Walking Out of an Interview – Do or Don’t?

As a recruiter, I often get asked questions about the interview process. What are the rights and wrongs, dos and don’ts, what is professional and unprofessional, etc. In addition, though, I am also often (okay, always) on the receiving end of all of the above and I have got to tell you, it all depends… Not the answer you were looking for, I understand; but truly, it really does all depend on the given situation. Things like the type of company, type of company culture, interview style used, personality of the interviewer, personality of the interviewee, stigmas (unfortunately), etc. all play a part in whether the interview goes well or does not.

A very close friend of mine once told me he did not believe in preparing for an interview. He told me he didn’t see the point, as everything in life is a popularity contest and it all comes down to whether or not an interviewer likes you. Well, I am biased here. I have always, will always and will always push others to prepare, prepare, prepare. The more you know about a company, the better you look in their eyes. Furthermore, preparing for an interview can often give you a lot more insight as to what the company “is all about.”

Think about it, often when you set up an interview, the interviewer will send you a confirmation email. There you go; now you know who you will be meeting with. You have the access and ability to Google that person, find them on LinkedIn, see if there is an “About Me” on the company website or even any news articles about them or where they might be mentioned. In essence, you have multiple avenues that might lead you in the direction of finding out who you’ll really be sitting across from in just a few days.

Not only can you do this with your interviewer, but you can do this with the company in general. The amount of information accessible to you on the internet today is literally insane, but altogether, useful. Did you know that you can type a company name, any company, into the LinkedIn search bar and it will come up with any employees who have a page therein who currently work for, have worked for, might have been part of a project for, etc. etc. with that company? In essence, you have the ability and the right to find out if you’re meant to, or want to, go through with the interview prior to even showing up.

For all of these reasons and more it truly baffles me when I have a candidate walk out of an interview. Don’t get me wrong, there will be times, even if you’ve gone in fully prepared, where certain things come up or you’re put in an uncomfortable or downright wrongful situation and you choose to leave. This I understand. On one of Optimum RTS’ famous Facebook “Questions for Friday” I asked our followers, “What are some reasons that would cause you to walk out of an interview, if indeed you see that as something you might do?” Some examples given were sexism, ageism, or if a candidate came to realize there was time being wasted on either end.

Although I do believe time to be one of our most valuable (if not the most valuable) possessions, there is a way of going about closing an interview early professionally, and there is a way of going about it unprofessionally. Now, our followers are smart folks, and this specific commenter thoughtfully and tactfully remembered to mention, “Walk out, no. Politely excuse myself…” However, like I said, and I know everyone hates to hear this, but, it all depends.

I want all of our readers to remember the wise words of Robert Kiyosaki, one of my personal favorite business quotes, “The richest people in the world look for and build networks, everyone else looks for work.” You may have gone into an interview and realized right away that it was not the position for you, but you have gotten the rare chance to meet with a professional in your industry, and you are about to be right there in front of them. I always tell my candidates, if you can avoid it, perhaps even “suck it up,” never burn any professional bridges. The more people speaking highly of you out in the community, the more professionals in your network, the more successful you will be. I promise you, this is true.

So, in conclusion, my opinion when it comes to walking out of an interview is, don’t. Or at least, don’t if it’s not too, too bad. Grow your network. Smile and make yourself an extremely memorable candidate. When they call you for a second interview, or even quite possibly to offer you the position (because you were the most prepared candidate, wink wink) politely decline, but offer your (positive) reasons why and remind them about the other reasons why you should stay in touch.

Cheers, good luck to you, and may the interview odds be ever in your favor.

Written by: Melanie Scherr