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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 scientist with a mask holds two pills up in front of her faceHere’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.

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 still 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!

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 interviewer 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.

Jae Yoo, Managing Principal Consultant at EPM Scientific, US, comments, “Networking is critical in such a competitive and volatile industry. I would highly recommend candidates to connect with hiring managers within the industry so that they can have their name out there in the event there is a shut down or large acquisition. In the Life Sciences market, anything can happen! You want to make sure that you are prepared for anything.”

“It is equally important to find out what you don’t want to do as it is to find out what you do want to do”. If you are passionate about an industry or space, an interview can also be the perfect opportunity to begin to network and start to “make a name for yourself,” Natalia Schwartz, Head of EPM, Switzerland, comments.

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.

Schwartz advises that you should always be open-minded to avoid missing out on opportunities. “We are only exposed to a narrow range of possibilities as we “grow up” in a sector, meaning you could be missing out on your dream role simply by not being open enough to listen.”

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.

“So much of your progression and development comes down to the person that you are directly working for – are they truly championing your development? If not it may be worth considering to look elsewhere, in fact, one of the most common reasons that people join a business (or leave one!) is down to the persons manager! You never know who is going to be waiting at the other end of the phone or in the building you enter. That person may end up being the best person you never knew,” comments, Zach Stamp, Director of EPM Scientific, UK.

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 – and you never know when that could come back to bite you. If your mind really 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.

Schwartz advises, “Be selfish about your career and take every opportunity out there to progress – just make sure you are constantly professional, polite and grateful for their time. This is a very limited resource!”

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.

Stamp comments, “You never know where a phone call may lead. Sure, the role might not be “perfect” – but the person that is interviewing you may have hiring visibility across other areas, or refer you to those that are directly responsible.”

To help further in your decision-making, it’s also important to ask your recruiter the right questions about the role, 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 to these questions may just help to tilt the balance one way or the other.

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