A reader asked “How do I know if my job interview went well?” Great question. But is there really a way to tell a good interview from a bad one? Although you often have some feeling about how you did, truth is you don’t really know how you did on the interview — or the impression you left — until you hear back from the employer.
Maybe (fingers crossed) you’ll get a good-news call soon for a second interview. Perhaps even an offer. But maybe just a prolonged silence as they figure out next steps.
While silence might not always be bad news, it is very very annoying. And leaves you asking yourself all kinds of questions. And rethinking everything you said and did during the interview.
Another annoying part of interviews
Even if the job interview went well, you still might not get the call-back or the actual job. Final decisions are all about fit — and of course depend on the other candidates. Sometimes there’s more than one good candidate. And so, even if they loved you, you still might not get the job.
I’ve interviewed plenty of people that I liked a lot. Sometimes I even bent over backwards during the interview to help them relax enough to show us their true potential. But, in the end, I also knew enough about the particular job and personality of the place to know when they — even some wonderful candidates — just weren’t the right fit for us.
Clues for job interview going well
Here are some things that might at least give you some sense of how well you did on your interview. Although admittedly harder, even on a video interview, you can tell a lot by reading the cues:
- Were they leaning in toward you with enthusiasm?
- Did they show a good deal of open body language? (In contrast to them being kind of closed down, with arms close to the body and not relaxed.)
- Did you notice that the position of their hands or body in some way matched yours? (This sometimes happens and shows a feeling of being in sync.)
- Were they smiling and nodding as you spoke – even if it was barely perceptible?
- Was the interview longer than 20 minutes?
- Did they follow up on things you said or just stick to a script? (Some places require the script, so this only helps for places that don’t.)
- Were they including phrases like “when you are working here” or “you’ll see for yourself”?
- Did they ask you about how soon you could start? If so, how was it phrased? If it was just a standard interview question, it would have been quickly delivered. When it’s about real interest, there might be follow-up questions or comments. Plus prolonged eye contact.
- If they asked you whether you had any last questions, did they say it with a smile leaning in toward you with real interest or at least showing open body language?
- Did they tell you you’ll hear from them soon?
- How about the human connection? Did the interaction feel real and get more comfortable as the interview went on? And did you actually feel the connection?
The more “yes” answers, the better it went. But it’s not a for-sure negative if the answers were mostly “no.” Different places have different interview styles. And as I already said, there’s also no absolute guarantee even if every answer is a “yes” and you left feeling great.
“In the moment” interview tips
Now here’s the most important thing … if you are consciously noticing each and every one of their reactions during the interview (to the point of making mental notes), then for goodness sake stop yourself! You aren’t in the moment if you’re thinking about how it’s going. And it will show in the connection they feel — or don’t feel.
Be aware enough to make adjustments along the way. But for the most part, just do your best to relax and be yourself. Focus on the interviewer’s questions and how open and honest YOU can be. Afterward, check your instincts for how you think it went. You’ll probably have a pretty good idea.
But since you can never know what they’re really looking for or exactly what type of person they have in mind (you’d be amazed at how different employers can be in what they think makes a good match), your best bet is to be real and remember to show them how you fit THEIR needs.
And then breathe a deep sigh of relief after you leave the interview room. Congratulate yourself on doing the best you could. And just get on with your life — continuing to look for a job until you actually get one. You’ve done all you can on this one. (Once you’ve sent the polite thank-you note(s), of course. And maybe an occasional follow-up.)
Interview went well & rejected
Yes, I know that doesn’t feel great — even for the interviewer if they like you. I’ve interviewed many people that I hated having to say no to. And that’s why if you feel it went well, stay in touch — starting with a good thank you note. (You never know where that might lead.)
But I want you to know that a rejection doesn’t always reflect on YOU or how you interviewed. It’s like dating. There are great people out there who just aren’t right for you. In some cases, it may even be a blessing!
Rest assured … if it’s a good fit, they’ll call you. And if not, you might have lucked out. Hopefully the next one will be THE ONE. Or the next. Sometimes it takes a while for the right job to find us. And so our most important job during this time is staying determined, continuing to look beyond just job boards, and keeping spirits up as best you can.
But just know, even if it takes time and even if you need to make a few shifts in strategy along the way (while continuing to network), eventually you’ll get yourself there. Hard as it is to believe during the oh-so-frustrating job search process, it will happen for you. Remember, it only takes one “YES!”
[Post updated in 2020]
About the author…
Ronnie Ann, founder of Work To the Wise and Work Coach Cafe, bases her real-world advice on her many years as an organizational consultant where she helped interview and hire people, added to a certificate from NYU in Career Planning & Development, as well as her many adventures as a serial job seeker.
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