Photo: M Car via flickr
You arrived dressed in your best suit, tackled every question, and think that you made an excellent impression overall.But you still didn’t get the job.
Where did you go wrong? You might go crazy trying to guess. But if you pay close attention, you can tell when an employer is a little turned off. After conducting their umpteenth interview, most interviewers reveal tell-tale signs inadvertently about their level of interest in a candidate.
Learning to pick up on these signals can give you the opportunity to save a sinking ship. Take a lesson from Dave Donahue, a specialist in the Ruby on Rails Web application who works at the software engineering firm 12 Spokes. According to the company’s official blog, Donahue bombed his phone interview initially. Fifteen minutes in, he listened to his gut, swallowed his pride and said: “I feel like this is going really badly—I’m really nervous, can we start over?” Bold move. But it worked for 12 Spokes president and co-founder, Trey Bean, who liked the confidence Donahue had to speak up and correct course.
Of course, this tactic isn’t foolproof—it won’t work on every employer. Still, it helps to be aware of the situation so you can better gauge expectations. According to the experts, these are some common signs your interview didn’t go so well:
1. The in-person interview ends in 15 minutes. A typical interview should last at least 30 minutes—and in a good interview, that time will fly by. “If the interviewer keeps looking at their watch throughout the interview it is a good indication they are bored or not too interested in what the candidate is saying,” says Stacy Pursell, executive search consultant at The Pursell Group.
2. They don’t discuss your skills. If an employer neglects to talk about the skills necessary for the position and only talks about the company casually, it means she’s not that interested, according to Rochelle Kaplan, executive recruiter at CyberCoders. If an interviewer is not talking about your skills specifically, she’s just going through the motions without much investment in you.
3. The interviewer is distracted easily by calls or business. No matter how busy an employer is, if she’s into you, she’ll turn off her phone during your interview. After all, seeking a potentially great new hire proves important when it comes to prioritizing her business.
4. They don’t respond to your accomplishment stories. Did you hear crickets after telling her your amazing achievements? This was a strong indication that the interviewer wasn’t too into you, says Darrell W. Gurney, a career coach and the author of Never Apply for a Job Again!: Break the Rules, Cut the Line, Beat the Rest. According to him, interested interviewers would ask questions or at least react to your accomplishments.
5. They don’t smile. If they don’t even smile once, then chances are that all bets are off, Gurney says. They should exude a little happiness to have met and interviewed you, and smiling is the best indication.
6. It feels like an interrogation. Both Gurney and Pursell agree that a good interview should feel like a conversation—not like you’re in the hot seat. “It’s important to build rapport and find common ground,” Pursell says. “There should be back and forth dialogue and it should not be a one-sided conversation.”
7. “We have a lot of interviews this week.” If they say this at the end of your interview, then it means they are still shopping around for the best candidate—which means, they aren’t sure you’re it. Kaplan says that this, coupled with, “we’ll let you know next week (next month, etc.)” means trouble. If they really wanted you, they’d lock you in for at least another interview. But the phrase doesn’t sound too unpromising, right? Well, employers often take this route because it’s the path of least resistance, Gurney says. “Nobody wants to be in a position to have to defend their gut feelings of fit or not.” And this phrase is the most common way employers soften the blow.
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