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Interview 'Signs' Can Be Misleading

Conflicting SignsAlison Green's recent U.S. News & World Report blog post, 7 Signs Your Interview Went Well, got me thinking about how you can tell if your interview went well or badly. Too often, we sit waiting patiently at home for weeks after an interview, only to learn the company is not interested and actually never was interested to begin with.

While I applaud Alison's "7 Signs," I also know that interviewers can be masters of deception. Here are other ways of interpreting those signs:

1. The interviewer gives you a clear timeline.

Interviewers who give you a clear timeline are lying, but they don't realize they're lying at the time. They believe they're telling the truth, but things change and timelines are rarely kept. One example is Melissa G., a friend who interviewed for an accounting supervisor's position here in New England. On a Friday, the hiring manager told her to expect a call on Monday from HR with an offer. Monday came and went, so Melissa called the hiring manager Tuesday morning. When she got no response, she waited a day and called the HR manager, who was to have called on Monday. Melissa never got a call back from the company, never received an offer, and finally got a rejection letter in the mail two weeks later.

The moral of this story is: Don't believe any timeline given by the company. You know you did well on the interview when the company gives you a written, signed offer. Never stop interviewing until you start your new position. And after you start, keep your network active and your resume up-to-date. You never know when you'll need them next.

On a side note, almost every employee is an "employee at will." This means you can be released at any time, with or without cause. It also means you have the choice to leave anytime you like, with or without cause. Be prepared. It's your career and livelihood.

2. The interviewer asks about your timeline.

Interviewers, especially recruiters, ask this question to discern if other companies are interested in you. If you're in demand, then the interviewing company begins to believe that you must be talented because other companies want you.

When you're asked about your timeline, state the following: "Based on current activities, I plan to make a decision within 2 to 3 weeks, if not sooner." This is your plan, and no matter what your actual situation is, you now appear to be in demand.

3. The interviewer tries to sell the position or company to you.

Skilled interviewers are trained to spend a little time selling the company because every candidate knows at least 250 people. One of the best ways to improve a company's reputation is through the hiring process. Just because they sell you on the company doesn't mean they want to hire you. All it means is that they want you to have a positive experience so that you'll talk about it with your friends later. But if they don't hire you and give you the runaround like they did to Melissa, they could easily ruin their own reputation and there go 250 people who might have been interested in them.

4. The interviewer spends a lot of time answering your questions.

Unskilled interviewers are relieved when you ask questions because they don't have to think about what to ask you. If they don't ask detailed questions, they probably don't care enough to understand your talents. Or, more likely, they have no idea how to interview effectively. As I've stated before, most interviewers have no idea what they're doing. If you ever run into a skilled interviewer, rejoice.

5. The interview runs over the allotted time.

This simply means the interviewer needs training in time management or they're trying to waste time because they hate their job.

6. After you're done, the interviewer introduces you to others or shows you around the office.

This is a good indication that you're doing well in your interview. But remember that every person you meet has veto power over the hiring decision. So you must interview well with each and every person you meet, but don't read too much else into this.

7. Your references tell you that the employer called them.

This is also a good indicator that you did well in the interview. It also indicates you're either the candidate of choice or one of the finalists. But in some situations, it could mean the company is trying to recruit your references for the same or another position.

———

To really know if your interview went well, ask the following three questions of every interviewer at the end of each meeting:

"What do you feel my strengths are for this position?"
This gets the interviewer to tell you what they understand about you and the value you bring to the position. Don't argue with them. Just agree and listen.

"What concerns do you have about my background?"
This reveals areas of perceived weakness. This is the most important information for you to gather because the perceived weaknesses are the issue that will eliminate you from further consideration. Respond to the interviewer by providing additional information about this dimension of your experience.

"How do you feel my style will fit with the rest of the team?"
This question communicates that you understand the importance of "fit" with the team. Fitting in with the team is often the most important thing. If you're qualified but you don't fit, you won't get hired. If you fit and are less qualified than another candidate, you'll get the offer. Fit almost always trumps qualifications.

Have you seen any of these signs in a job interview? Did you get the offer or not? Share your experiences with us.

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