is it okay to turn down a job in the middle of the interview?

A reader writes:

I recently had an interview with a small company. The hiring manager brought me in and we talked for about an hour. It went very well! She followed up the very same day, saying their owner lived out of state but she would love for him to meet me and set up a second interview.

I took PTO for both of these, which I know comes with the territory, but the second interview, when I arrived, was bizarre. The owner insulted my resume, told me he wasn’t sure if they’d be hiring anyone at all, and said he might end up making the job part-time (which was a pretty big reversal — I definitely wouldn’t have come in again if I had known this director-level role could possibly become part-time). He also made a few veiled comments about my age and gender that I didn’t appreciate, interrupted me constantly starting halfway through my very first sentence in answer to questions he asked, and more. By the end of the interview, I felt very disrespected and sure I would never work there. He was so unkind that it was clear he had no interest in hiring me, but it also seemed like he was sure of that before I even arrived.

I decided not to send my usual follow-up thank-you email, but I’m still stuck on just how nasty he was. Would it have been out of line to stop the interview and say it didn’t sound like it would make sense for us to keep talking, or was the best course of action just to let it conclude and let my lack of follow-up speak for itself, as I did? Should I have sent my typical thank-you for networking reasons, even though I don’t have much occasion to need a contact in their niche area in the future? Part of me wants to say something even now, but I’ve read enough of this blog to know it’ll just come off as a disgruntled interviewee upset about not being hired (although I’ve heard no actual rejection and when I left, bizarrely, he said they’d be in touch).

You can indeed stop an interview mid-way through and say that it doesn’t sound like it would be the right fit! Interviewers can do this on their side, and candidates can do it too.

That said, in some cases it’s smart to finish the interview anyway, like if you think you might want a different job with this employer at some point in the future. And really, if your reasons for wanting to opt out aren’t egregious — if you’ve just realized that you’re not super enthused about the job or it’s not exactly what you’re looking for, in most cases I’d say to stay and finish out the interview, and then send a polite email withdrawing later. That’s because you just never know where conversations may lead — if they get to know you in the interview and you impress them, they may suggest a different position later that would be a better fit.

But if you’re being treated poorly, or you discover that the job is entirely different than what they advertised, or they ask you to do something ridiculous as part of their interview process (like cook a meal for them when you are not interviewing to be a chef), it’s perfectly reasonable to cut the interview short.

You can do that by saying something like:

* “As we’re talking, I’m realizing that this job isn’t quite what I’m looking for. I don’t want to take up any more of your time, but thanks for meeting with me and best of luck finding the right person for the role.”

* “It sounds like this job is really focused on X. I’m purposely trying to move away from X at this point in my career and want to focus on Y, so I want to be up-front with you that I’m realizing as we talk that this isn’t quite the right role for me. I’m sorry I didn’t catch that earlier, and I don’t want to take up any more of your time, but I really appreciate you meeting with me.”

That’s it! Then you get to stand up and leave.

Too often, job candidates feel like they’re at the interviewer’s mercy — that they’re there to be judged and that they have to endure whatever the interviewer chooses to subject them to. But that’s not the case. A better framework to have in your head about job interviews is that they’re similar to any other business meeting. If you were meeting with, say, a prospective vendor who was being rude to you, it would be perfectly fine for you to say, “You know, I don’t think this is something I want to pursue” and end the meeting. And yes, the power dynamics are a little different with an interview, but they’re not so different than you have to give up all agency until you leave the building.

{ 202 comments… read them below }

  1. Lil Fidget*

    I’ve done this kind of mutually in an interview. The description was vague enough that it seemed to make sense for me, and the title was something nebulous, but as we started talking it was clear that it was way too junior for what I wanted. I think we were both a little unsettled to discover we were so clearly on different pages. I still left feeling like I should have intuited the situation better. In short, it feels bad, but you can absolutely do it.

    1. CM*

      I’ve done that too. I applied for a position that had a vague description that I thought may or may not be a good fit for me. When I was called in for an interview I assumed that it was a position that fit my skill set. Apparently the interviewer figured I had skills I hadn’t put on my resume. After about five minutes I told him that I was obviously not a good fit for the job. It felt slightly awkward, but not as awkward as trying to continue interviewing for a role I was completely unqualified for.

    2. Specialk9*

      I end up doing this often, because my field uses certain words precisely that the rest of the world uses colloquially – so they use a word with a very narrow definition, but think they’re talking about a whole field. But when a company needs someone in my field, they aren’t usually getting a specialist to write the listings.

      I’ll read a job description that seems right, then talk to them and realize they actually meant this whole other thing. I end up explaining the field and telling them how to pitch what they want instead.

      One time the company was so impressed they wanted to hire me anyway (we can train smart to this position) and that impressed me about the company, but I actually really love my job.

    3. Lisa*

      I once had an interview where I told them during the interview that it just didn’t seem right for me, and they tended to agree. I’m not sure why they had me come in if they agreed though.

    4. Not Australian*

      I was much blunter when it happened to me. I just said “I think we’re wasting each other’s time” and got the heck out of there – even before the guy had finished agreeing.

    5. JennyAnn*

      I had this experience last year. I applied to a ballroom dance instructor position because while I don’t have ballroom experience specifically, I do have about 20 years of training in other styles of dance (ballet, tap, modern, jazz, etc) and the posting very specifically stated that they were willing to train the candidates in both the dance styles and their instruction methods. I figured at worst they would expect me to pay for classes while I shadowed the instructor, which I wasn’t opposed to since I would like to get experience in ballroom. About four minutes into my interview, the owner told me that they consider it to be a competitive sales position and the dancing side was secondary. The interview stopped right there (by mutual decision as I had literally just stated that I wanted to avoid selling because I don’t have that kind of personality).

  2. Hanna*

    I did this once for what turned out to be a MLM insurance sales job. They had straight-up lied over the phone about what the job would be (and they told everyone in the group interview a different lie), so no way am I sticking around for that.

    The interviewer didn’t look too surprised. She probably gets that all the time.

    1. nnn*

      Ugh, you know there’s something wrong with your business model when you have to trick people into working for you

    2. JM in England*

      I also did this once but towards the end of the interview.

      It turned out that the recruiter had lied to me, or at least badly misrepresented the fact, about the job being permanent. Only found out at the interview that it was maternity cover.

      Let’s just say that I left the recruiter with a flea in his ear when I called them afterwards….

      1. Polaris*

        I had a recruiter who failed to tell me the job I was interviewing for required a car. It then made sense why it had taken two hours to get there on public transport. I switched recruiters after that.

        1. Jennifer Thneed*

          I flat-out tell recruiters that I need workplaces to be transit-accessible. It’s okay if it’s a looong ride, but I NEED that option. Anything that’s car-only is a no-go for me. (And that’s a mark of how desperate I’m feeling: how many miles I’m willing to consider driving. Unfortunately, a lot of short-in-miles drives around here are long-in-time, because of all the bridges.)

          If the recruiter is not local, it can be trickier, but then I just tell them that I must know the client name or location before we can have a conversation. And yes, I do get insistant. I want to get all the deal-breakers out of the way because I hate using up my limited phone-energy for pointless recruiter calls. They’re already painful enough.

          1. Zombeyonce*

            Are you in Portland? I am and my 6 mile commute takes 45 minutes on a good day because of the bridges.

    3. Wintermute*

      I feel like bait and switch interviews like that are egregious enough that all the normal rules of etiquette go right out the window– They lied to you to trick you there, the entire thing started in bad faith on their part.

      Plus at the end of the day the real, practical reason to be polite and gracious is that you don’t want to burn a bridge. But there’s nothing I would ever WANT out of a shady, unethical MLM scam, so there’s no reason not to pour the gasoline and burn that sucker down.

    4. Betsy*

      I walked out during a group interview/test session for a telemarketing job, after telling them I didn’t think it was a good fit. The ads sold it as a job where you could really help people, so it seemed like one of those call centres that charities use to collect more donations. I realised quite quickly that it was all about cold-calling people to try to get them to switch their mortgage to another provider.

    5. A.M.*

      I should have done this! I was too nice and let them almost talk me into paying for my own training weekend! After leaving my DH was like, uh, no, this is not normal.

    6. JennyAnn*

      I’ve been on the other side of the MLM insurance sales interviews : my first office job out of college was as an assistant to a life insurance salesman in one of these set-ups, and one of my primary responsibilities to start was “appointment setting”. My first day I got there for training and found out that was not setting appointments with clients but for recruiting. I would be cold calling resumes from Monster as well as posting on Craigslist, and I was specifically instructed that I shouldn’t give out any information on the position (the expectation was that I would basically wham-bam them into setting the interview and defer all questions to my boss) and if they asked if it was insurance/sales/commission-based/etc I was expected to no, a blatant lie. I went home a shaky and devastated mess, took the weekend to calm down (I started on a Friday), and surprised my boss by coming back on Monday, at which point I told him that I wasn’t willing to lie to anyone about any details of the interview or job. Luckily, he was a genuinely good guy (if a little scattered, but that was whole different issue and expressly warned about when he hired me) and gave me no grief about deviating from the company recruiting spiel, which was explained as an attempt to avoid the instinctive albeit understandable anti-insurance-sales mindset. I ended up working for him for about a year managing his office, clients, and recruiting/hiring/training. However, I was honest with the people I was calling (with the exception of double and sometimes triple booking his interview schedule because so many people would go ahead and schedule the interview but not show up/answer his call – trust me, we weren’t surprised either). We had fewer scheduled interviews per number of recruiting calls than the company expectation but a much better interview to hire ratio. I was pulling the same number of hires per month as another agent in the program who had two assistants doing only the “appointment setting” I refused to do, so you’d think the industry would focus on better hiring than a numbers game, but I don’t see that changing.

  3. Wannabe Disney Princess*

    Oof. That sucks. Although, at least you got to experience it up from, instead of being blindsided in a new position.

    And to answer your question, no. It would not have been out of line to end the interview midstream.

    1. Specialk9*

      Yeah, this guy was either negging her because she has an impressive resume, has a problem with women in power was terribly insecure and on a power trip, and/or was a garbage human being. It’s hard to tick that many boxes… Insulting about resume, ageist, sexist, lied about a position being part time after hours of interview (or equally bad lied about changing the position as a power play), not letting someone actually answer questions you ask in an interview… This guy sounds like the worst.

        1. Kelly L.*

          Well, if he’s a “him,” and he made digs at OP’s gender, it’s the likeliest possibility. It’s possible he hates his own gender and sat there bashing men, or that OP is nonbinary and the interviewer had a problem with that, but I think the odds are that she’s a woman.

  4. Bea*

    It’s an interview, you’re not under arrest! You absolutely should stop an interview that swerves you like that.

    I stopped an interview once because I realized it was not what I expected or fit my career path. The person looked shocked but didn’t seem put out by me excusing myself.

    What a vile man, btw. You never have to take abuse from anyone, he’s disgusting.

  5. CM*

    I can see how stopping the interview because he was being rude could feel awkward. You would have every right to do so, but if that feels too confrontational, an easy out would be saying that you have no interest in a part time job and that it sounds like this position is not secure enough for you to continue at this point (since he also may not hire anyone!!).

  6. Geillis D*

    I had this happen after a great phone interview. We talked about the position, had a great rapport, then at the interview it turned out if I took on this position I would use my accounting skills for about 10% of the time and the rest would be customer service/office manager duties, both of which are not my forte. After asking “so… how much of the work requires accounting skills?”, both me and the interviewer figured out this was not the job for me. Ironically, we got along great and it’s been one of the more pleasant interviews I’ve been to. I did send a thank-you note even if the industry is not one I intend to join, but you can never know.

    End of story: I’m very happily employed at a great place and do 100% accounting, even if some days it feels like 5% accounting and 95% removing staples.

    1. GRA*

      HA! As someone who has done temp work in an accounting office during tax season … I very much appreciate the staple comment!

      1. No Green No Haze*

        Incidentally, GRA, what’s that like? I’m wondering about changing careers from something wildly different into accounting, and it seems to me temp work during tax season might be a good way to get an understanding of the field.

        Staples I can handle.

        1. Bea*

          It’s often resembling general office assistance for the most part unless you have an accounting experience or applicable education in accounting.

          1. TardyTardis*

            I’m doing part time tax preparation right now and it’s pretty much great, though explaining our office’s fees to someone who owes money to the government can be Fraught on occasions. In Oregon, you have to take 80 hours worth of instruction and pass a test that fewer than half generally pass, and then you have to work for a tax consultant. You have to work for a tax consultant for three years, keep current on tax changes, and then you have to pass a tax consultant test to work your own office. That’s in Oregon, of course, and that’s if you don’t work ‘freelance’ for people who pay you in cash .

            But I have met some wonderful people, some um, interesting people, and for some people we have a pretty good idea are lying but still seem to have all the right answers and the right paperwork to back them up (still don’t believe that one guy is going to put $3,000 into his IRA before April 17th, but he’s the one who will get the nastygram from the IRS if he doesn’t). Our office does all the tax returns for REACH (a shelter workshop) clients for free, and some of them are very sweet.

        2. SarahKay*

          No Green No Haze, I did change careers into accounting in my late 30’s. I started by going to an evening class on Manual Book-keeping which was just an hour a week for ten weeks, and cost me £100 (approx $140) for the course. I figured it would give me an idea of whether I like the field without me committing too much time and money.

          Turned out I loved it (double-entry book-keeping is such a neat concept) so I then did two years of rather more intensive evening classes to get my AAT Accounting Technician qualification, but the initial class was definitely the idea toe-in-the-water test.

        3. Tax Nerd*

          No Green No Haze, if you’re serious about dipping your toe in the tax pond, see if you can do a few evenings/weekends with H&R Block. If your current job doesn’t allow moonlighting, find a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) near you, and try it out. Many potential employers will value that experience as something like an internship – something that gives you a chance to learn, prove that you’re good, and decide if it’s your cup of tea.

          Pay attention to whether you like the tax work itself, and whether you like the client interaction itself. Most “real” tax gigs don’t have the client sitting there while you’re punching in numbers, so that part gets easier. Unless you are one of those highly unusual tax people who is an extrovert.

      2. the gold digger*

        I had a job in corporate finance where we had to prepare the presentations for the board of directors. I spent hours in the copy room in the basement once removing all the staples from the left side of the documents and re-stapling on the right because once upon a time, it was rumored that a director had expressed a preference for right-side staples.

        No, I don’t know why they just didn’t change the machine settings.

        No, I don’t know why they even cared that much. Yes, I do. If the stock price had been good and rising, nobody would have cared where the staples were.

    2. Bea*

      I was an office manager doing full charge bookkeeping for over a decade. I find so many places who have that setup don’t know how to post the job. Mine was 50/50 and perfect. Now I’m 100% accounting for the same size of company and here I am zzzzZZZzzzz but I’m not overburdened like the last OM/BK position I had that was 60hrs of week and important deadlines were missed because I’m not secretly triplets.

        1. Happy Lurker*

          knitcrazybooknut – thanks for the image that I now cannot get out of my head.
          Nesting dolls bumping around an office!

  7. MK*

    I would also say that, even if you don’t withdraw outright, it’s ok to state if something is a dealbreaker for you. In this case, for instance, it would have been interesting to know what the result would be if the OP had responded to the possibility of the job being part time by saying that they are not in any way interested in that.

    By the way, OP, I don’t think your not sending a thank-you note “speaks for itself” necessarily; not everyone sends one, so it might not even have registered with them.

    1. Kate*

      I agree about the thank-you note. It’s probably too late now for it not to seem odd, but I think sending a note after withdrawing from consideration sends more of a message since it lets them know you are rejecting them rather than just waiting on them to follow up.

    2. TootsNYC*

      I was going to suggest that as well–it’s not really a “thank you” note; it’s a follow-up.

      So, follow up by saying, “Thanks for your time; I’m going to withdraw from consideration. If I had known the position would be part-time, I would never have applied. And I do not think it would be a good fit for me even if it turns out to be full-time. I wish you luck with your search.”

      I like the idea that it makes it clear you’re rejecting them. “You can’t fire me, I quit” or “You can’t refuse to hire me; I refuse to work for YOU!”

      Plus, they can’t ever say to themselves, or to anyone else in your field, “She ghosted on us.”

  8. Sherm*

    I think interviews are great practice, so for the sake of improving interview skills, I wouldn’t cut one short unless 1) the interviewers were making a substantial time/money investment on me that could be salvaged if I ended things, or 2) the interviewer was being actively hostile and insulting. It appears in this case that #2 applies.

    As for follow up and networking, I wouldn’t bother building bridges that lead to jerk-y places.

      1. AMT27*

        If I were in the OP’s shoes, I think at this point – having taken PTO for the day anyway- I’d cut it short and attempt to enjoy whatever was left of my day.

    1. Bea*

      I agree in terms of riding it out if you just feel lukewarm about something and it being good practice. I had a few of those in my first job search a couple years ago, things were flat and I wasn’t feeling it but nothing bad enough to walk out.

      Hostility or a bait and switch are my cue to leave. I’m not talking to someone who flips a job on me.

  9. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

    I walked out on an interview once – well, technically it was right before an interview. I was working with a staffing agency at the time and they sent me to an interview for what I was told was a customer service position at an appliance wholesaler. It turned out the position was more like warehouse worker. When I showed up for my interview they gave me a “test” that was basically identifying numbers – like “circle all the 6’s in the following sequence” and “which of these 5-digit numbers are the same”. I got halfway through the form before I sat up, looked around, and realized this was not the job for me.

    1. Lily in NYC*

      But they all would have thought you were a genius if you had worked there! That test sounds ridiculous.

      1. Jesca*

        Yeah. It sounds like common tests given by temp agencies for companies who mass hire no-skilled workers. Basically they just want to know if you can identify sequences for shipping or matching numbers to a spec. I guess there are people who struggle with that?

        I have seen these tests scores come in from the less than savory places I worked.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I think any skill you can think of, someone out there struggles with it.

          Typed as someone who read about face blindness with this dawning “Why that explains it!” and has no idea what my spouse and daughter are on about for the way I pronounce some words because we are saying the exact same thing.

          1. Specialk9*

            I have a friend with face blindness. He didn’t realize until late 20s, and interestingly knowing opened up his social life. He’s now president of a hobby organization and won local office. He memorizes people he meets, by reviewing their Facebook and learning their non-facial identifiers (height, hair, weight distribution, piercings, glasses, etc). But also telling people upfront that you have face blindness (prosopagnosia) helps people give you grace.

        2. Bea*

          Yes. A lot of people struggle with reading. Functional illiteracy and dyslexia make that kind of warehouse work difficult for someone with those issues to overcome. Your comment reads poorly and like you’re not very understanding of certain abilities you take for granted.

          1. SarahTheEntwife*

            It’s also an issue for people who can read, but not (well) in the Roman alphabet. I’ve sometimes run into that with library student employees, because even someone who has very good English skills won’t necessarily have the order of the alphabet perfectly memorized the way they would if they’d been singing the little song since age 2.

          2. Specialk9*

            Depends what warehouse and what job.

            If you’re a picker (choosing items for a box from shelves), you have several options, some of which require no reading at all:
            -Pick to paper (which suuuuuuucks because you have to match row, level, bin, and then double check the bloody SKU which is a huge long number)
            -Pick to light (over each little bucket is a light and a display – you walk down the very long row and stop at each lit light and grab as many as the display says.)
            -Pick to voice (you wear a headset and it tells you what to pick).
            -Pick to robot (the way I’ve seen: the center of the warehouse is for robots only – they’re like big Roombas that pick up a whole person-high tower of full shelves – and in front of each picker is a line of robots waiting their turn, in order of need for each box).

            But picking is only one of about 15-20 stations.

        3. Dzhymm*

          There definitely are people who struggle with that. I used to joke that one of my suppliers had to have a dyslexic working in their warehouse because once every couple of weeks they’d ship me the wrong item where the warehouse picker transposed two digits in the part number…

        4. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

          Bingo – I was right out of college and didn’t know how to determine if a staffing agency is reputable and/or hiring for the kinds of jobs I was looking for. Fortunately I already had a job so was by no means desperate.

          I ended up walking away from them when they wanted to hire me to work as their front desk person….after a WEEK LONG “working interview”. Was it for pay? Would I be training that whole week and then possibly not hired at the end of it? These questions were never answered.

        5. Jennifer Thneed*

          People who spend time reading online recreationally have a really hard time understanding shades of literacy. Lots of people can read enough to get their life done, but they won’t read for pleasure. Lots and lots of people can write well enough to sign their names.

          But for me and probably everyone else reading this comments section, the words just flow at my eyes and my brain knows what they say. This is NOT the case for (probably) most people.

    2. Bea*

      This test makes sense if you’re pulling by sku but that’s sure the heck not a customer service job…I guess they could have done will call work but that’s a stretch.

        1. Bea*

          Ah ha, good catch, that makes perfect sense.

          Like how temp agencies keep screwing up “customer service” for “receptionist” because we mentioned answering phones, no…I don’t want someone to route the calls, they need to take them and process orders.

    3. Betsy*

      I did a similar test to work in a supermarket, although they also tested maths and general cognitive skills. If I recall correctly, that bit was quite relaxing. The other parts weren’t especially hard, but I always worry a little bit about maths, because it’s never really been a strength of mine.

  10. AnonaMama*

    I did this once. I spoke with an internal recruiter who said I was a good fit for their role and she set up an in-person with the hiring manager. He spent the whole time basically berating me for not having all the skills he was looking for, for wasting his time and questioning why I was even there. I hated to do it, but I eventually said something to the effect of “Well, your recruiter called me in, so that is why I am here. If I am not a fit, that is ok, I will leave now. I don’t think our personalities would be a great fit anyway.” and hightailed it out of there. Didn’t want to throw her under the bus, but at the same time, she called me in so if he thought I was not a fit and a waste of his time, then that was on her, not me. I didn’t invite myself in!

    1. KRM*

      I just got a phone call today from a recruiter offering a job for which I have zero skill sets. I can imagine if I somehow went to an interview for it, it would go very much like this.

        1. Camellia*

          They are thinking that they only get paid when they get someone hired so throw anyone and everyone at the job and see who sticks…

          1. Rincat*

            Yep, I get tons of random messages from recruiters simply because of the words in my resume on Linkedin. The weirdest one was for a nursing instructor position. Nowhere in my resume did I list that I was a nurse, had any nursing or teaching experience. I work at a college, but absolutely nowhere was anything “nursing” related listed!

          2. JessaB*

            I got called for a temp job covering basic stuff so the second person of a two person office could cover her own and the work of someone on vacation. Supposedly phones, basic typing, whatever. I get there and they want a full legal secretary to collate and type up a response. I’m like I last did legal work in NY 25 years ago. This is Florida are you kidding me? Not only are my skills outdated, my knowledge of formatting and legal requirements is ZIP when it comes to Florida law. The temp agency could not understand why I was so ticked off at them. They saw legal on my resume and just figured it’s a law office let’s send her. No clue. Some recruiters and agencies just do not GET it.

        2. Fieldpoppy*

          I went for that kind of job interview via a recruiter early in my career and it felt much like that — like I was being berated for not understanding circa-1989 accounting software what with my super practical master’s in English

      1. K.*

        I had a recruiter start an email to me with “I know you’re not interested in this kind of work, but …” and then sent me a job listing for which I was not in any way qualified. I’m not interested in that kind of work because that’s not the kind of work I do. It required years of experience and a professional certification in a field I don’t have. It would have been a waste of everyone’s time for me to move forward. I didn’t say the part about the waste of time, but I did tell her that I wasn’t qualified and pointed out the professional certification I was lacking.

        1. Shandon*

          I recently applied for a job, got a phone interview with an internal recruiter who, during our talk, mentioned there were two positions open. Job A, which I had applied for, and Job B, which I had no interest in. I mentioned that I didn’t think I’d be a good fit for Job B but I was still very interested in Job A. He said he’d pass my info on to the hiring manager. Some days later I get a message from said hiring manager who mentions Job B. I return her call, specify that I’d applied for Job A, and she sets up an interview. I assumed she’d just misspoken on the message, understandable enough if she’s hiring for two related but different jobs at the same time. Took PTO for the day for the interview, get down there, and it becomes quickly apparent she’s hiring for Job B. “I know that isn’t really what you’re looking for, but I thought you might be interested after we spoke. You’d definitely be among my top candidates.” She then tells me they outsourced the department that the job I’d applied for was in. I thanked her and said I didn’t think Job B was right for me and I left. She walked me to the door, encouraging me to call her if I changed my mind. It was odd. It seemed like a nice place that I really might have liked working in but the whole situation was just strange.

          The oddest part was later, when my mother asked me how the interview had gone. I told her and she said “But they just reposted that job a couple of days ago!” Sure enough I looked it up and they’d reposted Job A just days before my interview (and AFTER we spoke on the phone). I don’t know how they outsourced an entire department in less than a week…

          I guess I did sort of turn that job down in the middle of the interview. But she seemed to expect it, so. I was still annoyed that I’d used up an entire day of PTO though.

    2. Bea*

      I had a bad experience after being prescreened by a recruiter as well. Only the hiring managers beef with me was my age, too young to fill her shoes as an office manager, my staff would be a decade older than I was blah blah blah. The best part was being pegged for “you’re what, 40?” when I was 31 and realized she’s bad at ages and just thought I had to be older because of my length of service with my former employer. I started there when I was 21, the craziness that at 21 all the old men still respected my authority and abilities, bleh.

      1. Thornus67*

        So the hiring managet picked out the age that the ADEA kicks in to insinuate your age would be a problem. Nice.

        1. Bea*

          Hahah, I never did put that together, thanks for that. Small town, small company, I really do think she was just being ridiculous and seriously instead of treading lines. I ended up working for someone who hired anyone that was “young and looked like they have a good back” because what a world labor intensive industries are. I don’t miss living outside of the middle-of-nowhere that’s for sure.

        2. Mookie*

          So the hiring managet picked out the age that the ADEA kicks in to insinuate your age would be a problem.

          I feel bad for laughing at this, but dear lard, how oblivious was this hiring manager?

    3. nnn*

      I wish I had done that when recruiters sent me for interviews that the hiring manager had no interest in hiring someone like me for. Like you said, I didn’t invite myself!

      1. AnonaMama*

        Well. I had applied for the job, and she called me and we had a whole conversation about how I didn’t know one system super well, but enough to learn more on the job. And she mentioned the manager could be difficult and could I handle difficult people. So she was nice enough. And I just don’t like pointing blame at people, especially in a professional setting right in front of their faces. But this manager was so angry at me. And was saying things like, “Why would I bother training you when I need someone who knows it better than you do?” etc. and I just felt like they had internal communication issues. Like she should have known better what he wanted and that I was obviously not it. But I assume she knew he was a difficult jerk and just wanted to see if someone could pass muster with him and put up with him. I was not going to take a job with someone who was angry with me for being in the room though.

  11. TeacherNerd*

    I had an interview at a school – actually, two interviews for the same position, years apart (although I didn’t remember the school until I’d arrived for the second interview). The woman who interviewed me was extremely judgey towards students who, for whatever reason, take remedial-level classes in college. (This was for a high school teaching position, and the director was very proud of how well the students perform in college, so these statements did not come from out of the blue.) I was so surprised to hear this, the first time, I didn’t even think quickly to react other than a noncommittal “hmmm!” I never heard back one way or the other, but I knew I wouldn’t want to teach there.

    When I pulled up for that second interview, years later, I remembered the interview, and was not especially surprised when reiterated her views, although another teacher who sat in on the interview noted that she was thinking about a different class (English 101, not the remedial class some non-native English speakers need to take to get their language skills up to snuff, or students who had been out of college for 20 years who need to brush up on their reading, writing, and college skills, etc.). She still dismissed that, though. I was really tempted to say that I didn’t think this position would be a good fit, but didn’t – and I have no idea why I didn’t just leave then, because clearly the culture of the school did not align with my own beliefs. I gave it a few days, then emailed to withdraw my interest.

  12. Judge Crater*

    I’ve had one interview like this. It was for a small software developers shop.

    I showed up, no one in the office knew I was coming, so they had a couple of other developers talk to me. First guy was fine, second guy was pretty threatened they were interviewing so he was making up “tests” to fail me on the spot. The person I was supposed to meet showed up an hour later and barely remembered he had asked me to come in. Could have saved myself some time if I had just walked out in the first five minutes.

  13. Yvaine*

    Oh I love this question!
    I once had an interview that was going terribly* and I wanted to end it but didn’t know how. This is great, thank you!

    *The job posting was a gross misrepresentation of the actual position and the interviewer was very rude. I wanted to leave and felt horrible afterwards for not walking out but at least when HR called to schedule a second interview I could tell them exactly why I wasn’t interested in returning.

  14. Triple Anon*

    I need to get better at this myself, but I think it’s good to just end a conversation like that when the person is insulting you. It’s not only about you and your own self-respect. It’s also a vote against the behavior, a signal to the person that these kinds of actions won’t be tolerated.

    The trick is to take the high ground and act more professional than the insulter. That can be hard because these situations tend to come out of left field and sometimes, the way the person acts is really upsetting. So if you have an emotional response, that’s normal and understandable. It would be understandable to cut the interview short while having that kind of reaction. But if you can avoid that and stay calm, you’ll probably get more traction in the long run.

    Here’s what works for me. When an adult is out of line, I mentally note that they’re acting like a child, and I respond to them in roughly the same way I would if an eight year old were doing the same thing. This is easier if you’ve worked with kids or taken care of a family member’s kids or if you’re a parent, or maybe just an older sibling. Imagine the insulter as a child throwing a tantrum because it’s nap time. Use that type of tone. But translate it to the relevant context and situation. “Oh my. Well, I appreciate your taking the time to talk about this, but I’m afraid it is not going to work out. I’ll let you enjoy the rest of the day.”

    It is tough, though. Sometimes I have a delayed response because the whole thing is so unexpected. I think you did the right thing by not sending any kind of a follow up. Or you could write to them and say thank you, but let them know it isn’t going to work out. That way you maintain the higher ground professionally while also wrapping things up.

    1. A Nickname for AAM*

      I regret not ending an interview, followed by a job, that I took a year or two ago. I was working for a company that was falling apart internally due to mismanagement and had been paying poorly, so I applied to a private competitor that paid something like 150% of what I had been paying.

      The first interview was with the manager, who was reasonable, and went well. He was interested in my skill set, wanted me to develop some new programs and standards for them, and was going to hire me as a manager.

      I then met with the owner, who wasn’t there on a day to day basis. He was a pastor and proceeded to ask me a series of Questions You Should Not Ask During Interviews: Are you married? Does your husband approve of you working? Do you have kids? Do you plan on having kids? Do you have a religion? Where do you go to church? etc. This was especially bizarre because this was in one of the most liberal cities of one of our most liberal states, so the questions felt surreal.

      I went against my better judgment and took the job, only to find that, in the time between them sending me my offer letter and me finishing my onboarding, they downgraded my entire job to entry-level. It turned out that I was more experienced and had more subject-area knowledge than their highest-level managers, who were openly resentful and threatened, so they (a catty bunch of 20something women) reassigned me to entry-level without telling me or the manager.

      I spoke to him once or twice about it, he didn’t want to upset the existing managers, then left after 10 weeks.

      1. Specialk9*

        Wait, your juniors downgraded you from manager to entry level, and your manager let them?! How in earth did that even work?!

        1. Alternative Person*

          Some managers will bend over backwards to avoiding upsetting or ‘upsetting’ certain staff. It’s pretty ridiculous.

  15. Ann Furthermore*

    There was one time when I wish I would have had the sense to do this. It was an on-campus interview when I was getting ready to graduate from college.

    As we were getting the casual chit-chat out of the way, he looked at my resume and saw that I’d listed travel in the “Interests” section (this was back in the Dark Ages) and asked me where I’d been. I told him that my parents lived in Saudi Arabia for quite a few years, and that I’d lived there too before going off to boarding school, and so that gave us the opportunity to travel to many fascinating places.

    He responded by telling me he’d recently taken his family to Israel. I told him that my parents visited Israel, but were a bit disillusioned by it because they’d found it very over-commercialized, which they felt detracted from the overall experience, and diminished the sacred nature of the holy sites they visited. My mom said that the tour guides would tell them, “If you’re Catholic, [holy event] happened over here. If you’re Protestant, it happened over there.” She and my dad were also taken aback by the sight of people lined up to get baptized in the Dead Sea. It went against their very traditional, conservative, mid-western sensibilities, and to them it looked like people were treating it like a carnival ride.

    Anyway, I was prattling on about all this, and the interviewer got a strange look on his face. Then I realized, based on his last name, that he was in all likelihood Jewish. Then I further realized that for many Jewish people, a trip to Israel is a lifelong dream, and something incredibly meaningful and profound. And here I was, all of 23 years old, telling him that it was a tacky overrated tourist trap, and I hadn’t even been there. OMG.

    I was so mortified. And I kept talking, trying to dig myself out, and only digging my self in deeper. In retrospect, I should have just gotten up, shook his hand, and told him to use the time before his next interview to refill his coffee and have a doughnut.

    1. Triple Anon*

      I can relate. I’ve done similar things. I’m that person who tries to be really polite and friendly but instead makes a million faux pas that require a lot of digging. Sometimes if you catch yourself and act visibly embarrassed, it helps. I mean something like, “I’m so sorry. I shouldn’t have repeated all of that. I realize trips to Israel can have many different meanings for people. I can be clumsy sometimes, but I mean well.”

    2. CM*

      Hahaha, I have totally been in this situation where words are still coming out of my mouth even though I know I should have stopped talking five minutes ago. I think I’ve actually been in this situation within the past few weeks. At least you can look back and know that you’ve gotten wiser and learned from your mistakes.

    3. Temperance*

      I had a similar experience once. I was interviewing with a very well-known nonprofit that fights for constitutional rights but is famously non-political, and I put my foot in my mouth by saying that I was applying for the job because I agreed with their political stances.

      I mean, I do, and I fumbled around stating that I was really on the side of the Constitution, but yeah, never tell the ACLU that you’re interested in working there because you’re a flaming liberal.

    4. Specialk9*

      I’m so glad you realized what you were saying. I was having this ‘oh no’ reaction as I read it!

      I’m just like you though, in trying to get my foot out of my mouth I’ve turned myself inside out and somehow inserted my whole body in my mouth. Metaphorically.

  16. hiptobesquared*

    I’ve had a candidate do this before, albeit not quite as professional as she should of (she said, “oh, no) when I told her the stipend (it’s non-profit, poorly paid work), but that is honestly why I was being up front about it. No harm no foul.

    1. Lil Fidget*

      I remember in one of my first interviews with a nonprofit program they mentioned that the pay didn’t provide a living wage in that area and that most of their participants used food stamps to get by. I stammered through the rest of the interview. Should have politely ended it there.

      1. hiptobesquared*

        We’re a creative organization and there just… isn’t any money. It’s awkward but I have found it’s best to just be clear about it. It’s contract/short term work – think seasonal teapot organizer.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          Okay, but if people are finding out in the interview, you’re not being as clear as you think you are.

          1. Lil Fidget*

            To be honest, I think I agree – it should be clear in the job posting that this is seasonal/short term and paid by a stipend of X. It’s not unusual, I see it fairly often that nonprofits note that there’s housing provided but no salary at all. Of course, some people miss it in the posting or only see what they want to see.

      2. Jennifer Thneed*

        > and that most of their participants used food stamps to get by

        Wow, and I thought it was bad that Walmart was bragging about how they had the forms handy to help their employees apply for food stamps more easily.

        1. Autumnheart*

          It’s worse when Walmart does it, because they are a multi-billion-dollar company using billions in taxpayer money to subsidize their profits.

          1. Lil Fidget*

            Yeah to be fair this was Americorps or some similar program – it was definitely not because the huge profits were going to line some CEO’s pockets.

  17. all aboard the anon train*

    I wish I walked out of an interview I had seven months ago. It’s still bothering me. I was given the job but declined for several reasons, but during on of the conversations, the topic of volunteering and LGBTQA+ rights came up and an interviewer mentioned being uncomfortable letting her kids, who she said were allies and not queer, go to any LGBTQA+ event with adults. That type of homophobia is bad enough, but the interviewer went on to say how the company was devoted to equality – and they do have a high HRC rating and do a lot to help the LGBTQA + community, but that the company also made sure that anyone who was uncomfortable sharing a hotel room or the company gym with LGBTQA+ individuals could have separate accommodations.

    Which….I’m really not on board with people who claim to be allies but then say they don’t want queer doctors/personal trainers/etc or to share locker rooms/gyms/hotel rooms with queer individuals because it makes them uncomfortable. That’s homophobia. I definitely had a look of discomfort on my face and stumbled over a response, and I think the interviewer realized I was uncomfortable and kept trying to justify her comments and dug herself a deeper hole.

    It was not a great situation. I wish I had responded in a way that called the interviewer out or excused myself from the interview entirely, but I was so blindsided that I continued on with the interview even though I really, really wanted to get out of there.

    1. Triple Anon*

      “So, in light of your HRC rating, do you upgrade the accommodations of the people whose uncomfortable co-workers don’t want to room with them? Everyone stays at the Best Western, but the displaced person gets upgraded to the historic five star hotel with free meals and free limo service to check out the local sights? And they also get upgraded if the co-workers don’t complain but they just want to avoid sharing a room with any, uh, uncomfortable people?”

      1. A Nickname for AAM*

        You’d think, if they were so LGBTQ-friendly, they’d not have people sharing rooms for the comfort of the LGBTQ person, not the straight person.

        This isn’t a new issue in University housing, I remember colleges were starting to experiment with non-gendered elective housing options for LGBTQ students when I was in college, and that was a good 10 years ago now.

        1. all aboard the anon train*

          To be honest, I find that a lot of people who think they’re being LGBTQA+ allies or a LGBTQA+ friendly space, still have a lot of internalized homophobia.

          It’s not a new issue, but there’s still a surprisingly large amount of people who don’t realize how homophobic it is to not want a queer doctor or massage therapist or who get uncomfortable in shared spaces. I have coworkers who don’t understand why this sentiment is so wrong

          1. Who the eff is Hank?*

            “I don’t care if people are gay, I just don’t want them to be gay around *me*.”

            Actual quote that I heard from a guy at the table next to me in a restaurant once. I stood up and told my husband I couldn’t eat there, put a few dollars on the table for the waitress’ trouble (we hadn’t ordered yet), and left.

            1. Triple Anon*

              I’ve known so many people who make a big deal about their progressive politics and support for diversity, then act really mean and discrimminatory face to face. Ugh. I wish it was easier to call out this kind of thing. It’s hard when the yucky behavior is in a more private context and the person has publicly supported things contrary to it.

          2. Betsy*

            I know not all forms of discrimination are comparable, and sometimes it does people a disservice to equate them. But can you imagine how horrified people would be if you substituted any other minority group into those sentences?

    2. CM*

      I think this is one of those situations where even though you wish you had said something, and it’s really easy to come up with things to say when someone else is telling the story, it’s extremely difficult to call the person out in the moment. In my experience, it takes practice where you make a conscious effort to say something in the moment in more casual situations, and once you’re comfortable with that you’re more able to respond in the moment in a more stressful situation like an interview.

      1. all aboard the anon train*

        Definitely. I know I hesitate to call people out in the moment because I don’t know how they’ll react and as a bi woman, I’m always nervous of the wrong type of reaction resulting in consequences for me.

        I’m more comfortable calling out people I know, but strangers whose reactions you can’t gauge are harder.

      1. Triple Anon*

        +1. I would report them. Lower their HRC score. That kind of thing should be earned, and it sounds like they have work to do.

    3. Galatea*

      The hotel room thing is also obviously ridiculous, and the not-so-subtle embrace of predatory molester stereotypes is extremely Not Good, but — the company GYM? What, are they afraid they’ll catch something from our gay rainbow sweat or something??

      That’s shockingly terrible, and I’m sorry that happened to you

      1. all aboard the anon train*

        I have no idea, but it’s honestly not the first time I’ve heard this at work, and it’s always happened in fairly liberal coastal cities.

        1. Serin*

          It’s like from “Mean Girls.” “I mean, this was a pool party! There were going to be girls there in their bathing suits!”

      2. Specialk9*

        Personally I kinda hope your gay rainbow sweat does get on me! I need the sparkle. I’m n assuming it smells like unicorn farts, ie bubble gum?

        But seriously, WTF. Not sharing a gym with gay people? Or being ok with sharing a hotel room with coworkers (a personal nuh-unh) but having their orientation be too far? Grrr. That’s actually very discriminatory.

        As an aside, the 2nd US Appeals Court has ruled that discrimination like this based on sexual orientation is actually illegal gender discrimination, bc it punishes those who don’t follow gendered stereotypes. It is not quite Supreme Court but, and the Supreme Court keeps declining to hear this issue, and this has become a common enough judicial interpretation so may well be the one that stands. Which, wonderful.

        1. Mookie*

          As I understand it, the party suing (Altitude Express) is still considering whether or not to make another appeal to SCOTUS for review, so knock on wood they fail at that. I can hardly believe we’re still re-litigating this in the 21st century. It’s so demoralizing and backwards.

        2. katastrophreak*

          It’s the glitter. It gets on *everything*.

          Also, I don’t know what you’ve been eating, but *my* farts smell like cotton candy.

        3. Cherries in the Snow*

          I’m endlessly fascinated by the massively overinflated egos of straight people. Like, no, sorry to break it to you, but you aren’t that irresistible. I am not lusting after you, and seeing you sweating like a pig on the treadmill isn’t going to push me into some kind of frenzy in which I attack you and beg you to take me right there on the weight benches.

  18. SheLooksFamiliar*

    It’s rare for a candidate to tell me ‘Thanks but no thanks’ mid-interview, but it’s happened a few times. They were pleasant about it, and I know I didn’t misrepresent our role – no harm done. It happens.

    But this? OP, you were kinder than most! It would have been appropriate to wait for him to take a breath, or just interrupt with: ‘You’ve shared a lot with me today that makes me realize this isn’t the opportunity place for me. Thank you for your time.’ No need to tell the hiring manager horrid details, I bet she knows the reason for your change of interest.

  19. Lily in NYC*

    I walked out of an interview when I realized it was going to be a group interview with around twenty other people. No thanks! And I know I’ve written this before, but my former coworker walked out of an interview with a well-known NYC developer who asked him if he was Jewish, if his girlfriend was Jewish, and then used a negative Yiddish term for black people (who they were trying to remove from a specific part of brooklyn using eminent domain). My coworker stood up and walked out without saying a word.

  20. Anonymous Tech Person*

    I’ve done it! Left before the interview was over. Once was with a tech industry CEO who is a name in the industry. Made me wait almost an hour, took calls during our interview, left the room several times and was just arrogant. Wanted me to stay the entire day and work with a team on a project. I excused myself and

    Second time was with a manager who wanted me to take a personality test. I know they are common, but I’m not taking one. It was for a stop-gap job in a new town after getting married and moving. Two months later I got a decent job.

  21. Mary*

    I still wish I’d ended an interview early back in 2001! It was my last year of university, and I applied for a job as a kind of student ambassador for the city next door to my city. I got an interview, but it became very obvious during the interview that they wanted a native, and I wasn’t close enough! The questions they were asking would have been easy-peasy if they’d asked about my native city – what attractions do you think bring visitors to our city, what do you know about our sports venues, what do you think our historical and current major industries are – but I just had no clue about next-door city! I would have felt so empowered if I’d stopped them and said, “Look, I’m obviously not what you’re looking for, let’s stop here!” But I was far too new to interviews to do that, so I just kept going, feeling more and more humiliated and as though I was wasting their time and had tricked them into interviewing me.

    Then I got literally soaked to the skin walking home in a thunderstorm, and only found out from the look of horror on my friend’s housemate’s face that my shirt had gone completely see-through.

    1. Jennifer Thneed*

      Me too! I was very young. It was a general office position for … something vaguely do-gooder, as I recall. Maybe related to city health services? Doesn’t matter. It was a job: I needed a job.

      It was a terrible interview. There was no specifically wrong thing, it was just clear that it was a *complete* personality mis-match between me and the other 2 women, and it was the kind of job where we’d be together all day, everyday. I wanted very badly to just end the interview, but I guess I didn’t know I could? I knew I hated the idea of working there and they seemed about equally enthused. I didn’t think in terms of it being a kindness to all of us if I said “I think this is a bad match” and ended things early. Looking back, I suspect they were just as inexperienced. We all just gritted our way thru to the end.

  22. voluptuousfire*

    Yep. Done this myself years ago. Interviewed for a HR assistant position that was little more than scanning resumes into a database all day. The job was misleading, the Director of HR was off putting (kept asking me if I was nervous to the point where after being asked that the 5th time, I started to get nervous), and what I thought was going to be an hour turned out to be a full half day which wasn’t communicated to me. Overall, enough red flags for a military parade in Tiananmen Square. Even clueless 23 year old me knew this was a bad fit, so I politely ended the interview and walked out.

  23. bopper*

    I had an internal candidate do this…it was sort of mutual. He was super researchy and we needed someone who had experience with a particular type of equipment. During the interview it was clear it wasn’t a match for either so we cut it short.

  24. Jay*

    I had this happen to me last week. Someone came in for a position for which I am the hiring manager. We were having a good conversation, and about halfway through I asked if there was anything specific she wanted to discuss.

    She then told me that it was a deal-breaker for her if she couldn’t work from home 2-3 days a week. Which would not work for the role, and is also not allowed in our office.

    So, we ended the interview. No hard feelings, no power plays- just over. Do I wish she would have said this beforehand? Yes. Am I glad she didn’t let things go any farther? Also yes.

    1. Lil Fidget*

      Yes hmm, she should have brought this up in the phone screen. That seems like an error on her part, if she knew for sure she would not accept the job without a certain unlikely condition being met (and I feel like most jobs with that much time from-home would highlight that in their description).

    2. Camellia*

      If this is a hard-and-fast rule you might consider putting it into the job posting. That would be the best time saver.

      1. Jay*

        2-3 days a week work from home is so extreme that it doesn’t seem like something I should have to rule out! We say the position is based out of our NYC office, which I thought would be enough.

        But our work covers a large span of the tri-state area, so she thought it might not matter.

        1. Lil Fidget*

          I agree with you. If the job posting lists an office and makes no mention of work from home opportunities, it’s weird to me to assume that two or three days from home every week would be okay. Occasional working from home sure – a few times a month maybe, although our office is super strict about it and doesn’t even allow that – but so often, with structured hours, no.

        2. Rusty Shackelford*

          I agree. I can’t imagine anyone assuming they’d be able to work from home for half the week if it wasn’t mentioned in the job description.

    3. Rincat*

      I used to work from home 3 days a week before moving to my current position, but I am very much aware that this is out of the norm for what I do. In fact my current boss asked me several times if I was okay with coming into the office every day – he was pretty worried about it. But my previous job was pretty crappy even with working from home, so I don’t mind coming into the office in my new one!

  25. Apocalypse How*

    The one time I realized I had wished that I ended an interview early was when I was doing a phone interview for a position at a boarding school. One of the perks of the job was getting on-campus housing. Then the interviewer went into detail about what this meant–I would essentially need to have my home open to students, even when I was technically off the clock. Let students hang out in my living room, invite students over for dinner, host students for holidays if they couldn’t fly home. It sounded like I would basically have no guaranteed free time for myself outside of work. My unease with this must have come out in my voice, because I got a rejection the next day, and I wasn’t too upset.

    I told my dad about this, and he said he had a similar experience when he was in his early 20’s and interviewed for a camp director job. The interview was going well until the interviewer said that his job responsibilities would include driving a 15-passenger van. My dad said, “That’s not something I’m comfortable doing, so I am going to go ahead and withdraw my application. Thank you for taking the time to meet with me.” They appreciated his honesty.

    1. Ama*

      I had a similar experience when I interviewed for a position in a Dean’s office when I was still in academia. When I interviewed with her office staff (one of whom was staying, and one of whom was the position they were filling) they happily talked about how fun the job was and how sometimes they’d run over to the Dean’s apartment just off campus to bring her work or grab her dry cleaning or whatever. The job had been advertised as a department admin, not a personal assistant, and I had had some bad experiences previously with bosses who had tried to push me to do personal tasks for them so I think my surprise and hesitation was pretty obvious. But we were all too inexperienced (I don’t think any of us were more than a few years out of college) to realize we should have all just said “hey I think maybe this isn’t a good match,” so we went through a few more minutes of questions and then they rejected me the next day (much to my relief).

  26. Catabodua*

    I did it once in a most unprofessional way with no regrets. In between jobs, got what I thought was an interview for a lower level job than I’d normally apply for but, job, you know?

    Got there and it was a cattle call looking for door to door knife salespeople.

    I actually laughed out loud and said something like, “Yeah, no” and walked out. As I was leaving the waiting room I stopped to announce to everyone else that it was door to door sales. About 90% of the group walked out with me.

    There was a different time that I really wish I had just left due to the horrible personality of the interviewer.

    1. Justme, The OG*

      I had one of those too! I actually made it through the product demonstration, but left before the in-person interview. I also left once before an interview when it was clear it was a group interview and I was sitting there for over an hour through the lunch break of those interviewing us. I excused myself to use the restroom, and left.

    2. LurkNoMore*

      I had a similar issue but for knock-off perfume! It was supposed to be an interview but it ended up being me tagging along with another salesperson. Here I was all dressed up in my heels, wool suit and power bow blouse; having to sneak thru the back of warehouses and loading docks. Terrible! When we finally got back to the office, I headed to my car and the other salesperson asked why I wasn’t coming into the office to finish the interview. Since I had no backbone at that time, I just mumbled something and left.

    3. MCMonkeyBean*

      I sent an application to that company when I was looking for summer jobs and got a call about my application within minutes of submission, which seemed so suspicious to me that I noped out.

  27. a-no*

    I actually had a pretty similar experience a few days ago at a start up interview except instead of being outright rude, he talked over me and corrected me on my previous job duties (he told me what I did, instead of listening to what I told him I did) as well as used outdated buzzwords and could not comprehend anything I told him unless I used a buzzword for it (when I said “we often shipped directly to the job site” he literally could not understand what that meant until I said “Direct Ship”).
    Of the 30 minutes I was there, he spent 15 talking about his Harvard degree in communications as well as his previous job as an investment banker in NY and how it was time to embrace the ‘entrepreneurial spirit’ in Western Canada.
    I may have taken the wrong route – but I kept asking questions when he would contradict himself and it wrapped up fairly quickly.
    The question that really killed the interview was when he spent a solid 5 minutes talking about how the volume has doubled every month and how successfully they are expanding with month after month growth and I interrupted to ask him “was he using the parent company numbers or was this just based on the single month they’d be operating?” It’s pretty hard to have statistical data when you’ve literally been open for 33 days as he had proudly announced to me at the beginning of the interview.

      1. Only here for the teapots*

        I took an online class via Harvard law school and had a colleague roll his eyes about people who take moocs then claim they’ve been to Harvard. No guy, I’m not faculty. I actually took the class for work, not my CV. It did make me laugh though.

    1. Rincat*

      My old boss always found a way to work the fact that he grew up in Europe and traveled extensively into every conversation, including interviews. Candidates just sat there with glazed looks as he described his privileged youth in great detail, and then got an MBA at a prestige school in the states. Interviews were always 75% boss talking/ 25% everyone else. And then he complained about never being able to find anyone good to hire. :/

      1. Uni Brat*

        Spare me these pretentious types! Until fairly recently, I worked for a woman who took a short course, maybe five days, at Harvard. She brings it into every conversation.

        1. Specialk9*

          One of my grad school professors brought up her PhD several times a class. I figured she had just graduated and couldn’t let it go yet, so trying to be nice and give her a chance to get it out of her system, I asked when she graduated.


    2. Anon for this*

      Oh, that brought back a memory. I used to know someone who frequently bragged that the U.S. Army had spent a half-million dollars teaching him communications skills. It was mentioned in almost every meeting we jointly attended. Some of us speculated that his training had been PsyOps, teaching him how to discourage his opponent, because he was so, so negative.

  28. LittleMissMarMar*

    I had a situation where I wanted to leave an interview, but they had flown me across the country for the interview so I felt obligated to stay.
    They had flown me to their office in CA from my home on the East Coast. I arrived at the agreed time, and the receptionist put me in a conference room, where they left me for 2 hours. Finally some employees came in and casually interviewed me for a bit (clearly a placeholder), before leaving me for another 2 hours. Eventually the hiring manager and CEO came in and actually said “So, how’s the interview experience been so far?”
    After hour 2, I had wanted to walk out, but felt a weird sense of obligation to them because of the plane ticket.

    1. Lil Fidget*

      Ugh. I hope you at least went to the beach afterwards (on their dime). Companies like that deserve to lose money.

    2. Turkletina*

      Something like this happened to me in a grad school interview. Then they took me to dinner at a restaurant that was… inconvenient (though not impossible) for my dietary restrictions. I did not go to grad school there.

      1. LittleMissMarMar*

        I looked him in the eye and said “Well, to be completely honest it hasn’t been the best experience”. When I sawi that, the CEO literally threw up his hands and walked out. The hiring manager awkwardly tried to finish the interview but I told him I didn’t think I was going to be a good fit. It was the worst and most bizarre interview experience I’ve ever had!

    3. Triple Anon*

      Wow. Four hours of waiting. I think most people would have second thoughts about the job after that.

      So they pretty much bought you a plane ticket and hotel room for nothing. It’s amazing how much money companies waste. I’m sure that could have gone towards something else. Or they could have, um, given you a normal interview.

  29. Stranger than fiction*

    Omg, I’d still let the first interviewer know, as politely as possible. She may have no idea what this dude is doing!

  30. Hey Karma, Over here.*

    OP, please reply back with whether or not they followed up with YOU, if you got a rejection letter, or they just left you hanging.

  31. Runner*

    What can’t be overlooked is the pure shock of it in the moment. I don’t even have an anecdote as harsh as the OP’s and I was nearly immobilized. I was young and had been interning for free for a political publication in DC for months, doing everything full time staff did, becoming friends with them even, and building the network of correspondents and working with them on copy etc. A junior staff position came open that would essentially be everything I was already doing. The executive director — I swear this is true — sighed and waved my resume in the air and sank in her chair and looked out the window. That was my interview. I was profoundly embarrassed and felt like a fool for having invested months of time in the organization. I felt I had no choice but to quit the internship pretty much immediately if this was how little she thought of me.

    1. Former Prof*

      What a terrible person! I think we have all had moments like this. Early in my career I interviewed with two top producers who had several hit shows on at that time (I’m a TV/screenwriter). We were going along, talking, and they mentioned that they needed to pop out to get some lunch, so I waited. And waited. And waited. After an hour, their secretary discovered me still there and said “What? Are you still here?” I’d assumed, based on what they said to me, that they were going to grab a couple of sandwiches and come back (yes, without offering me anything, that too). But the two assholes had actually gone out to lunch in a restaurant without telling me! And I waited till they came back and continued the interview (you have to get kind of hardened to get anywhere in this business). They still didn’t hire me. But on the other hand, I’ve had a 35-year successful career and they’ve been long unemployed now. Another friend had an interview to write on a top hit show, and the exec producer literally wandered out to his secretary’s desk, and then simply left. She was forced to come out of his office and ask the secretary, “so… is the interview….over?”

  32. Glomarization, Esq.*

    I’m seriously enjoying how this has turned into an open thread of experiences (positive and negative) of Interviews I (Should Have) Walked Out On. I hope the stories encourage everyone to feel empowered to peace-out of future terrible interviews when they need to!

    1. Rincat*

      I feel like every person new to the working world needs to read this. I should have walked out of an interview I went on when I was about 19 or 20 but I had too much of the people-pleasing/always submit to the employer mindset to stand up for myself!

  33. ContentWrangler*

    I ended one of the first interviews I got after I graduated. The job description online was a advertising/communications position for an agency that claimed create marketing campaigns for big local brands. I showed up and quickly realized that the entire job description was a lie. It was practically a cattle call, the “offices” were super bare with a bit of Ikea furniture here and there, and the “brand marketing” they did was selling baseball tickets to employees in bulk to give to their employees as perks or prizes.

    I told the “manager” interviewing me that I didn’t think the job was for me. I said that I was really trying to find a job in more the writing or communications field. And he said, “We communicate with people everyday!”

    Yeah no, hassling people to buy crummy baseball tickets is not communications. I walked out.

  34. FoodieNinja*

    I wish I had ended an interview once. As background, I have a Master’s from a recognizable university’s divinity school, but I am not religious. I also hate public speaking.
    I went to interview for a program coordinator position that was supporting a center focused on community outreach around improving health outcomes. I was interested in the role because I was a program coordinator at the time looking for a bigger program to coordinate. They were interested in me because it turns out they do a lot of their outreach in and with churches, and thought I would be a good liaison who could talk to congregations and somehow leverage our shared religious knowledge. We all figured out after about 10 minutes that the job and I were a huge mis-match, but I was too junior and my interviewers were too polite to just throw in the towel.

      1. FoodieNinja*

        This wasn’t a seminary. I can’t speak for all schools, but mine was non-denominational and offered courses of study in Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and Buddhism.

      2. MM*

        Much as many fields offer both academic and professional degrees (economics vs. MBA, a PhD in law vs. a JD, etc), you can get all sorts of degrees and concentrations in religion without emerging as a member of the clergy. In another life I probably went into comparative religion myself.

  35. HR Here*

    Ugh I had a similar experience but so long ago. Third interview! Then the grandboss was really jerky and seemed to want me to defend why I was there. It was bizarre. He left and indicated I was to wait, and after a few minutes, I told the second interview I didn’t have time to wait any longer (he’d also arrived late) and that I didn’t think it was a good fit. I did email one contact later to indicate my withdrawal and mentioned something like I found the tone of the interview odd given that they had approached me to apply and it was a third interview. I do wish I’d had the nerve the shut him down to his face, though.

  36. Amber Rose*

    I learned how to do this working in retail. It was so, so common to apply for a supervisor position, go in for an interview, and be told they didn’t hire supervisors but wanted to hire me as a part time cashier and I could work my way up.

    I eventually learned how to be polite. The first few of those people got told to go sit on a pointy thing and rotate.

  37. YuliaC*

    I had stopped an interview once after only exchanging a few sentences with the interviewer. The phone interview was fine, and the place seemed legit. But when I arrived, surroundings were wildly unusual for my profession (med. lab. tech). I was interviewed in a ramshackle dirty office by the owner of the small lab, who wore his sweatpants and slippers for the occasion. He was otherwise pleasant and reasonable, but I couldn’t possibly work in such a place, so I said Alison’s first script almost word for word. The guy pleasantly agreed with me that it is indeed for the best not to waste each other’s time, and that was that.

  38. Rincat*

    When I was about 19 or 20, I interviewed for an admin assistant position at a college, and knew midway through that this was definitely NOT the job for me. I told the hiring manager as such, in very polite words, and she CHEWED me out. Told me I was being disrespectful, that I should never let the hiring manager know I didn’t want a job, that I should basically beg for the job even if I didn’t want it. And this was after she told me upfront that if I discovered the job wasn’t right for me, I should tell her right away!! It was so confusing. She also derided my clothes, way of speaking, and age. I really should have just gotten up and walked out but I was so very young and meek. I cried in my car.

    I’ve been on the hiring side several times and I’ve always appreciated when a candidate tells me during the interview that they don’t think it’s right for them. So yes, if you are definitely sure – tell the interviewer. And never let an interviewer bully you! That’s walk-straight-out-worthy.

    1. Bea*

      She sounds absolutely miserable, what a horrid experience for anyone let alone someone just entering the business world!

  39. Oxford Coma*

    The interview I most wish I’d walked out of was actually for a serving job. I showed up to a nice Italian restaurant on the recommendation of a former coworker, expecting to have a short “getting to know you” session. The owner instead acted like I was an idiot for expecting an interview, and told me to start on the spot.

    I shadowed a veteran server all night, chasing her around the kitchen and three dining rooms while wearing a pencil-skirted suit and sky-high heels. I almost wiped out on the slick floors several times. My feet were numb for two days and the heels were destroyed–caked with food and stained with grease.

    My idiot self actually took the job, only to quit a few weeks later after I DID fall and destroy my knee. A lazy busser mopped while we were still open so he could leave, instead of waiting until close like he was supposed to, and I went down with a full tray of entrees. I needed PT for the knee, and it’s never been the same since.

  40. GiantPanda*

    An interview I should have walked out of was for (a quite prestiguous) graduate school.
    I prepared for a 30 minute talk about my undergraduate work (as requested and also standard in the field) followed by general chat with the professors of the school. Bought a train ticket for the same evening and certainly did not expect to stay overnight.

    The thing turned out to be a two day workshop with about 10 prospective students. They gave us a stack of papers to work through in the evening to prepare a presentation for the second day. After buying a toothbrush and finding a bed at a hostel (no money for fresh clothing or a decent hotel) I actually did that instead of going home.

    The workshop went well enough, they accepted me on the spot and told me when to start. When I reacted a bit confused (Don’t I have to accept? What about that other scheduled interview elsewhere?) one of the professors sat me down what an honor it would be to study at their place and how dare I think I had a choice before letting me leave.

    I never went back there and never regretted that.

  41. CAinUK*

    So the guy interrupted you from the first sentence, mansplained, was rude, and then made comments indicating he’s discriminating against your gender and age?

    AND you don’t need them for future opportunities? So no blowback from outing them?

    Welp, straight over to EEOC and Glassdoor to file a complaint, I’d say :)

  42. Meißner Porcelain Teapot*

    @OP: I can see two questions in your post and I think only one was answered, so I am adding my two cents:

    Question 1: Can you walk out of an interview?
    Yes! And you can even use the same tricks interviewers/HR use to give vague rejections, by saying:
    “I am very sorry for interrupting, but as we are speaking I am realizing that I would not be a good fit for this office culture. I would hate to take up more of your time when this is clearly not going to work out, so I would like to stop here, if you don’t mind. Thank you for giving me the chance to talk to you and I do hope you will find the perfect candidate.”

    Question 2: Should you have sent the thank you note?
    I would say yes, especially since, in this case, the reason you don’t want this job has nothing to do with the interviewer. If it has been less than a week since your interview, I’d say send a quick note and mention you’re not up for the job, even if they offer it to you, like this:
    “Thank you for inviting me to the interview on [Date]. During our talk I realized that I am not going to be a good fit for your office culture and I would therefore like to withdraw from the application process. I appreciate you taking the time to talk to me and I wish you the best of luck in finding the right candidate.”
    However, if it’s been more than a week, just leave it be.

  43. Argh!*

    After what I thought was a well-considered, eloquent answer to my potential future boss’s question about why my specialty was special, she informed me that it was a trick question and she doesn’t think any specialty is all that special. I knew right away I couldn’t work with her, but I played along with the rest of the interview, taking it as a practice interview from that point onward. In the end she decided not to fill the position – big surprise! Even if she had offered it to me, I wouldn’t have taken it. I can’t work with someone who is proud of playing headgames.

    I saw her again at a conference a year later, receiving an award for being bigwig of the year. *ptui*

  44. Woman of a Certain Age*

    Many years ago, when I was just out of college, for several years I went on quite a few interviews for jobs, where despite being advertised as being “entry-level” they were actually looking for someone with a fair amount of experience (whom they would pay an entry-level wage). In retrospect, I certainly wish that I had left interviews (politely like Alison recommends).

  45. anathema*

    I wish I’d walked out with Amazon, but they’d flown me out to Seattle for a final interview. As I talked to the actual team I’d be working with, I discovered that the tech job I spent several months phone and video interviewing for, and done all these jumping through hoops work to show examples of my skills, it was a base level job in a call center. Why they thought hiding this was a good idea, I don’t know.

  46. Chocolate Teapot*

    I once went for interview as a result of contact via a recruiter for a job that sounded a decent fit. When I got there, the 2 interviewers were not the same as the names the recruiter had given me. So I did the polite “Oh, I thought Fred Smith would be here. Will he not be joining us?”

    They said no, without explanation. Fair enough, but then launched into a description of a totally different job. By this point, I was confused, so I thought that maybe they had muddled up the interviews with one for Chocolate Coffeepot.

    No. Apparently they thought my CV was better suited to the different job. There was some overlap, but I had not really thought about this kind of role. So I asked questions, tried to give examples of relevant experience, and said I would be interested in talking further. The interviewers agreed to provide a job description and indicated another interview.

    It didn’t happen. After several days of silence, I contacted them, to be informed they had decided not to bother continuing with the process, since they thought I was disappointed about not being interviewed for the original job. Perhaps I should have walked out as soon as it became clear they were not interested in what I was originally applying for.

  47. Darren*

    I was in for an interview and some technical testing. The testing was first so I completed that, and then we got down to discussing the details, and they were way off on what I was expecting (and the job had posted) as the salary range, as well as wanting me to work predominately in a different and less interesting area of the business.

    I was fairly blunt, stopping them asking two quick clarifying questions to ensure I hadn’t misread anything and then just said, “There doesn’t seem to be continuing this any further the role isn’t as described and doesn’t interest me, even disregarding the salary.” I then stood up and left. They seemed quite shocked but honestly it was just wasting my time. Like 2 weeks later I had a job with a salary in my range that was interesting so no loss from my perspective.

  48. Keep Your Eyes On The Prize*

    I applied for a job on Monday and was offered an interview the next day. I showed up and was told the person who I had literally spoken to less than 24 hours before was no longer with them. Another person interviewed me without looking at my resume and after 10 minutes offered me the job. The job she described was nothing like the one that I had applied for. It was like applying to be a chef and being offered the dishwasher job. She assured me that it was temporary and that I’d be a chef in two weeks. I accepted but on the way home I realized that the whole situation was sketchy. My original contact had left the company and her email and voicemail had been disconnected. The person who interviewed me had only said her first name so I couldn’t find her using the automated voice mail system which needed the full name of the person to find them. So I ended up ghosting them, they never contacted me either to see why I didn’t show up.

  49. Zolysmokes*

    Lw#2: I’m in the same boat and I hang a slinky from my door handle and told coworkers, if the slinky is up I am pumping. I will get back to you when I am done. It’s been six months and I haven’t had a problem since I told them the code. At the beginning they were confused because they were not sure when I was just on the phone or if I needed privacy. S
    Telling your co-workers your code is going to be very important although slightly awkward.

  50. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

    Of course you can cut an interview short, for a variety of reasons, but I believe you should always be polite about it. Another way to view this is as… free practice with no consequences! If you have the presence of mind to make that switch in your head and think “this is going poorly, but I choose to stay in order to practice my skills at successfully and professionally handling difficult people in an interview situation”, then it could be a valuable learning experience. I do believe, however, that there may be unacceptable interview situations, where you wouldn’t even want the free practice.

    When I was very young, I would not have had the presence of mind or self confidence to view it as free practice. I was intimidated by interviews back then. But now that I’m older, I view an interview as a two-way street, and an opportunity for me to assess this employer. Sometimes, it’s nice to be old. Less fear. Ha!

  51. mr mike*

    In my early 20’s, I had an interviewer literally tell me he wanted a ‘wage slave’ a guy with a family he needed to support! I just stood up and told him I won’t waste anymore of his time…

  52. seejay*

    I’ve been interviewing for the past few months and to be frank, at least when I started, there were areas I was terrible at, at least when doing technical tests in front of people. I had a two hour interview scheduled with a company back in December and I was *super excited* about them and I did a lot of prep work ahead of time. Got there, cracked out my computer and went totally blank on the technical question they asked me because it was something I wasn’t totally 100% comfortable doing in front of people.

    I didn’t even meet with anyone else other than the first guy. They pretty much escorted me out after 45 minutes. Second most humiliating interview ever in my life.

    I went home, cried, had a few drinks and played video games for the rest of the night. :/

    1. JennyAnn*

      That’s such a lousy feeling!

      I had done work with several programming languages in college so when I first started interviewing I had them listed on my resume as ‘familiar with’. I went into an interview for what I thought was a receptionist role with some after hours help desk responsibilities and they started questioning me on the basics of C (and I mean basics – stuff like, how do you enter a comment in the code). It was the first time anyone had brought up my computer science background, and I completely blanked. 10 minutes after they asked the first question, I was sitting in my car just laughing because of how l utterly I blew that. It’s helpful now, because I’m never nervous about my interviews any more; I figure it would be pretty difficult to have one go worse that that.

  53. Fed-ericka.*

    I had a moment like that. I made it to the medical work-up stage at “The Agency” and had a horrible interview with a psychiatrist. I made a comment about his maps of Ireland on the wall and he completely ignored me. After we sat down he said he was really surprised someone like me made it to this stage and he typically met with straight-A students from Ivy league colleges. I stared at him blankly for a moment before stating that I felt like my qualifications were in line with the tentatively offered role and that my Graduate Certificate from UVA was straight-As. Next punch to the gut was him continuing to ask me why I used so much sick leave last year. This is after I feel told him, explicitly, five times that my Dad passed away and my sister was in the hospital for two-months.

    There was no recourse, I stuck it out, and about a week later got a letter from them rescinding the offer. The woman who returned my call requesting a status that same day was extremely apologetic and encouraged me to reapply next year.

    The amount of time and annual leave I used for that finally fruitless process still rankles me.

  54. Kelly L.*

    I interviewed for a job where the interview ended up becoming a training of several hours. We had a good rapport going, or I thought we did, and so I wasn’t being uber-formal anymore and made some kind of comment about food. I don’t remember what I said, something about what I was going to do for lunch later, or just a casual comment about being hungry? They were bizarrely snide about it, I guess either because I was supposed to maintain a stoic facade or because I was fat, and when the interview/training finally ended, they were like “Enjoy your luuuuUUUUnnnnnccch” in this weird singsong way. Didn’t get the job. Probably a bullet dodged. I should have noped out when I realized they were basically starting me on the job during the interview, except in the moment I thought it was a good sign!

  55. Kate*

    I was held hostage by an interviewer (CEO of the company and professional micromanager) for 4 hours and was only “let loose” after I promised her I am a) taking the job b) starting the next day and c) going to a trade show that same weekend (it was Wednesday). The woman was nuts. Summary of the interview: it started with an excel and word test that looks straight out of computers 101 ca. 1999, then she asked if I had ever stolen at work, asked about my hobbies and then proceeded to laugh and mention I would not ever have time for my hobby again (it’s cross-stitching) working for her, required that I work 8-6:30 pm every day and go to trade shows at least twice a month. she then offered me $15k less than I asked for and when I expressed concern and said it doesn’t sound like a good fit she would NOT let me leave and kept bringing in her employees to tell me how great it was to work there. the kicker: I am an EA and have been for going on 6 years, mostly working in start ups. Good salary, great benefits, great coworkers, great bosses, great hours mostly. She stated at first she wants an EA, but then at the interview she changed it to sales/project manager. Oh, AND. She absolutely had to have me come in same day. When I pushed back she basically said now or never knowing I was 1.5 hours away. My bf lives near where the office was and I was going to see him the next day anyway so figured what the hell. Should’ve had my red alert on full blast.

  56. jo*

    In situations like the OP’s, I think you also have the option of going even further than politely ending the interview. Before leaving, I would have civilly let it be known that I had a problem with the interviewer’s behavior. There are times when you can be both civil and frank, and you can do so safely if you’ve realized you don’t want the job and would not ever work for the company under present management (AND for good measure OP didn’t even need their good opinion for networking reasons).
    I’d have pulled out a standard Captain Awkward line in response to the insults:
    “Wow, why would you say that?”
    “My goodness, what an odd thing to say!”
    “That’s pretty insulting. I think we’d better end the conversation now.”
    And of course, there’s your basic: “Wow. *awkward silence*”

  57. Alexis*

    I did this for the first time a few weeks ago. We had sat down and were talking and they mentioned the pay scale (since I’d filled it in on a second lengthy application, wasn’t the online one enough?) When she brought up pay in the middle of the interview, I learned the max would be much lower than I was making and could afford to take. Plus she mentioned some other non-negotables for me, so I politely stopped it. She really respected it and gave me a card, saying to call if anything changes. It’s better to be honest up-front than string the other party along.

  58. Cherries in the Snow*

    I was raised with a “take any job you can get and be grateful” mentality, so I should have walked out of this interview but didn’t because I thought I *had* to stay (and had to accept if offered). I was in grad school and this was part-time assistanting in a home for unstable teens. I was kept waiting for quite awhile, the interviewer had a condescending and poor attitude (basically: “I doubt you’ll be lucky enough to get this job, and let me tell you all the hard things about it in a tone that suggests I don’t think you can cut it so prove me wrong”), I would be working alone a lot, and—the kicker—I could expect to be physically and sexually assaulted and they couldn’t be held liable for it. (I had been raped only a few months before this).

    That’s when I should have left, but I politely stuck it out. It ended by her saying she’d let me know, and then her calling me a week later to tell me to show up for orientation on X date at Y time. I called back and said she’d never actually offered me the position so I hadn’t been able to tell her I’d lie to decline. She called back a few days later asking why I wasn’t at orientation. I stopped communicating with her after that.

    Later found out they have an extremely high turnover rate. WONDER WHY.

  59. Anna*

    Hi! sympothise you for being in such unpleasant situation.. I think no one should put up with such behaviour!

  60. Igg*

    It sounds to me like you were the unwitting target of a power play/argument between the hiring mgr and owner. Sounds like the guy was trying to get you not to take the job. Good that you didn’t as you really don’t want to work for skveobd who is dishonest and disrespectful. It’s too bad bc it sounds like the hiring mgr might have facilitated or helped or something but maybe they didn’t know it would happen either. My post doc advisor used to do this to people he was a bully and it scared off some good people. I left as a result and his lab now does next to nothing good as he cannot attract talent. Their loss not yours!!! Having said that don’t give secrets to the enemy by telegraphing your displeasure. While it’s sayisying to take a stand it’s smarter to not jet him know he rattled you. He might know people in your field and you don’t want him badmouthing you.

  61. Gumby*

    I’m actually wondering if this was meant to be a stress interview. I find the idea of them pretty unfair, and he definitely crossed the line with age/gender related comments or questions. But some companies do employ them to see how candidates work under stress. Whether you wish to work for a company that does so is a separate question.

Comments are closed.