Did that interview really go as well as you think?

Did that interview really go as well as you think?

So many times I have heard surprise from a job seeker about not receiving a job offer. “I don’t understand”, I hear. “I thought the interview went well.” So what is the job seeker not seeing during these conversations? Many of us are not good in assessing how others perceive us; especially when a positive outcome is so important. I have known quite a few job seekers that completely stopped their job search because they were positive they were a shoo-in for a job after having an interview. Where did they go wrong in interpreting what went on in the interview?

You Come Into The Interview Possessing Some But Not All The Job Requirements

The difficulty in the job interview process is that you have no idea about your competition. Therefore, if you know that you do not possess all or a significant percentage of the job’s required knowledge and skills, you may be competing against others who do. This will always put you at a significant disadvantage. In that case, your job in the interview is to “sell” that you can pick up the skill(s) quickly or your other skills are so valuable to this employer that your deficits in other areas should be overlooked. The employer is going to be assessing the exact same thing. You may have a great conversation where you talk about your successes, and the interviewer may be listening with great attention. Yet, after the interview is over, the assessment may be that you have some great skills, but it may not be enough to overcome your shortfall in an area that is important to that employer. I know a very accomplished HR professional that went on an interview. He was having a good conversation and it seemed to be going well until he was asked a question about an area that was not his expertise. He answered it to the best of his abilities but knew the employer prized this expertise a lot. Sure enough, even though the rest of the interview went well, this was the area that tripped him up. After we did a debrief and he mentioned this to me, I told him to not get his hopes up high for this job, as the question, his response, and the response of the hiring manager were signs that he would not be their top candidate if others had this expertise. Sure enough, that is exactly what happened. The person that was made the offer had deep experience in the area that this HR professional did not.

You Do Not Accurately Assess How You Answer Questions

Sometimes it is not only what you say but how you say it. Style often plays just as an important role as substance. Yet, job seekers often do a poor job of assessing how they come across to others. Being verbose is often a killer in an interview. Many people love to tell a story, especially if it is about themselves. These stories often have interesting characters and plot twists that the storyteller thinks are interesting. But is this story interesting to others? It will depend on how you tell it and the context in which the information is presented. A 10-minute story about the turnaround of a department, that includes the key figures, the challenges, and the ultimate outcome may be appropriate if the situation the job seeker is facing is similar. A 10-minute story about the turnaround of a department for a job that involves project management of a software implementation probably is not the best use of your time or of the hiring manager. Even if the hiring manager might be interested in your story, you may go so off-topic that the hiring manager feels you cannot get to the point, a skill that might be essential. Additionally, if you take too much time answering one question, you now have limited the time you can talk about other skills you have.

Some job seekers have the opposite problem. They provide only a minimal amount of information. While professional and even friendly, these job seekers have a hard time balancing trying to be succinct with trying to tell a compelling story. Job seekers who have a hard time engaging in a conversation often find that their interview ends early. Why? Because the hiring manager can’t get any more information out of the job seeker and does not want to spend any more time trying to do so. If you get no follow up questions, it is a bad sign. It may mean that the interviewer has given up. These job seekers often will think that the interview went well because they answered all the questions asked. They just don’t see that it is not just the answering of questions that is important. Building rapport and being conversational can be as important. Hiring managers want to work with others that they have a rapport. Job seekers need to show they can be that person.

You Ignore Body Language

Some are better than others when reading body language. Some willfully ignore what is plainly in front of them. I have been professionally trained as an interviewer. I am always friendly and polite, even when I know very quickly in the process that the person will not be a good fit. I also know to keep my body language neutral. Most hiring managers have not had the training that I have had nor the experience conducting interviews. If you are attentive, there are tell-tale signs that your interview is not going as well as you would like.

Does the interview appear distracted? If you have not engaged the interviewer, they may start looking at other things in the room beside you. They may even take a phone call in the middle of the interview. While this is very rude, it is also a sign that you are not that important to the interviewer.

Does the interviewer seem to be moving away from you and not towards you? Does the interviewer not nod in agreement with what you say? When someone is interested in you, often you will see the person lean in and nod their head. If the interviewer does the opposite, you have probably not engaged that interviewer. This is a possible sign that the interview is not going well.

Does the interviewer smile at you? While there are some people that never smile, most will do so if they find you or what you say interesting or pleasant.  If you only get a smile at the end of the interview, when you are saying your good-byes, this usually is not a good sign. You want to see friendliness and smiling throughout your interview if things truly are going well.

You Don’t Ask Any Questions Or Ask Questions That Only Inquire About Your Needs

The interview may have gone well, but you may have killed all the positivity by not asking any questions at all. Interviewers hate this. Just this past week, I had a candidate that answered my inquiry about any questions with, “No, I am good.”  Ugh. You are going to be spending forty hours a week at a job and you have no questions? Even if I explained the job well, there have to be some questions. Why would I want to hire someone that does not exhibit any curiosity? Equally as bad is if you only asked questions that are self-serving, such as the ability to work from home, benefits, or promotion opportunities. You may think these are important questions to ask, and the interviewer may graciously answer them, but these also can be interview killers. Why? Especially in a professional job, learning more about the company vision, team dynamics and manager supervisory style shows an interest in really understanding the job and one’s fit. Concentrating your questions only on the perceived benefits of the job gives the impression you are only about the money, flexibility or career progression.

You Do Not Hear Anything About Follow Up

If an interviewer is interested in you, they are going to do their best to sell you on the opportunity. Part of that is to let you know the next steps in the process or even that the process is about to conclude with an offer made. If you do not hear anything about next steps at all, even if there are no specifics on time, this is a sign that you may not be of great interest. If you ask about next steps and the answer seems pretty vague, this may also be a sign that the interview may not have gone as well as you think.

No one wants to come out of an interview feeling it went bad. Yet, many job seekers are either not aware of the signs that a job interview was less than positive or willfully ignore the signs. After a job interview proceed with caution. Never stop working on your job search until a written offer is in hand. While you think it may have gone well, the ultimate person to judge this is the hiring manager.


Listen to your heart if you want to have career success.

Listen to your heart if you want to have career success.

Want better job search success? Here are answer to your questions

Want better job search success? Here are answer to your questions

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required