The world and beyond – Surviving in the economic jungle

Advice, tips and tricks on how to engage with the UK jobs market and commercial environment, from a female executive's perspective

Guide to Job Hunting – The art of bowing out gracefully

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During every interview process, a moment arrives when decisions have to be made. For the interviewer, this is usually down to who gets the job offer, and the decision is usually based on a simple set of pre-defined criteria.

For the interviewee, this is often a more difficult decision to make, because the criteria is not always clearly set out and people are often involved in more than one recruitement process at the same time.

These processes don’t always run at the same pace, and it may be neccessary for you to make some important decisions when you are not actually quite ready yet. I have seen candidates make some really large errors in judgement when this happens, and then unfortunately doors close which cannot always be opened again. How do you make sure the decision you take is going to be the best one?

1. Take time

It is common practice for recruiters and organisations to place you under pressure for a snap decision. The jobs market is competitive, and they want you signed up before someone else grabs you. Don’t dawdle, because you want to make sure you maintain the positive impression. But if you need more time, then say so.

2. If you are not sure, don’t say yes

Accepting a job offer, even verbally, means entering into a legal contract. If you accept an offer because you are being pressurised, or simply because you are desperate, be very careful. Trust your gut instinct and consider all the pros and cons. Saying yes for the wrong reasons is far worse than saying no for the right reasons. You might end up regretting a decision made in haste, and for the wrong reasons.

3. Be pragmatic

Recently, I had a candidate at third and final interview with a very major player, and he was the forerunner between 2 candidates. He had been out of work for a while, and I’m sure was feeling the strain financially. He received an unexpected offer for slightly less money, but to start immediately. Instead of buying time to give himself the opportunity to go to the other interview, he accepted and withdrew from the process. Had he played for time, he could give himself the opportunity of having an offer on the table whilst also seeing the other process through to finality. As it happens, he is now in a role that is not very comfortable and he is back on the market. The dream job was offered to the candidate left in the process: That door is now shut. A bird in the hand is not always better than two in the bush!

4. Respect others in the process

Withdrawing with grace is an art. Saying no is not easy, and often I find that candidates will “Play along” because they are too embarrassed to say they are not interested, instead of just saving everyone’s time and being honest. If you didn’t enjoy the interview, say so. If you don’t like the role that is being presented, then be honest about it. Nobody will take offence: Recruitment is a 2-way process that allows selection by the interviewer and interviewee alike. If you do just tag along, you may be robbing someone else from an opportunity that will suit him / her better, you will be wasting the interviewer’s time and the recruiter’s resources. Don’t wait for the last minute before announcing you don’t want to continue, or that you feel uncomfortable. Be mindful and considerate, it will pay off for you in the end!

5. Don’t burn your bridges

Saying no respectfully can gain you a lot of respect. Saying no in a way that can be seen as rude, ignorant, disrespectful or selfish will gain you exactly the opposite! It is entirely your right to refuse an interview or turn down a job offer, as long as you do it with grace. Of course not everyone will be happy with your decision, because you would not have got this far in the process if you were not an attractive prospect. They will be feeling disappointed and perhaps even let down. However, if you manage your refusal gracefully, by being clear about your motives and constructive in your communications, you stand to gain a lot more. I am often surprised by how candidates are willing to waste these opportunities, especially if they think there is something better on the horizon. You never know when life might play a trick and you might need that recruiter’s services again, or that interviewer you turned down might end up being a client. Your personal brand will be damaged if you manage this inappropriately.

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