Should You Interview For A Job You Know You Won’t Take?

By Gerald Walsh ©

I received an email this week from a student asking whether it is “ethical to accept an invitation to an interview for a job you have no interest in, nor intention of accepting if offered a job?”

It’s an interesting question.

I know of many people who would happily go on job interviews “just for the practice.” They argue that you shouldn’t worry about wasting the company or interviewer’s time. They claim that many companies advertise job openings and interview external candidates even though they have an internal candidate already selected. So if the employer is just going through the motions, why can’t it work the other way?

They also contend that employers appreciate the opportunity to ‘sell the position’ to otherwise qualified candidates. Their thinking is that you never know … they might be able to change your mind. Or, if not, maybe you could refer them to someone who might be good.

Still others argue that even though you may not be interested in the position you applied for, you may make enough of an impression on the interviewers that they will call you back later to interview for a better position.

While I understand those arguments, here’s my take on the question.

I feel that attending interviews “just for the practice” is misleading and dishonest on the part of the candidate and should be avoided at all cost. In general, if you absolutely know for sure that you wouldn’t take a job, you shouldn’t interview for it. For example, if you are planning to relocate to another city, say, in the next three months, and there is no chance you would (or could) take the job if offered, going to that interview would be unethical.

If you attended that interview, it is simply a waste of the interviewer’s time, energy and money and shows that you are willing to put your own self-interests (to get better at interviews) ahead of all others. Plus, another candidate – who might really need and want the job – may be overlooked for an interview because you used that time slot.

There are situations, though, where you might have moderate interest in the job even though you probably would not take it if offered. Perhaps it intrigues you somewhat but you think it won’t pay much or it is a longer commute. What happens in many of these situations is that candidates ‘rule themselves out’ and decide not apply for the job – even though there is minor interest.

But my recommendation is that if there is even a small chance – perhaps even as low as 5% - then you should apply anyway. You might find a hidden gem. That’s because you only really learn what a job is about by meeting people from the company, talking about their culture, and discussing the roles and responsibilities.

I’ve seen plenty of people who interviewed for jobs they weren’t excited about initially, and who ended up with amazing jobs in the end.


I would be interested in hearing your take on this question. Is it ethical to interview for a job you know you won’t take? Send me your thoughts by reply email.

Have a great week.


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Gerald Walsh is an executive recruiter, career coach, public speaker and author. During a 25+ year career, he has interviewed more than 10,000 job candidates, completed hundreds of successful searches for a range of organizations and guided many individuals – from young professionals to senior executives – to successful career change. He is the author of “PINNACLE: How to Land the Right Job and Find Fulfillment in Your Career.” You can follow Gerry on Twitter @@Gerald_Walsh and LinkedIn.