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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: 14 May 2019

A women holds a smart phone in her hand with an email invitation to interview. There are two buttons to choose from - to accept or decline.Here’s your dilemma: a recruiter or hiring manager has come across your CV or 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.

Giancarlo Hirsch, Director of the New York Glocomms team comments, “When advising candidates on the need to perpetually explore the market, the biggest piece of advice that I can share is simple: you don’t know until you try.  I often discuss with candidates a scenario where there is a lovely island out in the middle of the water, and you can see that it looks beautiful from here, but you really can’t tell the intricacies of the island until you step foot on it.  For these reasons, I always advise a candidate to take a walk over the bridge and check out the island before burning the bridge down.  This way, you can make a more educated decision when it comes to: is this the right role for me or now.  Well – simple, just have an initial conversation and find out.”

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

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

There are a number of 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!

Ben Pickup, Senior Consultant at Glocomms in San Francisco, comments, “Candidates must operate with a clear understanding of the value of their current skillset, and know exactly what they hope to achieve by moving jobs in the short, medium, and long-term. So when approaching a candidate with a new opportunity, it must be done with a certain malleability because the candidate could offer a lot more to your business in some areas, and would like to learn and develop in other areas – when this information is revealed, then can we write a suitable job description tailored for that person’s career goals. Interviews can be used as part of this discovery phase if companies have an open mind for their hiring strategy, and I would recommend candidates to interview at companies who operate progressively like this, as long as the overall business is of interest to you, so that you can fully evaluate what’s on offer.”

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 or a recruiter with valuable contacts – 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, and if you let the hiring manager know that you’re open to other roles in the company, they may remember you when future opportunities come up. You can stay on their radar by touching base with them periodically, and also checking 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, so you’re coming from a position of strength rather than 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 if there’s one thing you want when it comes to choosing a job, it’s to make the right decision. 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, like any skill, 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, and 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 – so the interview 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 on an interview

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 – and 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.

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.

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