5 Suspicious Signs Your Job Interview Went Poorly

By University of Arkansas Grantham May 18, 2016

Editor's note: Sources updated as of May 2019

The mind of a job seeker one hour after completing a job interview can operate like a broken record. Often times, the broken record plays back the same few questions.

Did they like me? Did I answer the questions the way the interviewer wanted? Will they call me back?

I've been there. Recent graduates of online degree programs have been there. We've all been there.

Sometimes, you can read signs from the interviewer that indicate interest. A while back, we wrote a blog on five positive signs that your job interview went well. Today, we're writing this follow-up post with the opposite approach: five suspicious signs your job interview went poorly (with suggestions on ways to improve for the future):

1. Every question the interviewer asks seems rehearsed.

Of course, interviewers will ask you some of the same questions, but you can tell if you're generating interest by the interviewer's follow-up questions. Memorable interviews create free-flowing conversation around particular topics. Along the same lines, if the interviewer keeps rephrasing the same questions over and over, it may be a sign that you’re not giving clear enough answers.1

How to improve: Accompany your answer with a short story about a related achievement. That will attract the attention of interviewers and make them more likely to ask you to elaborate. Don't tell a story after every question, but if you choose your spot wisely, it could make a positive impact.

2. The job interview lasts less than the scheduled time.

I'm not talking about a 55-minute interview that was scheduled for an hour. If your hour-long scheduled interview lasts 25-30 minutes, however, it could be a sign the interviewer does not see your experience and skill-set matching the position.

How to improve: Focus on connecting your experience and skill-set with work achievements in the form of short stories. Once you have that down, you are more likely to pique the interviewer's interest and have a more extensive interview.

Also, be sure to neither oversell, nor undersell yourself. Avoid answering questions with phrases that belittle, “I’ve actually never done this type of job before, but…”, or self-aggrandize, “I really can’t imagine anyone more qualified than me”, your experience and skills.2

3. The company is talking to lots of candidates.

If the interviewer repeatedly says he/she is talking to many candidates, this could be a way of tempering your expectations. One mention of this line - don't worry about it. Several mentions - it could be a sign.

How to improve: Make yourself stand out from the crowd with an immediate, positive follow-up emails re-outlining your skills. A quick response to your thank you email could be a good sign. However, if you are told you are out of the running for an opportunity, there's nothing wrong with politely asking the interviewer how you could have been a more serious candidate. It will help you tailor your approach for future interviews.

4. The next step is unclear.

Interviewers who are serious about an applicant will make the next step apparent. If you receive a vague response regarding follow-up steps, it may be a sign the interviewer is not interested.

How to improve: Don't take this suspicious sign as the be-all, end-all of poor interviews. Some interviewers are naturally vague about follow-up steps because they truly are interviewing more candidates. To get a clearer answer, don't be afraid to ask the following questions:

  • When are you looking to fill the position?
  • I'm very interested in the position, and I'd like to keep in touch. What is the next step in the process?

5. Putting heavy emphasis on other skill areas.

If the interviewer is stressing a particular skill throughout the interview that you don't have, it could be a sign the organization is going in another direction.

How to improve: If you're serious about expanding your skill-set, consider how an online degree could assist in this area.

If you notice a few of these signs, it won't crush your chances of landing the job. It should primarily act as a warning sign. Either way, there are ways to improve and become a more serious candidate next time around. One of the most important bits of advice to remember is to keep a positive outlook.

About the Author

University of Arkansas Grantham
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