We’ve all been there. You answered every question the hiring manager directed at you with thoughtful precision, and by the end of the call, it wasn’t hard to see how much you’d impressed them. Besides that, you felt like you genuinely connected with each other — which is, it stands to be noted, not the easiest thing to accomplish over Zoom.
Essentially, you nailed it. So why aren’t you getting an offer now, or at least being informed of next steps? And are there any signs you could’ve spotted in the moment that would have pointed to this ending? We heard from hiring managers, recruiters and other experts about the subtle red flags that a job opportunity isn’t going to work out — no matter how well the interview went.
“What do I do and where do we go from here? If this isn’t clear, I don’t hold my breath on getting the job, no matter how well the interview went,” Carolyn O’Connor, a Fairygodboss VIP and Immigration Legal Specialist, said. “After an all-day interview, I asked what the next step was and they said ‘oh, we will call you.’ Three weeks went by, and the headhunter who had found me called me in anger — they weren’t really interested in outside candidates but needed to fulfill the requirements before hiring.”
“A shift in the nature of questions to simpler queries and/or noticeably less probing at some point in the interview is a red flag,” Gwyn Gaubatz, a Fairygodboss VIP and product manager, said. “Especially if the initial questions were more challenging or involved, this can indicate that your previous responses have failed to meet some threshold they were looking for and the interviewer is now choosing to throw you softballs to finish out the time. This is something you'll tend to see a lot from companies that are invested in giving candidates a positive experience (Amazon, for example), regardless of whether or not they are ultimately accepted.”
“When I’ve interviewed for positions and believed that the interview went well, but then I didn’t get the job, some of the indicators were present as we said goodbye,” Deb Wiley Horner, a Fairygodboss VIPand Intervention Specialist, said. “One that’s almost spot on is when you ask when a start date might be, and the interviewer has been talking about the immediate need for a person to be in the position, and they can’t or won’t tell you. They pull back and talk about reviewing the candidates they’ve seen, and tell you that they will get back to you in two weeks.”
“One indicator that the role may be in jeopardy is when the hiring manager reveals that the team or organization is about to make some big changes,” Karen Rubin, a Fairygodboss VIP, Executive Coach and Founder of Princeton Corporate Coaching, said. “When senior leadership is shifting, or budget changes necessitate that the group moves in a new direction, or there is a potential merger/acquisition/strategy pivot, this can disrupt the hiring process and will impact you. When this occurs try not to take it personally, because it’s a situation that is generally out of your control.”
“One of the signs I have experienced is a change in tone or pace of speech,” DeLisa Dawkins, a Fairygodboss VIP, marketing strategist, and residential realtor, said. “I had a great interview with a healthcare company (first interviewing with the immediate supervisor). We had great rapport and it flowed well. I was contacted for a second interview a short time later with the VP. He began cordial, then the tone changed to confrontational. In my mind, I knew that I had the role; he was the decision maker and not the immediate supervisor, which confused me initially. Needless to say, it was not in my favor. I was really OK with it, as it gave me an insight to the culture there and how they operated.”
“If the interview is entirely focused on your experience for the entire time, it usually is a sign that the interviewer is unsure if you are qualified for the role or has not been able to determine that yet,” Marie Buharin, a hiring manager in the medical device industry and a blogger, said. “Typically, as a hiring manager, I determine sometime during the interview whether this candidate is one that I would be willing to extend an offer to. If it is, the type of questions I ask shifts from ones where I am probing their qualifications and abilities to ones where I try to understand their interest and likelihood of accepting a job offer. Questions that I may start asking about the potential commute for them, how far along the interview process they are with other companies, and how quickly they would be able to start.”
“It is heartbreaking, indeed, to come across a job ad reposted after you have supposedly delivered a stunning interview,” Michael D. Brown, Director of Fresh Results Institute, said. “Sadly, reposting the very job ad you applied for means one thing: the position is still unfilled... It is best you move ahead. It isn't the end of the world!”
“There’s usually a point when the interviewer might sort of lose interest. Their eyes glaze over, or it sort of seems like the questions they’re asking aren’t necessarily relevant,” Nelson Sherwin, Manager of PEO Companies, said. “In fact, if the interviewer is overly friendly, casual, or relaxed, that can be a sign that they’ve already decided that they’re not going to hire you. At that point, they’re just making conversation, and the pressure is off for them. But that’s a subtle sign you’d need to look for. Unfortunately, it’s common practice for some companies — and especially institutions — to put out roles that are actually already filled or informally promised to someone.”
This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of Fairygodboss.
Liv McConnell is a data-driven content creator and advocate for women focused on driving conversations around workplace equity and the right we should all have to careers that see and support our humanity. Additionally, she writes on topics in the reproductive justice space and is training to become a doula.
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