Just had a job interview and thought it went badly?
While you can’t always tell how well a job interview went, there are a number of signs you can watch out for that indicate you weren’t quite up to scratch.
Keep in mind that a sign is not always clear cut and there will always be exceptions, so take each of these with a grain of salt.
1. They Said They Will Call You
Telling an interviewee they didn’t get the job right after an interview isn’t the norm, at least not directly.
Interviewers avoid this because:
- They may find it difficult to be so direct with you
- They don’t want to cause you embarrassment
- They’re concerned you might react badly (arguing, crying, begging, refusing to leave, etc.)
So, understandably, they avoid a potentially awkward or unpleasant situation by using the well established line; “we’ll get back to you” or “we’ll call you” — even if they don’t intend to.
This isn’t always a bad sign as some hiring decisions just aren’t decided on the spot, especially if other candidates are waiting to be interviewed, but it’s typically not what you want to hear when leaving an interview room.
2. They Emphasized The Negative Aspects
Another gentle way to let you down is to make the job as unattractive as possible so it becomes much less of a blow once you learn you haven’t secured it.
They do this by highlighting the worst parts about the job.
For example, the interviewer might hit on:
- How long the commute is
- How long the hours are
- How low the salary is
- How limited the career ladder is
- How demanding the role is
Even if they were true, it would be against the company’s interest to highlight these points if they genuinely wanted to get you on board. A good recruiter would avoid such topics unless asked.
3. There Was No Chemistry
You know when you meet someone new and you both just… click?
That’s chemistry – and it does wonders for you in a job interview if that connection is present with the interviewer.
You’ll know if there’s chemistry during an interview. It’s a level of comfort you have with a stranger that can’t really be described, but something you can feel in your gut.
The thing is, when you lack chemistry, that emotional connection, you’ll find you have to work a lot harder to establish a professional connection because the interviewer isn’t as vested in your success.
A lack of chemistry isn’t a sure sign of a failed interview, but it creates a tougher environment that ultimately reduces your chances of securing the position.
4. They Ended The Interview Early
If an interviewer decides you aren’t a right fit midway through an interview, there’s a good chance they’ll try to cut it short to avoid wasting any more of everyone’s time.
They might do this by coming up with an excuse or creating a fake emergency, which—barring a genuine emergency—is about as clear a sign you could probably hope for
A more subtle approach is to cut back on asking you all of the intended questions and follow up questions. This is a little harder to detect since you can’t see the list of questions.
With the being said, since the average job interview lasts around 30-45 minutes, you’ll know something’s up if you find yourself being escorted out at the 10 minute mark.
Of course, there are exceptions where the interview process is much less stringent and therefore shorter, such as coming in on a recommendation or applying for a low-demand job.
5. They Rarely Made Eye Contact
Eye contact is a powerful form of human connection that communicates both emotion and intention, be it positive or negative.
In an interview setting, eye contact tells you the interviewer is not only paying attention to what you have to say, but is also engaged with and interested in what you have to say.
If you noticed the interviewer wasn’t looking at you very often, particularly while you were speaking, this is usually a sign that their focus is elsewhere.
It’s worth noting that some people have what’s called ‘eye contact anxiety’ which can give off the wrong impression in scenarios like this, so it shouldn’t be too heavily relied on.
6. Their Body Language Was Off
This is similar to eye contact, but body language encompasses so much more than just the eyes.
An interviewer can be engaged with you and even interested in hearing your response to a question, but still know internally you’re not a good fit for the position.
Fortunately, body language is a very good indicator when trying to gauge how someone is feeling at a particular moment in time, so you can gain some insights that most people simply overlook.
Here are some body language signals you don’t want to see:
- Their body was angled away from you
- They didn’t smile or laugh very often
- They rarely nodded in agreement
- They kept fidgeting with something
- They gave one word replies to your questions
The more you see of the above, the more likely they aren’t engaged in the conversion, which is undoubtedly a bad sign.
7. There Was A Sticking Point
In a job interview, a “sticking point” is something the interviewer struggles to understand or accept about your response.
So what do they do? They repeat the same question in various forms throughout the interview, looking for an answer that alleviates their concerns.
Their goal is to sniff out any potential flaws.
It could be a character flaw—based on a series of short-term employers or a long, unexplained job gap—or a professional flaw— based on a lack of experience or qualifications, or perhaps even overqualification.
Whatever it is, if an interviewer keeps coming back to the same point, especially again at the very end of the interview, you can be sure they weren’t satisfied with your previous answer.
8. They Didn’t Ask Key Questions
There are certain questions every interviewer or employer needs to ask to properly assess you for a role.
Making a hiring decision without knowing this information is highly unlikely, so not being asked is a pretty good sign that your prospects are dwindling.
These are some of the questions you hope to be asked:
- What’s your availability?
- What are your current commitments?
- What are your long-term commitments?
- Where do you see yourself in 5 or 10 years?
- What are your long-term goals?
- Do you have any other questions?
9. They Asked A Weird Question
While there are some interview questions you can expect and even hope for, others are a clear sign that things are going south.
You don’t have to be familiar with common interview questions to know when an “odd” question rears its head, you can just feel that it’s out of place.
If you’re reading this after an interview, you shouldn’t have any trouble recalling one if it was asked of you.
These types of questions are typically follow up questions in response to an answer that didn’t land well for whatever reason, and can come across as impulsive… because they are.
- Do you always react that way?
- Do you have any regrets about that?
- What would you do differently today?
If you felt you needed to defend or backpedal on an answer during your interview, it’s probably because the interviewer communicated disapproval through one of these questions, even if you weren’t consciously aware of it.
10. They Didn’t Tell You About The Role
The purpose of a job interview is to qualify yourself for the position.
But here’s the thing: Once you’ve successfully qualified yourself and the interviewer determines you’re a suitable candidate, you’ll notice a shift tends to happen during the interview process.
They begin to qualify the job to you.
This involves telling you about the position itself, including the various duties it entails, the kinds of people you’d be working with, and maybe even some of the job perks.
If an understanding of the position is already well established then this is redundant, but in most cases there will be some form of “sell” where the roles between interviewer and interviewee are seemingly reversed for a short moment.
Otherwise, there’s a good chance the interviewer already disqualified you and therefore had no reason to give you more information about the position.
11. They Didn’t Talk About The Career Path
Aside from temporary positions and freelancing gigs, companies almost always look to hire for the long-term.
A big part of any long-term plan for employees is their future prospects within the company, and that means working their way up the career ladder in order to occupy the more senior positions.
A job interview void of any discussion around career progression is certainly something to be concerned about.
It’s worth pointing out, however, that some interviewers leave this for the ‘after interview questions’. This is used to gauge how (or if) you see your future in the company, as anyone looking for a stopgap is unlikely to bring this up.
You’ll Know Soon Enough
You can work yourself up over the possibility that you somehow flunked the job interview, but you won’t know until you know.
Most companies will call or email you within a few days, but if you haven’t heard back in 2 weeks, chances are your hunch was right.