When speaking to clients or friends who are in the job search process, I often come across people feeling really disappointed after not getting hired, after what they thought was a very “positive” interview experience.
Many times, when asked to elaborate on the “positive experience”, they say things like:
“But, they were so nice to me throughout! They really liked me!”
“They put me through so many stages, it was impossible that they weren’t gonna hire me!”
In this post, I list some of the common ways that interviewees misinterpret the speech and action of interviewers, and read too much into something that probably wasn’t there in the first place.
#1 Showing you around the office or introducing you to colleagues
- What the interviewer says: Let me show around our office
- What you hear: We are hiring you, and this will be where you are working.
- What they actually mean: We show every candidate – ones we intend to hire and don’t intend to – the office as part of the hiring process
#2 Telling you, you will go on to meet very important people in the company
- What the interviewer says: You will know more when you meet the CEO
- What you hear: Yes! I’m meeting the CEO because I’m being offered the job!
- What they actually mean: You may meet the CEO, if and when you get moved to the next stage. This isn’t a guarantee that you are getting hired
#3 Praising/talking up your skillset or qualifications
- What the interviewer says: Your skills really fit in with the business areas we are looking to grow
- What you hear: They’ve already decided that I will be a part of the team, cause of my niche skill set
- What they actually mean: Your skills do fit into specific areas of the business, just like the others in the pool of strong candidates. You all have differing skillsets and we still need to decide on the best fit
#4 Timelines, timelines
- What the interviewer says: We will move you forward to the next stage sometime next week
- What you hear: It’s Thursday today, so they will definitely tell me something by next Thursday
- What they actually mean: Looking at the interview schedules right now, we may get back sometime next week. This may change.
#5 Let’s go somewhere posh to talk
- What the interviewer does: Takes you to lunch/a posh cafe and spends hours talking to you
- How you interpret it: Wow if they are investing so much time, paying for my meals, it must mean they really like me and I am a very strong hire!
- What they actually mean: Some interviewers like to do this because 1) they want to observe you in a more natural setting 2) their organisations just have the budget for these things 3) they just like to impress whoever they are meeting 4) they do this to every candidate
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#6 You are funny!
- What the interviewer does: Laughs at your jokes/jokes around/asks slightly personal questions
- How you interpret it: Damn! They must really like me so much, they are so nice to me and trying to get to know me better!
- What they actually mean: Some interviewers have a very relaxed, joke-y style with every interviewee they speak to. That is just their personal style. Some have the habit of asking you personal questions to get to know you better as a person and to make you feel more relaxed. It doesn’t mean anything.
#7 Let’s go through all the rounds…
- What the interviewer does: Put you through 5-6 rounds of interviews
- How you interpret it: Damn! I’m so close to getting hired, I MUST be getting hired because they wouldn’t waste so much time doing all these.
- What they actually mean: We do these to all our candidates as we want to get an overall sense as to who really is the most persevering and the best fit for our company.
Why is this happening?
The hiring process has always been fraught with uncertainty and empty promises. However, unfortunately, with the pandemic situation, and employers being very picky with who they are getting on board, hiring processes are getting longer, the uncertainty has been exacerbated.
Employers are now taking their time to hire and expecting alot more from candidates (which explains the lengthy JDs you see these days).
I’ve had the misfortune to go through 4+ rounds with several companies, spent MONTHS on interviews, case studies, presentations etc, only to be told I wasn’t hired or that the role no longer exists.
You cannot really predict with high accuracy what companies are really doing and thinking, plus the added uncertainty around hiring has made the whole process more confusing.
What should you do instead?
Prepare for the interviews and attend them as you would any important event in your life. But don’t count too much on anything happening.
Do not project or read too much into what your interviewers are saying and doing. And recognise that the hiring process is so unstable these days, things can change anytime.
Do your best and let go. The right job will come!