What to do if you don't actually want a job you're interviewing for: ‘Use it as an opportunity’

Freshsplash | E+ | Getty Images

Interviewing for a new job can be stressful and exhausting, but hopefully, you're also up for an opportunity you're excited about with an organization that piques your interest.

Even so, there will be times you get to the conversation and things just aren't quite working out. It's not you, it's them, and you don't actually want the job anymore.

Should you take yourself out of the running right then and there, or is it worth keeping up appearances until a little later on?

If you ever find yourself mid-interview realizing you don't want the job anymore, "pretend you do," says Teresa Freeman, who has 25 years of experience as an HR executive for companies like Amazon, PwC and Deloitte.

First of all, maybe it's actually a little too early to tell if the company or the role is an absolute mismatch, she says. If you let that get into your head, "your energy, your engagement, all of that falls off," Freeman says, and you could get yourself counted out for an opportunity you later realize you would've wanted to explore further.

"Over time, you'd be surprised how you might have a judgment or an idea of how something's going to turn out and then the opposite happens," Freeman says.

Even if things continue to go south, she adds, you can leverage the moment for your next (better-suited) interview.

"Use it as an exercise to practice your answers," Freeman says. "Use it as an opportunity to keep your mind open. You never know where your conversation can go."

Stay professional, engaged and enthusiastic. It could turn out the hiring manager has another role open that's a better fit, or you may want to stay connected and network with them in the future. "That might not be the role, but there could be others," Freeman says. "So just keep an open mind."

If you do want to call it quits

If you do feel compelled to get out of the interview ASAP, there's a respectful way to do it that could even land you a call-back for something else, says Farah Sharghi, who's worked as a recruiter at companies like Google, Lyft and TikTok.

She says it's a good move if you're stopping mid-interview to say something like: "I really appreciate you taking the time to interview me today. And I've thoroughly enjoyed everybody that I've met. But after going through the series of interviews, I don't feel like this is a good fit for either of us. Would it be OK if we terminated this interview?"

"That's actually a very respectful thing to do," Sharghi says, "because if you are not interested at all, you're saving people a lot of time."

Sometimes, she adds, the recruiter may ask why you don't think the role is a good fit. Be honest but polite — maybe the role doesn't have the leadership responsibility you're looking for, or the ability to travel the way you were hoping for. The interviewer could take that time to address your concerns or if there were any misunderstandings about the role itself.

The interviewer may instead think of you for another role, if another position opens up in the future, or even if they have an opportunity at an entirely new company years down the line.

Ultimately, Sharghi says, "you want that person to remember you in a good way in the future."

Want to be smarter and more successful with your money, work & life? Sign up for our new newsletter!

Get CNBC's free Warren Buffett Guide to Investing, which distills the billionaire's No. 1 best piece of advice for regular investors, do's and don'ts, and three key investing principles into a clear and simple guidebook.

Check out: A recruiter debunks the viral 'white font' resume trick: 'It drives me nuts'

How a Gen Z couple earning $43,000 in Nashville, Tennessee spends their money
How a Gen Z couple earning $43,000 in Nashville, Tennessee spends their money