Further Questions: What is the proper way for a candidate to withdraw from the interview process? 

Every other week or so, I ask a question to a group of people who hire library and LIS workers. If you have a question to ask or if you’d like to be part of the group that answers, shoot me an email at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

This week’s question is from a reader:

What is the proper way for a candidate to withdraw from the interview process? Does this differ if the candidate has been offered a position and does not want it, or if the candidate has said that they would like to accept it, but is then offered a job that they want more and decides not to follow through with the 1st offer?

Anonymous Federal Librarian:

I don’t know if there is a proper way to withdraw. I have in the past withdrawn from consideration from positions, and I have also had candidates withdraw from some of the openings where I have been the hiring manager. For those who have withdrawn from the positions I have hired for, I always appreciate an email, letting me know that they would like to be withdrawn from consideration. I really appreciate when they give a reason for withdrawing. It can be as vague or as honest as they want to be. “Thank you, but I have decided based on careful consideration to stay at my current position.” Or “Thank you, however I have accepted a different position.” Or “Thank you, I have decided that I am unable to relocate at this point.” Any of those reasons and so many more are completely acceptable and there would be absolutely no hard feelings if I got any of those emails. When I have withdrawn, I have always thanked the hiring manager, let them know how much I appreciated their consideration, and let them know that I enjoyed getting to know them and their organization. Withdrawing from consideration happens, and there should be no hard feelings on the hiring panel’s side if you withdraw.  I think any of the above replies are completely acceptable if you are anywhere in the interviewing process. However, if you have been offered a job, accept it, and then get a better offer, it can be a little more delicate. Something along the lines of “Thank you so much for your offer, I appreciate your time, and although I know I have accepted, for personal reasons I will no longer be able to accept this position. I apologize for any inconvenience this has caused you or the hiring panel.” You owe them no more than that. For the federal government, if you have been offered the position and then decide to withdraw, you should always notify the HR representative who contacted you about being hired, not the hiring manager. Once the hiring manager makes the selection and sends the decision to HR, everything after goes through HR.

Headshot of Jimmie Epling, who wears a suit and glasses and smiles into the camera

Jimmie Epling, Director, Darlington County Library System:

A candidate can withdraw from consideration for a job verbally in-person or through a telephone call or electronically via e-mail.  We are not fans of receiving a text message from a candidate about withdrawing from consideration.  It is understandable that a candidate might receive a better job offer after accepting our library’s job offer and want to take it.  As a courtesy to us, a call or e-mail from an candidate would be welcomed.     

Amy G, Head of Adult Services:

The proper way to withdraw is to be straightforward, and timely. If you know you don’t want the job, don’t go further into the process out of “politeness” or a fear of disappointing your interviewers. If you’re a no, I’d like to know as soon as possible so I can focus on other candidates! If no offer has been made, then a simple, “I’d like to withdraw my candidacy” should suffice, with little extra explanation – though if you have a clear reason to provide or useful feedback to give, that’s always appreciated! (By me, at least. It’s true you can’t always predict how feedback will be taken!) If all of your contact with the prospective employer has been over the phone, then I would withdraw that way. I encourage job candidates to email me when I’m trying to set up an interview, and I would not mind them withdrawing that way.

If an offer was made, and you want to decline, it’s all right to just say so. The longer you’ve made them wait, the more explanation they’re going to want, so if you feel comfortable sharing a polite, edited version of your reasoning, that would be nice. If you’ve accepted a job offer, then change your mind, I think it’s definitely advisable to provide some explanation if you don’t want to burn that bridge.

Head shot of Laurie Phillips, Who wears burgundy glasses and is posing in front of a bookshelf

Laurie Phillips, Associate Dean for Information Resources and Systems, J. Edgar & Louise S. Monroe Library, Loyola University New Orleans:

It’s perfectly acceptable to email the hiring manager and withdraw from the interview process. I will say, though, that I recently had a candidate turn me down initially for an interview because they had an interview elsewhere. I convinced them to go ahead and interview with us, unless they had already interviewed and were going to accept, and that person ended up being our top candidate. If you know you are not going to accept the position due to salary or location, or whatever, just withdraw and save us both the effort. Deciding you want to take another job after accepting the first one is definitely a way to burn bridges with an employer. 


My guess is that, like at our institution, there is one person they have been dealing with in HR or a search committee leader. An e-mail or a phone call to that individual stating that you are withdrawing from the search is sufficient. Ideally, we would love to know why, but it’s not necessary. If you accept our position then pull out because of a better offer, I would see that as sketchy but if you haven’t signed a contract, there’s no reason why you can’t. Just keep in mind that the library world is small and people will remember if you do something like that.

Celia is running across the finish line of the Clarence Demar Half Marathon

Celia Rabinowitz, Dean of Mason Library, Keene State College:

These do feel qualitatively different. I have also had a candidate withdraw during the search process which is the easiest scenario. In a case like that a simple email to the search chair is all that is needed (in my opinion). If the job has been offered then the candidate can accept or turn down the offer. I wouldn’t consider it withdrawing from the process if the candidate turns the offer down (which has happened in searches I have been involved in and I have also turned down an offer). That is also relatively simple. By that I mean the candidate does not have any obligation to provide a reason although it can be helpful. If a candidate has accepted a job and then finds themselves wanting to accept a different offer I think a phone call to the search chair (or library director) is the right thing to do. If they say they “would like to accept” the job haven’t they accepted it? If they say this when the job is first offered it’s a great example of why I always tell candidates to take at least 1-2 days to think even if they are absolutely sure they want the job. We won’t give it away in the meantime.

Julie Todaro, Dean, Retired:

A simple answer is best – for whatever reason – “I am withdrawing my applicant from this position at this time.” And – if you got further along and had an interview, etc., thank the organization for the interview. Also – if no interviews have yet to be scheduled – people taking their application out of the process should alert the organization anyway with a simple “Although the process has only just begun, I need to withdraw my application at this time.” Don’t just wait – thinking if you get an interview, you will say no then – a notification is always better.

Donna wears glasses and a red t-shirt. She is feeding a bottle to a kangaroo wrapped in a grey blanket.

Donna Pierce, Library Director, Krum Public Library:

Contact them and let them know as soon as possible.  If there is a reason tell us what it is (I just found out that I will need insurance benefits, or my husband got his dream job in Japan, etc.  Maybe not if you just discovered that the high turnover is due to the toxic boss! Especially if that is who you are talking with!)

If you decided to take a different job you might want to explain that as well – I have been offered my dream job.  I would have enjoyed working here but now…..

If you’re a job hunter I have a survey for you! Will you please fill it out?

If you’re someone who hires LIS workers, the current survey is still open. There’s also a mini survey on cover letters.

And if you’re in either or neither of the above categories but you have your own personal professional website, here’s a survey for you!

Other ways to share your thoughts:

If you have a question to ask people who hire library workers, or if you’d like to be part of the group that answers them, shoot me an email at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

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