You’ve completed a job interview and think that you’ve messed it up. It happens, but it can leave you with a horrible sinking feeling. Job interviews are nerve-wracking, no matter how much you prepare for them in advance. Not knowing how the interview went can be worse than going through the process itself. Thankfully, there are ways to tell if your interview went poorly or much better than you’d thought.
Even if you’ve prepared thoroughly for many days, your job interview may not always go to plan. For example, you may get difficult questions that you weren’t expecting or not get along with the interviewer. Sometimes, you can make adjustments during the interview itself to turn things around, but that’s not always possible. Of course, it can also be the case that your expectations were higher than the person interviewing you!
You walk away with the feeling that you were unsuccessful and awaited your rejection letter in the post. But, it doesn’t necessarily mean that all hope is lost. There is no guarantee you won’t get the job based on a bad job interview. You aren’t always the best person to make a judgment, not least because you don’t know the standard of competition that you’re up against. Other interviewees may also have struggled for similar reasons to yourself.
There are signs that your interview went well, but there are also signs to look out for to suggest that it’s gone poorly. If you pay attention to both, you can make the most of your interview experience. Most importantly, you’ll be better placed to check if you’ve been successful or unsuccessful.
How to Know If You Messed up an Interview
This guide will focus on several signs to pay attention to during (and after) your job interview. It will also give you tips on what you can reflect on once the interview is over. You may think your interview went well, but if you noticed any of these signs, it might not have been as good as you think.
Usually, people can tell whether they bombed their job interview. Not only is it important to notice the telltale signs of a bad interview, but if there is anything you can do during or after to change the outcome.
So, whether you have an interview coming up or you recently went through one, consider these negative signs that you can pay attention to. The more of them you notice from your interviewer, the worse your interview may be going. Your chances of getting hired may be in jeopardy.
The Interview is Short
The average time for a good job interview is about 30 minutes. If your job interview is going well, the interviewer may even extend it so they can ask you more questions and learn more about you.
There should be plenty to discuss in an interview. Between going over job duties and asking questions, it shouldn’t be difficult to make an interview last at least 30 minutes. A few minutes shaved off that time is probably nothing to worry about. But, if your interviewer suggests the meeting is over after just a few minutes, it’s not a good sign.
You can try to take control sometimes in this situation if you have valid questions about the job. It could turn things around if you show a strong interest in the position and ask relevant questions. But, be careful in doing this too much. If it’s obvious you’re just trying to extend the interview, it could irritate the interviewer, who probably has a lot of other people to talk to.
Uncomfortable Body Language
One of the easiest ways to see how someone is feeling is to look at their body language. It can tell you a lot about someone when they aren’t saying something out loud. There are positive body language signs to look for, like leaning in close or smiling.
But, you should also be aware of negative signs, including:
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- Leaning away
- Arms crossed
- Not making eye contact
Another sign to pay attention to is if your interviewer seems easily distracted by other things. There may be small signs like asking you to repeat something you just said. Or, they could be obvious with their distraction, doing things like answering phone calls or even leaving the room for minutes at a time. This type of attitude might be a little unprofessional, but it does happen and is a clear sign your interview isn’t going well.
You’ll probably be able to tell just by observing if your interviewer is uncomfortable or not. They could be showing signs of boredom, irritation, or just disinterest. If their body language suggests they aren’t interested, it’s a clear sign that they don’t think you’re the right for the job, or they dislike your personality.
Your Interviewer is Taking Too Long with Questions
Regardless of the company’s size, an interviewer will usually have a list of prepared questions to ask. They are looking for someone that can fit their needs, so the questions they ask need to reflect that.
Because of their preparedness, it should never take a long time for an interviewer to come up with their next question. If you’ve answered something and they seem to be struggling to come up with another question, it’s because they’ve gone ‘off script.’ This is a sign that they don’t want to go through the rest of the process with you, and are trying to think of quick questions that can help the interview to wrap up faster.
If you notice that your interviewer seems only to be asking random questions that take a long time to come up with, they probably don’t want to hire you.
Another clear sign is if your interviewer starts asking more general questions that have nothing to do with the job. It’s not uncommon for interviewers to ask you more about yourself. But, if they ask you something that you know won’t be helpful in the hiring process, you can assume the worst. It’s likely they are just trying to pass the time of your interview until the next person comes along.
Other (Better) Candidates Are Mentioned
In a good interview, you might hear throughout the process that the interviewer thinks you would be suitable for the job based on your skills. This is a great feeling and can help to give you confidence in getting hired. Unfortunately, it can also go the opposite way, which is a sign that you’re not being considered.
Your potential employer should only discuss you and not other candidates if they think you’d be a good fit for the job. If they start talking about other people they’ve interviewed and compared them to the skills you have to offer, it’s unlikely you’ll get the job. They already have someone else in mind.
What you can do, though, is use this particular ‘sign’ as a learning tool. Every business is looking for something different when it comes to the people they hire. But, pay attention to the skills and traits your interviewer is talking about when it comes to other candidates. It can be a good idea to try adopting some of those skills and attributes yourself. If they are what interviewers are looking for, they can help you at your next meeting.
You Don’t Learn Details About the Company
If an employer wants to hire you, they’ll want to make sure you know as much about the company and job position as possible. In some cases, they may even try to ‘sell’ you on it because they want you on board.
An interview should cover everything from what you can expect from the job, like daily and long-term responsibilities. They may also tell you what the day-to-day environment is like, or where the company is expected to go as far as growth is concerned. The more positive things they can tell you about what to expect, the better.
But, if your interviewer is vague and doesn’t go over any of the specific job responsibilities, it isn’t a good sign. They may not see a point in telling you the details of a job or business that they know you won’t get hired into. You can ask questions about the position, of course, but unless your interviewer is willing to dive into some detail, it’s unlikely they’re interested in you.
The Focus Stays on Your Resume
Maybe you were able to get an interview based on a resume you sent to the company. This is a good sign that they’re interested in you based on either your skills or past job experiences. But, it’s not enough to rely solely on your resume. The interview process could still be uncomfortable and unsuccessful, even if you have a glowing resume. After all, it is just a piece of paper.
If the interviewer continues to only focus on your resume and ask questions based on the information from it, they probably aren’t interested in you. A sign of a good interview is when the interviewer asks you questions about yourself and wants you to expand on the information from your resume, not just stick to it.
This is a perfect example of ‘looking good on paper.’ You may have the qualifications for a certain job, but it takes more than that to be a good fit. Your interviewer will likely be able to pick up on whether you are a strong candidate right away. So, if they only seem to want to stick to your resume, it’s a clear sign that they don’t think you have all the skills or personality needed to fit the job.
There are occasions when the signs listed so far can be a coincidence. Maybe your interviewer is having a bad day. Or, maybe they are rushing through things. But, it’s the proper business etiquette for them to recognize these things. For example, if your interview was extremely short, and your interviewer apologizes for it, the duration may not have been because you’re not a good fit for the job.
But, if you feel like the interview went poorly for a variety of reasons and they don’t apologize for it, it’s another sign that they don’t want you. Again, it may not seem like the most polite way to conduct an interview, but it happens frequently. You can give your interviewer the benefit of the doubt for a while. But, if they don’t admit that things seemed ‘bad’ for no reason, you can assume that they were just that bad.
They Aren’t Eager to Answer Your Questions
If you’re being considered for a job, most interviewers will love taking questions from you. They’ll want to make sure you don’t have any confusion about the job or company. They may even encourage you to email them if you have more questions once the interview is over.
But, if you ask questions during the meeting and your interviewer seems disinterested, it’s a bad sign. It doesn’t matter how relevant your questions are. If they’re already sure you won’t get the job, they probably won’t put much effort into answering them. Instead of getting clear, detailed answers, they will probably give you a more general response. These responses will likely be short and to the point, rather than trying to keep the conversation going.
No Connection with the Interviewer
If your interviewer is convinced you’re the right candidate for a job, they’ll try to develop a connection with you. It doesn’t have to be a close friendship in a 30-minute period. But, they’ll want to engage you as much as possible. You should be able to feel the connection and feel more comfortable with them. You may even start to be a bit casual with each other during your conversation. They might even begin to ask about your family, what you do for fun, etc.
But, if you don’t feel that connection, it’s likely because your interviewer isn’t interested. They aren’t going to force themselves to ‘click’ with you if they don’t feel like it’s a good fit. This feeling isn’t usually something that can be forced, anyway. It’s a natural experience that can either make or break an interview.
An interview should be professional. Though it can sometimes feel a bit awkward, you should notice that it feels less awkward when your potential employer gets along with you. If they don’t, the interview is likely a bust.
They Don’t Ask When You’re Available
Finally, if an employer is interested in hiring you, they’ll want to know how quickly you can start. If you have other interviews lined up, they may want to snatch you up as soon as possible. Asking about your availability also implies that they’re ready to hire you, and want to do it on your terms.
If the interview goes poorly, there is no need for these questions to be asked. It’s unlikely that your interviewer will suggest anything about your availability if they aren’t interested in hiring you. They probably won’t even suggest anything about a follow-up interview or scheduling a time for you to move on to the next step in the interview process.
Pay attention to how the interview says and what your interviewer says (or doesn’t say). This last little sign can be a significant indicator of whether you’ll get the job.
Things That You Can Do After a Bad Interview
If you’ve blown a job interview, it’s important to understand that it’s not the end of the world. You may already have other interviews lined up, so start focusing on those.
Use these tips to help you recover and move forward after a botched interview:
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- Take some time to reflect and calm down. Don’t make any decisions and don’t give up on other interviews just because this one went poorly. Think about what went wrong, and use the knowledge you gained to move forward.
- Ask for another chance. If you feel the interview was blown because of something you did or said, you can always ask for another chance. Everyone has bad days, and most employers understand that. If they don’t think you’re the right candidate, you may not get another shot. But, they could also value your drive and dedication, and offer you a second interview.
- Prepare for your next interview. Learn techniques that can help you reduce stress, prepare new/more questions, and learn to show why you’re a good fit for a position.
You may wonder, ‘should I send a thank you letter?’ if the interview went poorly. The answer is yes. Don’t give up on yourself completely just because the interview was bad. In fact, a well-worded thank you letter may help to salvage the experience. It will help you to stand out among candidates and may cause the employer to give you a second chance.
Your thank you note (email) should include a statement about your appreciation for the interview itself. If you were able to meet others within the company, make sure to thank the interviewer or HR person for that, too. If you had a bad interview, you could include a short apology within your thank you note. This might suggest that you weren’t at your best during the interview, but you still believe you could be a useful addition to the company.
When you send a thank you letter, it should be done as soon as possible after the interview. If your meeting was in the morning, try to send your note in the afternoon. If it was later in the day, try to post it the next morning.
One lousy interview doesn’t mean you’re doomed never to find a job. Many factors can make an interview go into a downward spiral. Sometimes it might be you, and sometimes it could be the person interviewing you. Or, you may not be the best fit for that particular position.
The most important thing to take away from a bad interview is to remember that there will be more to come. Here are are some tips if you need to find a job fast. Using a negative meeting as a learning experience will help you to prepare for the future. By learning and growing from these unfortunate situations, you will eventually be able to nail an interview and land a great job.