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When Do You Turn Down a Job Interview?

A woman with glasses looking at her phone.

​Best-selling author Martin Yate, a career coach and former HR professional, takes your questions each week about how to further your career in HR. 

After three years with my first employer, I've resolved to find a new job this year, and I could do with some time-saving advice. I haven't had an offer yet, though I have been getting quite a few interviews. I wouldn't have accepted some offers anyway. Sometimes I had a funny feeling during the interview, and sometimes I read poor reviews of the employer on sites like Glassdoor. I don't want to waste my time. What criteria should I use to accept or reject offers to interview?

There are lots of reasons to turn down a job interview: The job is not a match for your goals, the commute isn't reasonable, you don't like what you've heard about the company and more. For anyone who has too much to do and not enough time to do it, these all sound like reasonable time management decisions. But are they really?

Underused Skill

Most of us have not had the luxury of being able to choose from multiple job offers. Most people are in the workforce for around 50 years, changing jobs about every four years—sometimes by choice, sometimes not. This means you are looking at somewhere between 12 and 15 job changes over your career. On top of this, many of us will experience three or more distinctly different careers over this timespan.

When you consider these statistics, you realize that the ability to turn job interviews into job offers may be the most important survival and success skill you'll ever need. But because of lack of experience, it may also be your weakest.

Rethink Interview Success Strategy

The answer to your original question, "When do I turn down a job interview?" is "Never!" This is because turning job interviews into job offers is a must-have skill.

A change in the way you approach interviews must come with this change in attitude. Interviews are no longer about whether or not you want the job; they are opportunities to polish your skills. You go to every job interview with one goal in mind: to get a job offer. What's the worst thing that can happen? You turn the offer down gracefully, expand your professional network, and improve an essential career survival skill while giving your ego a boost. And when that dream opportunity comes along, you'll be ready.

Have a question for Martin about advancing or managing your career? From big issues to small, please feel free to e-mail your queries to We'll only publish your first name and city, unless you prefer to remain anonymous—just let us know.

Packed with practical, honest, real-world guidance for successfully navigating common HR career challenges, Martin Yate's new book, The HR Career Guide: Great Answers to Tough Career Questions, is available at the SHRMStore.