Looking for telltale interview signs
October 24, 2010 3:32 PM   Subscribe

After going to a job interview, are there any telltale hints or signs that can help you have a basic idea if you're going to be hired or not?
posted by antgly to Human Relations (34 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
posted by brainmouse at 3:35 PM on October 24, 2010 [11 favorites]

Just a bit of anecdata, but from what I can tell, no. I've been hired from interviews where I've completely gone off the rails (political office, started talking about my interested in classical opera), and haven't been hired in interviews where I thought I'd nailed it.
posted by SNWidget at 3:40 PM on October 24, 2010

Sorry, no, and I always advise people who ask me this to consider this interview a successful finish to the application procedure. Nothing more is in your power; you have done well because you got an interview. Any time you give to mulling over past applications will do you no good, so you should immediately focus on the next application and keep looking ahead.
posted by Anitanola at 3:41 PM on October 24, 2010 [3 favorites]

Unfortunately, it depends on the interviewer. I've had interviews I thought were a thundering success that ended with me not even getting so much as a courtesy call or email. I've also had interviews I thought I tanked that ended with job offers. In the end, you just can't tell some times.
posted by deadmessenger at 3:41 PM on October 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

If they let you know when you'll probably here from them by "just so you're not wondering," you didn't get it. If they call you back in a week and say we'd like to offer you a job you totally nailed it.
posted by edbles at 3:42 PM on October 24, 2010

I once had a job interview go very badly, where it was obvious to both me and the interviewer that I was a bad fit for the organization and they were a bad fit for me. By the middle of the interview I didn't want the job anymore, and he had very clearly seen that I wouldn't be what they needed.

The interview ended with the guy looking down at some papers (or otherwise not making eye contact) and saying "well alright, we'll be in touch" in a clipped and insincere way, without even a hint of fake-smile in his voice.

(But I still waited with trepidation for them to call, and was disappointed when they didn't! I understand the worry and nervousness that comes with interviewing. Still, once you've been interviewed and sent a brief polite followup note, it's pretty much a waiting game. Try to distract yourself by thinking about your plan B if this one doesn't come through.)
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:44 PM on October 24, 2010

In my experience, if they spend a lot of time at the end asking if you have any other questions, really trying to satisfy lingering curiosities, then you haven't gotten it. It's a friendly farewell.

Likewise, I've found that I did have an offer waiting when the interviewer answered my questions in ways that they thought would satisfy me. Like asking how many meetings they had per week, "Oh, there won't be too many..."
posted by mnemonic at 3:47 PM on October 24, 2010 [3 favorites]

Unfortunately, it depends on the interviewer.

That and your fellow interviewees. I've hired quite a few positions and had times where people aced the interview, but so did two other people (I really hate those phone calls). Alternatively, when face with a series of less than stellar interviews, I've taken a chance on someone who didn't ace the interview but who seemed otherwise very-well qualified.
posted by scrute at 3:48 PM on October 24, 2010

posted by proj at 3:48 PM on October 24, 2010

As an interviewer - I try very hard to make the answer "no", but of course I have a pretty good idea by the end of the interview, and other people may be better or worse at hiding the answer than I am.

People are usually to shy or perhaps too perceptive to ask this question, but when they do I always tell them to wait until they hear back from us through whatever channel they have applied, which usually means they have to go and wait for a few days - an unpleasant situation with which I totally empathise.

If you're looking for a rule like "if they ask about your notice period then they're definitely interested", or whatever - then I'm sorry but I don't think it exists...
posted by mjg123 at 3:51 PM on October 24, 2010

Depends on the company. I know at one very large company I worked at if you only had three technical interviews, that was a sign you did very poorly, where if you had five that was a sign you had made it to the hiring manager and were better than 50% for the job. These were signs you could read.

It's unfortunate but doing really well in an interview doesn't mean you'll get the job. A lot of times I get sent good candidates from HR and we all agree they're smart, and a good engineer, but they don't actually fit the description of the job. This is really more of an internal HR thing than a problem with the candidate... but they often wonder what they did wrong and the answer is really nothing...

Try not to worry too much about it. I've found the jobs I don't care about getting are the ones that often make offers.
posted by jeffamaphone at 3:53 PM on October 24, 2010

For the negative, I've had more than one interview that I knew right away wasn't going to work out. You can just tell that things are not clicking. The other side is never certain, I've had many interviews that went really well and I didn't get an offer.
posted by octothorpe at 3:59 PM on October 24, 2010

OK - So I notice that a lot of answers are like "no", and a couple are "I thought it went great but I didn't get an offer". So I'll remind you that the point of an interview is 2-way; you and the interviewer determine if you are a good fit for the job and vice-versa. Every interview I ever heard of has a period at the end for the candidate to ask questions. This is crucial.

Obviously a question like "did I get the job?" is useless, but try questions like "I [have a lot of experience|am very interested] in XYZ, will I get to use that in this job?", "what are my career options within 2-5 years if I get this job?". These will get more out of the interviewer and will hopefully lead to follow-on questions revealing how good a fit you are for the job.

In the end, though, you might just be unlucky, and there is certainly no "tell".
posted by mjg123 at 4:14 PM on October 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

No. You can have an amazing interview but there is no telling whether or not the next person that walks in the door is more qualified/intelligent/capable than you are.
posted by joeyjoejoejr at 4:30 PM on October 24, 2010

I had one once where the interviewer replied to my thank you email, and signed off "Wishing you all the best for the future". That was a pretty clear signal, even though the official rejection didn't come for a couple more weeks.

Usually, no. I don't think you can tell. Especially because you are all worked up during and following an interview and extra likely to misread cues due to anxiety or excitement.
posted by lollusc at 4:33 PM on October 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Think of it this way: they don't decide who to hire until all the interviews are done. Even if you had a great interview, someone more fitting might interview after you; if you had a bad interview, maybe it ended up being the least bad of the bunch.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 4:59 PM on October 24, 2010

To add another dimension, most of the jobs I've applied for have had multiple interviewers. They basically will sit down later and talk about the fit, what you'd be working on etc. and only if everything matches up will they hire you. There's just no way to know until you actually get the offer.
posted by devilsbrigade at 5:06 PM on October 24, 2010

Couple of indicators:
* If they start talking about $$$ at all
* If they start asking you about availability, i.e. starting date
* If they show you where you'd be sitting/working
* How soon they call you back is a good sign, too (provided they don't say "we gave it to someone else)
posted by Lukenlogs at 5:06 PM on October 24, 2010 [4 favorites]

On the other side of things, my daughter once had an interview where essentially the only thing she said was "I'm sorry I was late; I lost my wallet yesterday and I had a tough time getting through security in your lobby without any ID. Thanks for rescuing me." The lady showed her around, told her about the job, didn't ask any questions. It was a bust of an interview. Then a week later they called and offered her the position.
posted by CathyG at 5:17 PM on October 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

If they start showing you around and introducing you to people, that's a pretty good sign. :)
posted by Jacqueline at 5:21 PM on October 24, 2010 [3 favorites]

Not so much.

From an interviewers perspective, it was my job to make everyone feel good going out the door. Everyone who has a shot at the job -- I want to feel positively inclined to me if they end up with more than one offer when the time comes I make an offer. Everyone who doesn't have a shot, I'll still want them to feel that they were treated with respect -- especially because there's a sharp enough paper cut that nobody gets in to interview who doesn't have at least something on the ball.

When the shoe's been on the other foot, I've only known for sure I didn't get the job or the next interview when either (a) the interviewer was very unprofessional or (b) there were technical requriements I didn't meet, and didn't pretend to meet -- basically, there'd been an HR / resume screening error.
posted by MattD at 5:25 PM on October 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

You can't tell if you're going to be hired, but I feel like I've been able to tell when an interview went well (and my personal radar has been right 90% of the times where interviews have turned into an offer -- but that might be luck on my end):

At the end of an interview, if I feel like they've shifted to trying to sell ME on the job -- good sign. This has happened a couple of times where the power differential has shifted and the interviewers have started uptalking the cool bits about the position in an enthusiastic way.

Asking about availability.

Asking if I'm OK with certain parts of the job that could be seen as unfavorable (anything from bad parking to minimal benefits to whatever).

This isn't always the case -- some places are disorganized or busy -- but if they're trying hard to keep you in the loop and calling you in a timely manner, that's a good sign. I had one job where the hiring process was delayed for months, but my first interview went well and the interviewer called/e-mailed me several times to keep me in the loop, and assure me they were still interested. Extended silence is almost (and I really mean "almost" -- you never know!) a bad sign.

Introducing me to people on my way in and out. (At some interviews, this is standard, but I've noticed on favorable ones, the introductions are longer and tend to linger.)

Interviews where I haven't gotten the job, I felt rushed at the end of the interview and had the opposite experience with questions than the poster above - I asked my questions, but I could tell they were humoring me a bit. It's like dating, really - you get a vibe. I'm pretty tuned to my gut, so I can tell whether I clicked with a place, and vice versa.
posted by Laura Macbeth at 5:28 PM on October 24, 2010 [3 favorites]

holy cow, my experience is the complete opposite from most of the replies so far.. I knew pretty much at the end of the interview of every job I had whether I had the job or not (except my very first).
The difference in tone between getting the job and not getting job for me boiled down to whether the interviewer talked about me in the position, or just talked about the position in general. For example, if the interviewer began to say things like "Are you able to travel on short notice?" vs "This position sometimes requires travel on short notice, is that a problem?". Reading what I wrote I see that the text doesn't adequately convey the difference in tone, but there is a marked difference in tone (at least there was in my cases). Also, when I first started out in the job market, I got some career placement advice that has proved to be true as well. If the interview moves to be more just friendly banter, go with it - don't try to steer things back to be more topical (which would have been my response). It's a sign that the interviewer has made a decision that you are likely a good fit. In the job interviews that didn't lead to jobs there was usually some type of communication problem ... either using identical terms to mean different things, or a misunderstanding on the duties and responsibilities required.
Of course, I didn't know for sure whether I got the job until some time had passed, but 4 out of 5 interviews where I felt I was on the same page as the interviewers lead to a job offer. I've never got a job offer when the interviewer and I weren't able to connect (though I once move to a second interview).

tl;dr - If they're treating you like you already work there, you might be soon. If there's a communication gap, it's not a good sign.
posted by forforf at 5:29 PM on October 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

On post-preview - several others echoed my sentiment so my experience is no longer the countervailing one I originally thought it was.
posted by forforf at 5:32 PM on October 24, 2010

I applied for one position where I had a good phone interview and a good in-person interview and a writing test. I had told them I was going on my honeymoon so I would be out of town for a little. Someone called me the week I got back to schedule another interview. I was really excited. Then at this interview, they basically told me my writing sample was not what they wanted and asked in several different ways if I could handle the demands and time commitment required for this job. I got the rejection email a week or two later.

I interviewed at another place where the interviewer said the job would be really great for a part-time student. The rejection email came a few days later.

I've also had an interview where I was asked if I like ice cream cake. I got that job but it probably would have been better if I hadn't.

Anyway, no, there's no easy answer but I definitely agree with those who say that the interview is a two-way street where they get to see if they want you but you also get to see if you want them. I had one interview where I was coming from another job and I just wanted to stay at the place where I was interviewing - the people seemed great and I thought I would really like it and I was just hoping that maybe I could just pull up a chair somewhere and start working. Then I interviewed at another place and it was super quiet. I thought, this opportunity could be great but I'm not sure I could work in a place this quiet. Best wishes!
posted by kat518 at 5:40 PM on October 24, 2010

I might add that I've had to interview people many times but I'm always just a member of a team and my opinion of whether the candidate should be hired or not is just one vote in the hiring committee. And then even after the committee votes, the higher up managers get a veto. So you might do really well with me but get shot down by someone else along the line.
posted by octothorpe at 6:22 PM on October 24, 2010

Muaha. Yes, there is a foolproof sign. At least in my experience. YMMV, etc.

Focus carefully on the pronouns the interviewer uses at the beginning and the end of the interview.

At the beginning the interviewer may say something like "The support team does X, Y, Z" or "They do X, Y, Z."

At the end of the interview, if the interviewer has decided in your favor, you will hear them accidentally say something like, "You will be doing X, Y, Z" or "We will be doing X, Y, Z."

If the interviewer has not mentally hired you, they won't be casting you in those roles. They will continue to say things like "The support team" or "They."

The caveat being that the interviewer's decision isn't always final. They often get overruled for various reasons. But following the pronouns is, in my experience (and I have had a lot of jobs) a reliable indicator.
posted by ErikaB at 6:31 PM on October 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

If they start showing you around and introducing you to people, that's a pretty good sign. :)

I don't think so. At my last job I had no role in hiring but a whole parade of interviewees were introduced to me and shown my office. They also generally got a tour of the whole building. This was no sign of their likelihood of getting job. That was just the interviewer's style. It probably would have been more of a burden on him to try to figure out in advance who he was going to hire and only treat them to these tours, than to automatically give everyone a tour.

I mentioned "the interviewer's style." Think about it: interviewers are individuals, and different individuals have different styles of dealing with people. If you get a good or bad vibe from someone, you might assume this reflects on you as a candidate. But they might be like that with everyone they meet.

Seconding that you generally can't tell at all. Thinking back on an interview might be useful if you can analyze a specific thing you did wrong or right to remember for the future. But 99% of it is a total waste of time and just a way to stress yourself out.
posted by John Cohen at 6:34 PM on October 24, 2010

I knew pretty much at the end of the interview of every job I had whether I had the job or not (except my very first).
The difference in tone between getting the job and not getting job for me boiled down to whether the interviewer talked about me in the position, or just talked about the position in general. For example, if the interviewer began to say things like "Are you able to travel on short notice?" vs "This position sometimes requires travel on short notice, is that a problem?"

You know, I'm in the middle of interviewing for jobs now, and I've gotten a bunch of rejections following interviews, and I can remember a few off the top of my head where they asked about how my specific plans would fit in with the job. Not "This position requires the employee to live in the city" but "Would you plan to move to this city or would you commute?" As I said, these are interviews that have already led to rejections. I bet it's just been coincidence in your case; I don't think there's any way to know.

To the OP, I recommend doing every interview with a good attitude and not trying to pick up code words during the interview for whether or not you'll get the job. That won't do any good. You might as well assume in every interview that you have a strong chance but it's not assured. If you're being interviewed by someone who has already decided to reject you, what good would it do you to detect this? And once the interview is over there's nothing you can do to change anything (aside from standard formalities like thank you letters, which also don't depend on making a guess about whether you'll be hired).

Remember: there's no prize for guessing right about what will end up happening.
posted by John Cohen at 6:42 PM on October 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

For the job I have, a previous candidate was giving a presentation for the rest of the faculty (as part of the interview process) and I guess our director walked out in the middle of it.

I think something like that would be a pretty clear indication. Ouch.
posted by elder18 at 7:08 PM on October 24, 2010

I've got one question for you OP - even if there was a magic tell sign or indication that was 80% likely to tell you that you had the job - what would you do with that information?

Interviewing sucks. Looking for work sucks. But there is absolutely zero benefit in spending any time or energy on a process after the interview (beyond simple good housekeeping stuff like sending a thank you email). You can't influence the decision. Knowing you spotted an apparent 'tell' won't tell you anything for sure until they call you back with a job offer or email you to say no thanks.

The road to depression and long-term unemployment is paved with overinvestment in individual job applications. If you pursue the 'apply for a job, put everything into it and then wait and see' approach, you will be repeatedly crushed. Especially if it's a job with a long and involved process.

The secret is to keep applying. Do your interview, go home and have a cup of tea (interviews are stressful) and then keep looking. You might even find yourself having the awesome problem of more than one job to choose from.

Also, speaking as an interviewer, I do my level best to give little or no indication either way to candidates. I usually know pretty early in the process if someone has a decent chance, but it wouldn't be fair to other candidates for me to communicate that in any way.
posted by Happy Dave at 2:42 AM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Speaking from the HR perspective here. Quite often it is not my call, but rather, the hiring manager's. As others have said, every company is different. My last company placed much of the emphasis on the interview with the hiring manager, with me serving as a screener (for lower level positions) or sniff-tester/additional set of eyes (for higher level jobs). Also, this company was very small and the CEO interviewed every candidate that got through HR and hiring manager.

I've been job hunting for months now and look at it this way: Treat every interview as a chance to polish your interview skills. Some may see it as a time-waster, but I've actually gone on interviews for positions that I was not really stoked about, just so I could practice.

Since my company was very small and hiring decisions were made quickly (within a week, usually. I got my offer from them on the spot at my first interview), I did not send out notifications to candidates that did not make it until an offer was accepted. That way we had a back up candidate in the event that the 1st choice rejected the offer or reneged after accepting. It sounds cruel, but it also prevents the #2 choice from realizing that they were, in fact, #2.
posted by sundrop at 5:45 AM on October 25, 2010

I've never had a bad interview (knocking on wood), and there's been times when I have been offered the position, and others when I haven't. At my current job, my boss told me that she and her superior both thought I interviewed really well. Looking back, I remember feeling in my gut that it went well, but having to play the waiting game sucked. I did make a few discreet calls to HR, and then finally a well-worded, no-pressure email to the hiring manager after I hadn't heard back for two weeks. Turns out the HR director was out of town, so they couldn't proceed with the paperwork till she returned.

tl;dr - your gut instinct might be the best way to tell if you've gotten a job, but obviously there's no guarantees.
posted by Everydayville at 11:24 AM on October 25, 2010

Response by poster: My gut seems to be pointing both ways.
posted by antgly at 4:50 PM on October 25, 2010

« Older Tell me about gangster funerals   |   How do I get rid of this pesky corn? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.