I walked out of a job interview

“Every exit is an entry somewhere else.” Tom Stoppard

A dozen years ago, I had a job interview scheduled with a new company.  I was really excited about the opportunity – it could have been a career-boosting role.  Admittedly, I wasn’t their typical profile. They tended to hire experts in particular industries and I was more functionally focused on marketing and communications.  But I had started building a life science practice and wanted to continue building expertise there.  The firm pledged to teach me their executive retained search business and groom me for a leadership role. I felt confident.

Where things went wrong

I met with a few people and felt it could be a good match, until I met the person who would be my direct manager. Right from the start, it felt off. It was somewhat contentious. He made assumptions about my background without letting me respond. It was as if he had already made up his mind about me; and it put me on the defensive. I was having trouble changing his mind or the course of the discussion.

My grand exit

Twenty minutes into the conversation, I interrupted him and said, “I don’t think this will be a fit.  You’ve made assumptions the entire time and have no interest in hearing my point of view.  Thanks for your time.”  I gathered my belongings and left. Abruptly.

The aftermath

I called my recruiter as I left the building.  Apparently I was the buzz around the office.  People were curious to meet the guy who rattled the Managing Director and threw him off his game.  Somehow I was invited back to meet the President and we had a pleasant conversation.  I don’t regret what I did because I got myself out of an uncomfortable situation where I felt bullied and disrespected. 

Hindsight is 20/20

In hindsight, I am glad I cut the interview short, but wish I had handled it a bit differently. My advice to candidates is to finish the interview – be polite, professional and do your best.  I clearly didn’t follow my own counsel.  But you can professionally cut an interview short if you have good reason.

Here are a few tips you can use to extricate yourself from an interview without being the talk of the office!

  • Be professional and polite.
  • Tell the interviewer you don’t think the company/job is a good match for you.  If they ask why, you can share as much or little as you are comfortable.
  • Let them know you aren’t interested in proceeding with the interview and don’t want to waste their valuable time (or yours!)

Scott White specializes in recruiting communications and marketing professionals for Boston area life sciences companies. Find Scott on LinkedIn here or email him at scott@hireminds.com.