Interview Basics

How to leave an interview part way through

I’ve asked to leave three interviews in my whole career. Here’s some advice on how to leave an interview part way through.

Each one that I walked away from was for different reasons, but all of them related to the fact the hiring manager was being a aggressive/uncompromising or too formal.

Once I was interviewed in a freezing room where the window wouldn’t close. They refused to close it after I asked. I thought I was going to pass out from the cold, so I asked to leave.

Once I was being interviewed by a panel of about 6 people. Then, a few minutes in to the interview, about 5 more people came in and sat behind me. They started to take notes. I asked if they could move to the side as it was weird having them sat behind me, the hiring manager said “No”. I said “Goodbye”.

The third one was during an interview where the hiring manager had a clipboard. I kid you not. A clipboard with questions on it and he rattled through the questions not opening up the interview for any discussions. He would cut me off and ask me to keep each answer to just a few words. He said he had lots more people to see that day. I realised I would be a cog in a larger machine – I didn’t want that. I asked to leave. He said “No”. I walked out.

It’s hard to leave an interview, but it’s better than sitting through something that is making you really uncomfortable. Don’t get me wrong, you don’t want to walk out because it’s hard, or they ask some tricky questions, or even if you’re not 100% sure you want the job. This could lead to a bad reputation as the “interview walker”. But if something is really wrong, you feel disrespected or you feel uncomfortable then it’s fine to ask to leave.

Of course, not everyone can walk – only you will know your own personal circumstances.

If you do decide to leave here’s roughly what I would say:

“I’d like to end this interview if that is ok with you? I thank you so much for your time but it’s very clear to me that this is not going to work out. In order to save us all lots of effort and time, I propose to leave. Thanks for the opportunity but I would like to leave now please.”

They may ask you why – tell them if you’re feeling brave. Mostly they will be so shocked that they will likely not know what to say. They will be annoyed – no doubt, but I suspect they were probably having the same thoughts anyway. Grab your stuff – say thanks again, and go.

I wouldn’t do this if it was coming to the end of the interview unless something is really wrong – like inappropriate behaviour. I would likely sit out the interview. But if it’s in the first half or a little in to the second half, then I would definitely consider it.

Don’t be afraid of walking out. It’s your time and your life and you have to do what is right. If you do it politely and give good reasons then you should have zero problems escaping an interview.

Until next time