Don't withdraw too soon ...

"I'm part way through selection with a national retailer. I've been through various tests and one interview already and the next stage is an assessment day. I like retail but I don't think this employer is for me. I'm wondering how best to pull out of the running and withdraw my application. Can you offer any advice?"

That query was from a slightly disenchanted Shona, via email, and it's quite an interesting one. My advice was that, even if you truly loathe the organisation, rarely is it a good idea to pull out of a selection process.

There are five good reasons for this:

  • Firstly, the interview practice is of incalculable value. There's a reason people pay £100 to £500 for mock interview practice. They pay because the experience and feedback sets them up for the interview they really want to pass in the future. If you can get that for free, and in a real-life interview, why not grab it with both hands?
  • The value is multiplied if this interview is with a retailer and you want to work in retail. You'll get an up-close view of the types of questions that retailers ask and the types of assessment exercises they're likely to use.
  • If you get an offer, you might be able to negotiate a better role with them. If you really don't want the job, and you know why, and you do know what you do want - ask for it! Why not? If they really think you have potential, they may be willing to steer you into a different role.
  • You may be able to use this offer to negotiate an improved package elsewhere. If you get another offer and the package they put to you is not perfect, consider using this package as evidence to leverage more. Go carefully and avoid blackmail at all costs, but if you don’t ask, you don't get. Just be sure not to end up burning your bridges.
  • Take this role anyway, for insurance. You never know, you might actually need this job, either for the salary or because the experience would be invaluable. Perversely, it's always easier to get a job if you've already got one. Don't be afraid to jump ship later. A one-off quick change doesn’t look bad on your CV so long as you can explain it in career terms.

I can't stress the value of interview rehearsal experience enough and there are several good ways to get this.

  • Run your own mock interview sessions. Advantages are: it's cheap or free; you can run repeats as often as you need to; you can get feedback from a wide variety of people.
  • Attend any genuine interviews you can. All interview experience is good, no matter how well or badly it goes at the time. Such experience is free, or at least low cost. Take notes afterwards - be honest. Solicit feedback - be determined.
  • Pay for mock interview practice with a professional interview coach. This is expensive, but is a great way to: get incisive and accurate feedback and tutoring from someone with real experience; sort out an unknown problem if you keep getting interviews, but no offers. The downside is that you won't be able to afford to attend such sessions very often.

My book (Winning That Job: A kill or be-killed guide) has detailed information on how to organise meaningful mock interview sessions for yourself. At only £2.99 via >>> Amazon it's a steal. (Sorry for the plug, but I'm certain it's the best value in-depth advice you can get on this subject.)

I do run individual, tailored, mock interview sessions and if this is of interest please drop me a note at

Always remember the 6 Ps - Perfect Preparation Prevents Piss-Poor Performance!

Good luck, I hope it all goes well for you.

Keywords: mock interview, retail, interview coaching, withdraw application.