an opportunity to make valuable contacts

An interview presents an opportunity to get on the radar of a company you’re interested in. It can be valuable contacts of a recruiter – but only if you interview well and make a really strong impression. Recruiters, for example, can keep you in mind for other roles that may be a better fit. If you let them know you’re open to other roles, they may remember you when future opportunities come up. You can stay on their radar by touching base with them periodically. You can also check their website regularly for job postings. 

Stay one step ahead

It’s always better to look for a job when you already have a job. That shows you’re coming from a position of strength. But not a position of desperation or urgency because you're being made redundant or have reached breaking point at your current job and want to jump ship ASAP. Time or financial pressure can lead to poor decision-making. And to make the right decision is what you want when it comes to choosing a job. Going for an interview when you’re not necessarily looking is a stress-free way to put your feelers out and find out about new opportunities. Don’t wait for a company restructure or redundancy to start getting out there.  

It’s good practice

Interviewing well is something you get better at with practice, and there’s nothing like the real thing to hone your skills. The more comfortable you get with interviewing the less nervous you’ll be. The more accustomed you’ll get to the kinds of questions typically asked, the more confidence you’ll have in an otherwise stressful situation. Interviewing for a job you don’t necessarily want has much lower stakes and presents the perfect opportunity to get some practice under your belt. Still, it’s important to treat every interview seriously and prepare as thoroughly as you normally would.

It’s their chance to sell you the position

Remember that if a recruiter or hiring manager has approached you about a job you haven’t applied for, they know they will have to convince you to consider it. The interview then is their chance to sell you the position. As long as you’re open to hearing what they have to say and are curious to learn more, then go for it. 

Why it may be a good idea to pass 

However, if you absolutely know that you don’t want the role and wouldn’t take it under any circumstances. It’s probably better not to waste their time and yours: give it a pass. You need to be aware that if it's obvious that you're there under false pretences or with a different agenda, your strategy will backfire and they’ll remember you for all the wrong reasons. You never know when that could come back to bite you. If your mind is totally closed that will come through, and it isn't fair to waste the interviewer’s time and take the place of a genuine candidate who actually wants the job. 

You may also want to give the interview a miss if you already have other, better options that you’re weighing up. What’s the point of going for a lesser option when it’s just more effort and more choice, but for no real benefit? Do yourself a favour and don’t overcomplicate your life. 

If you decide to give the interview a pass, always do so politely and keep the door open for future contact. Thank the recruiter or hiring manager for reaching out and let them know you would be open to other opportunities that may match your skills and experience. You never know when that contact will come in handy! Check in with them regularly and connect with them on LinkedIn. 

Ask your recruiter the right questions

Ultimately, when it comes to deciding on whether to go for an interview, it’s up to you to weigh up the pros and cons, assess if it could yield benefits or open up an unexpected opportunity, and follow your gut instinct. 

When making your assessment, Randy Chan stresses the importance of doing your due diligence. Which means researching the company and asking trusted friends and colleagues if they have any useful information that could help steer you in the right direction. It also means asking the recruiter or hiring manager some key questions. 

“Like I always say to my team, ‘You don’t ask, you won’t get.’ You have to explore, trust your gut and find out for yourself. Because that conversation with the HR or hiring manager can turn your thinking entirely upside down!”

To assist your decision-making, ask your recruiter questions such as: 

• Why is the position vacant? High turnover in the role could be a red flag. 

• Ask about the company culture and management style – is it a good fit for you? If not, there’s no point. 

• What’s the career path/progression at this company? Could this role lead to something more and could there be a longer term future there? 

The answers may just help tilt the balance one way or the other. 

Christine Corson, Senior Vice President and Head of Procurement & Sourcing Recruitment at DSJ Global, reassures that in most cases, attending the interview is well worth the effort. In her experience, “It’s always better to take the meeting, grow your network, and make an informed decision instead of wondering what might have been.”


Ready for an interview? Read more about alternative ways to prepare for an interview.