If you’re in or contemplating a serious job search, you might find it hard to imagine that you could have an opportunity for interviews you don’t want–or interviews for jobs you realize you don’t want. However, stranger things have happened.
Sometimes a situation is doomed from the outset, but you don’t always know it ahead of time. However, there are some signals you can watch for that might suggest a “pass on this one” would be smart. For instance, if you learn that the company is in the midst of a potentially major change (possible merger or acquisition, etc.), that might not be the best time for interviewing there. By the same token, if some other kind of upheaval is going on (such as the abrupt departure of one or more key people on the executive team), you might want to hold off on interviewing with that organization.
You can, of course, decide the risk is worth taking because the potential payoff outweighs it. Only you can decide if you want to move forward to the interview in such a situation. One sample scenario would be if you’ll have the chance to interview with an influential person that could be a good future contact.
Although it might be unlikely that you’ll go to multiple job interviews where you have awareness of high risk in advance, it’s not uncommon to go into one thinking you’re genuinely interested in the position and realizing partway through that it’s not a good fit for you–either the job itself or the company or both. What do you do in a case like that?
As others have said before me, you don’t necessarily want to bail from that interview prematurely, which could leave a bad impression on (burn bridges with) someone who could later be in a position to help or hurt your career. At the same time, you probably shouldn’t go full-speed-ahead with a high level of enthusiasm if you already know you wouldn’t accept an offer if they made one. You’ll want to see the interview through to a polite conclusion and, if appropriate, indicate that although you appreciate the time spent, you’ve realized you and the position aren’t a good fit right now.
Recently I read an article titled “How to Decline a Job Interview and Make It a Win/Win” that suggested ways you can also make a really favorable impression by offering information about potential candidates who might be a good fit (if you know one) or indicating other things you would be happy to do that might be helpful to the interviewer and his/her company. That’s certainly something to think about. It would undoubtedly make you more memorable to the interviewer after the interview is over and done.
Of course, this is all assuming you’ve done your due diligence before signing up for any interviews that might put you on the spot. If you have, you should at least minimize the likelihood of having it happen.