Job hunting is a lot of work, whether you're unemployed or looking while working. You put so much effort into revamping your resume, networking in person and online, and writing cover letters with the hopes of landing something truly great. And then, after weeks or months of the hunt, there's a bite—you're offered an interview. But, you're not excited. At all. Maybe you’re waiting to hear back from your dream company. Maybe you’re just hesitant to accept anything less than awesome before you’ve really gotten yourself out there.
You might think the best use of your time is to decline politely and wait for something better to come along. But sometimes it’s smart to take the interview, even when you already know you don’t want the job. Here are some reasons why.
You might find you do want the job.
You never know when the job you don’t think you want turns out to be a perfect fit. Part of the interview process, we often forget, is for the company to sell you on the position (not just for you to sell yourself to them). Go in, see the workplace, and let them woo you. Find out about the company culture and meet the people with whom you'll be working. On paper, it's hard to get a sense of what the day-to-day of a job will be like. In person, your perspective might shift. Don't cut out options before you know everything about them.
Practice makes perfect.
The more you get used to putting on your most professional clothes, signing in at an unfamiliar front desk, and sitting in front of strangers while they ask you about your professional expertise, the better you will get at the entire process. If you're at the start of your career or haven’t been on the market for a while, every interview is excellent practice for the next interview you get. You'll get your anecdotes down pat and start to get a sense of the questions managers in your chosen field ask people at your level. You’ll want to be as sharp as possible for the interview you’ll get for your dream job. Get all the kinks out when the stakes are low and you're not buzzing with nerves.
You might meet someone to connect with down the line.
It’s also always possible that you will meet someone in the course of interviewing who can lead you to your dream job. First, if you get an appointment with a recruiter, they often interview for multiple positions—and sometimes at different companies. Comport yourself professionally and you never know what networking wins you might rack up—he or she will keep you in mind for gigs in the future. Second, if you make a great impression but ultimately turn down the position, you now know a face and name at the company. Maybe for your next move you'll want to touch base to see what's open. You can absolutely do so if you rock your interview—even if you don't take the job.
You can use an offer for leverage.
Say you really want job X, but they’re dragging their feet in making decisions or final offers. Maybe you're even on a third or fourth round of interviews. But you’ve also interviewed for jobs Y and Z—and both have made offers. Now you can go back to job X and tell them other companies are vying for you. Don't be too forceful or demanding; just be truthful. You can politely tell them you have other offers on the table and ask about their decision timeline. Being in demand is always a desirable trait.
Bottom line: be careful not to waste your time, especially if you’re still working full time and have to steal away for interviews. If you know there's no possible way you want to work at a certain company or in a specific position, don't take the interview. Use your judgment and feel free to pass up duds. Just don’t stay away if you're not totally certain a job isn't for you.