You’re in the hot seat, answering every question thrown your way — but you haven’t a clue whether the hiring manager likes you.
“It’s not uncommon to believe you bombed the interview from hell, only to be baffled days later when you get a job offer,” says Lynn Taylor, a national workplace expert and the author of “Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant: How to Manage Childish Boss Behaviour and Thrive in Your Job.”
“Most interviewers are skilled at holding out judgment until they’re relatively sure you’re a good hire. It’s not personal, just part of the territory. It’s a combination of chess and poker; you don’t know their next manoeuvre, and it’s hard to read them.”
To get a better sense of how you’re doing in a job interview, you’ll want to look for some subtle signs the hiring manager likes you, even if it doesn’t feel like it. Here are a few to keep an eye out for:
A distant demeanour, but a long interview
Hiring managers may intentionally avoid letting on that they're impressed as a negotiating tool.
'It's not unlike your visiting a car showroom,' says Taylor. 'You wouldn't immediately tell the sales person, 'Wow, I want this car!' Both you and the interviewer want some negotiating power. In the case of a hiring manager, being overzealous about you creates the risk that you'll want a higher salary.'
However, if this is happening, but your interview is an hour or more long, that's your clue that they're playing it cool. 'Most hiring managers won't waste precious time if they're not seriously interested.'
They ask a long series of tough questions
'Your hiring manager is not trying to create a torture chamber, although it might feel like one,' she says. 'If the questions seem endless, as rigorous as they might be, your prospective boss is trying to gather as much information on you in the time allotted.'
Beware, though, if they seem mean-spirited; this is your vetting opportunity, too.
They pay little attention to your answers
This can be perceived as a lack of interest -- except for the fact they may be so excited about your prospects that they aren't paying close attention to what you say, Taylor explains. 'They may be pondering the bigger picture of how you'd fit in and next steps. Or, they may want to cover as much ground as they can. Either way, this could bode well for you.'
They display inconsistent behaviour
A hiring manager who's really interested in you might act differently towards you over the course of the interview.
'One moment they may be smiling and encouraging, but in another, they may throw you off with a zinger question when you least expect it,' says Taylor. 'It's all part of the cat and mouse game, so you might as well try to enjoy the ride.'
They ask a lot of hypothetical questions
These can be excruciating to answer, but if you see a shift from more general questions to hypothetical ones, they may have actually decided it's time to delve beyond skills sets and more deeply into your work style.
'You may have passed the test on core questions,' Taylor says. 'Also, the hypothetical questions may move into the framework of the job at hand, which is a good sign.'
They place emphasis on speaking with your references
This can be confusing if used as a constant caveat, e.g., 'Well, I'd have to see what your references would say about that!' But in reality, if references are being addressed, you've passed a major hurdle, she says.
They ask oddball questions with a detectable smile
If you get one or more of these, but your interviewer is balancing your panic with a sly smile, they're probably rooting for you, Taylor explains. 'You may notice other body language that contradicts the intensity of the question, such as leaning forward or watching your reaction intently.'
They keep you waiting
If the hiring manager has to deal with something urgent or take an important call in the middle of your interview and they ask you to wait, this is a good sign. If they weren't interested in you, they might cut the interview off right then and there. But if they like you, they will want to continue the conversation after they finish dealing with the crisis at hand.
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