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Should You Turn Down a Job Interview?

By Martin Yate

The Right Time to Turn Down a Job Interview?

I must ask clients this question a thousand times a year – the answer reveals a lot about that person’s overall career management savvy. The question always generates a lot of thoughtful answers, but hardly anyone ever gets it right -- can you?

On the face of it, there are lots of reasons to turn down a job interview:

  • It’s not a match for your goals.
  • The job is a step back.
  • It’s not a good fit.
  • The commute isn’t doable.
  • You wouldn’t work for that company on a bet!

These all seem reasonable for any professional living in a world with too much to do and not enough time to get it done.


Consequently, we can turn down interviews based on sound time management principles: “What’s the best use of my time right now?”

When going to a job interview for a job you’ll obviously never accept is not good use of your time today, this would seem to be a practical and thoughtful judgment call.

But there are other considerations that could change your point of view entirely.

How Important Is a Successful Life to You?

Look at your professional experience to date, just how many jobs have you been offered over your entire career? Whatever your answer, compare all your essential professional skills for your success against your competency with turning job interviews into job offers.

When you take a moment to seriously consider your professional skills and the relevance of those skills for your professional success, a major revelation will smack you right in the face:

This particular skill -- job interviewing -- is probably your weakest skill, but the most reliable metrics on job stability strongly suggest that it needs to be your strongest.

You work in the most insecure professional world ever, and stability stats are trending downwards making job interviewing an essential survival skill.

Eye-Opening Career Stats

We all typically work for about fifty years, and, currently, we change job every 4.2 years (a steep drop from 4.6 just two years ago). Do the math -- you are looking at somewhere between twelve and fifteen job changes over a working life.

Most of those job changes will be within a current profession. But, changing jobs within the same profession isn’t an easy project. It takes about six months on average to find a new job.

This gets freakier when you realize:

Most of us will experience three or more distinctly different careers over the course of a complete worklife.

The trials and challenges of making a successful job change into a totally new career are much harder, longer, and frequently demand a financial step-back to get started on that new career path.

Put the question of turning down job interviews in the context of personal stability, happiness, and success over your lifetime. The development of an un-recognized critical skill takes on much greater importance when viewed in that context.

Stacking the Odds for Success in Your Favor

When you put all the jig-saw puzzle pieces together and ask the original question, “When do I turn a job interview down?” Your answer becomes a swift, “Never!”

Obviously more experience turning job interviews into job offers is a must-have skill for today. Along with this mindset reset comes a change in focus:

Job interviews aren’t so much about whether you want the job, they are about learning to turn interviews into offers.

You are building a skill that you will use time and again over the years. Most importantly, when that dream job opportunity comes along, you will be ready so life-changing opportunities will not be lost to lack of career management savvy.

A job interview is an intricate mating dance, where the best partners waltz away with the glittering prizes. All you need do is learn and practice the steps as often as opportunity arises.

An Excellent "Worst Case" Outcome

What’s the worst that can happen, you get a job offer you don’t want? At the same time, you are improving an essential success skill. You turn the job offer down gracefully. At the same time, you have expanded your profession-relevant network and given your ego a boost.

On top of this, a change in thinking should make you look more seriously at long-term career management issues and consider the realistic strategies to deliver your goals in life.

About the author...

Successful careers don't happen by accident. Professional resume writing expert Martin Yate CPC is a New York Times best-seller and the author of 17 Knock Em Dead career management books. As Dun & Bradstreet says, "He's about the best in the business." For FREE resume-building advice and to view Martin's resume samples, visit the Knock Em Dead website. Join Martin on Twitter at @KnockEmDead.

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Guide to Successful Interviews

Essential Job Interviewing Requirements:

Navigating the Interview Process:

Succeeding at Different Kinds of Interviews:

Steps to Prepare for Your Interview:

More Information About Successful Interviews:

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