This post, is it dishonest to interview for a job when I’m not that interested in it anymore? , was written by Alison Green and published on Ask a Manager.
A reader writes:
Until recently, I was looking to leave my current project management role. After being at the same title and essentially the same pay for five years, I was feeling frustrated with the lack of advancement in a job that was expanding in scope and responsibility. While I enjoyed the work, I felt like having the same title would gradually make my resume look stale. Moreover, the whirlwind of inflation we got hit with this year made me feel pretty anxious about my pay. I spoke about these concerns with my management multiple times over the year, including during my interim review (which was very positive), but got little more than “we know this is a problem and we are working on it/things are in store for you, but we can’t tell you anything.” I work in the public sector, so messaging like this is not abnormal, but after a year of hearing it I was ready to move on.
That is … until three weeks ago. Everyone on my team received a substantial (close to 15%) raise on top of a merit increase of 2%. I feel much better about the pay question now. While my title is still the same, a new deputy director has quickly labelled me a “rock star” and I am receiving a lot of repeat positive reception on my work. More importantly, I am having my ideas listened to and implemented on a level I have not experienced before. My perception of my job has improved significantly in a short timeframe and now I am no longer looking to leave.
Unfortunately, I now have multiple interview requests coming in from all those applications I made back when I wasn’t as pleased. Some are outside my current organization, others are internal. I interviewed for one job recently, but the process left me feeling dishonest as I wasn’t really interested anymore (although in that job’s case it wasn’t a great culture fit anyway). After I got a follow-up call from the hiring manager (who was very excited about my candidacy), I had to downplay any interest and I felt like I had wasted their time.
I have another job interview request, this time internal, and I’m torn on what to do. It’s for a genuinely interesting role which would also be a title and pay bump from my current role, so on paper at least I would want to learn more by interviewing. But if I’m honest, the thought of leaving now following the recent pay/experience changes leaves me anxious as I quite like my current job, so I’m inclined to politely let them know I’m no longer looking. I could interview anyway, but I’d be walking the same path that left me feeling dishonest.
Do you have any advice for me?
Well, first, it’s not dishonest to keep accepting those interviews. You’re allowed to have business conversations about jobs in your field even if you’re happy where you are. And you’re allowed to interview for jobs you’re pretty sure you wouldn’t take in order to learn more, if you’re open to the possibility that you might learn something that changes your mind.
But if you’re sure that you would not take any of these jobs regardless of what you learn in the interviews, then yes, it makes sense to back out. Candidates back out all the time! It’s no big deal at all. You’d just say, “I’ve decided to stay where I am for now, but best of luck filling the position.” Or, “I’m no longer searching for a new position so I’d like to withdraw from consideration. Best of luck with your hiring process.”
But if you want to go on some of the interviews and would be open to switching jobs for the right offer, keep taking the interviews! It’s not dishonest to interview just because you’re less motivated to change jobs now than you were when you applied, or because the bar would be higher to get you to leave now than it was earlier.
The one caution I’d give is about internal interviews. With internal interviews, it’s pretty common for your current manager to be informed that you’re interviewing, so if you’re not really serious about pursuing one of those jobs, it doesn’t make sense to deal with the questions that can raise if you don’t have to. Plus, if you interview and then turn down an internal job, it can sometimes have repercussions later (for example, by making you less likely to be considered for another internal job you really do want in the future — not that that’s reasonable, but it happens).
But with external jobs, you won’t generally have those same considerations. If you want to take those interviews and are open to hearing what they have to say, have the conversations and see what you think! An interview isn’t a commitment to accepting a job if it’s offered.