Job Interview Gone Wrong: The Telltale Signs You Probably Didn’t Get the Job

There are few things more anxiety-inducing than a job interview — especially one that leaves you with mixed feelings. Did you end on a good note? Will you get the job, or did something you said go terribly awry? You could spend hours replaying what was said (and what wasn’t) during your interview, but that only leads to unnecessary stress. Nothing is guaranteed when it comes to the job search as budget cuts, role reversals, and other mishaps beyond your control can override your chances of a job offer.

However, there are plenty of indicators that could give anxious job seekers a hint for how well your interview went. All you need to do is watch out for these key details. Here are 15 ways to tell whether a job offer is on the horizon or a continued search is necessary.

1. The company keeps making excuses

A good interviewee will make every effort to follow up with the company after their interview to show continued interest. But if your requests for updates are met with new tales of woes and conveniently unfortunate circumstances every time you chat, don’t expect a job offer any time soon. For one, it could be a sign the company isn’t as stable as it claims to be. And what candidate wants to work for such a haphazard organization? Also, these excuses could be the company’s way of delaying decision day until a preferred candidate enters the scene.

Next: The interview kiss of death

2. An internal candidate has emerged

job interview

Internal hiring often wins out. | iStock/Getty Images

It’s a tough pill to swallow once you find out you’re competing with an internal candidate for a new job. Not only do companies prefer to hire from within, but it’s also cheaper. The Society for Human Resource Management says internal hires cost companies 18% to 20% less than external ones.

And internal hires also bring organizational knowledge and a shorter learning curve to the new role than outside hires. “Hiring internally also increases engagement. And folks tend to refer others more frequently when their own career has grown within the organization,” Daniel Sonsino, the vice president of talent management at Polycom, tells the Society for Human Resource Management. If an internal candidate enters the scene, your chances of getting the job are next to none.

Next: Communication issues could seal the deal.

3. Your recruiter can’t get in touch with the company

Job interview

You’re probably moving to the back burner. | Robert Daly/iStock/Getty Images

Sometimes using a recruiter to scout new job opportunities helps your job search go quicker. But when a recruiter starts hinting that they’re having trouble reaching the people you just interviewed with, you should read between the lines for what’s really being said. This sudden break in communication could mean the recruiter is not telling you the whole story, or the company has a better candidate in mind and is stalling your process while it moves forward with someone else. Either way, it’s not looking good for you.

Next: What to watch out for before the interview

4. Pre-interview communications are less than professional

job interview

If they treat your candidacy like a joke, that’s not a good sign. | Imtmphoto/iStock/Getty Images

If a company’s email and phone communications prior to your meeting are lacking in professional courtesy — or the interview has been rescheduled multiple times for reasons beyond your control — it could foreshadow disaster down the line. “You should always expect the hiring company to treat your candidacy with the respect and diligence it deserves. If you find that the communications leading up to the interview to be lacking, you should maybe temper your expectations going into the actual meeting,” according to Monster.

Next: How to tell whether time is on your side

5. The interview is cut short

Partners meeting in cafe

An early goodbye isn’t a good sign. | DragonImages/iStock/Getty Images

Many companies will provide an estimate of how long your interview will last during scheduling. While most run at least 30 minutes, research shows 60% of hiring managers make their decisions within the first 15 minutes of an interview, and 26% make up their minds within just five minutes. Needless to say, if your interview slot doesn’t allow the time to move beyond standard resume information, it’s probably best to move on to your next job possibility.

Next: If you walk out saying, “That was easy,” it’s a bad sign.

6. They only ask the easy questions

woman having job interview

Basic questions mean they don’t care about your answer. | iStock/Getty Images

At first, you might feel relieved you were thrown softball questions during your interview. But a hiring manager who asks vague, one-sided questions without ever diving into the details could mean they already have someone in mind and aren’t truly invested in your answers.

But a meeting that feels like an interrogation from start to finish is a positive sign. Intrigued companies sometimes inquire about family, personal goals, and hobbies with candidates they like. Business speaker and author Michael Kerr tells Business Insider, “Showing an interest in your personal life means they’re seriously considering you, as it demonstrates an interest beyond just the professional resume.”

Next: Did you talk salary?

7. They don’t talk salary

Job interview

It doesn’t matter when they talk about it as long as they talk about it. | Robert Daly/iStock/Getty Images

There’s a lot of debate about when is the right time to bring up salary during an interview. Some say it’s best to lay it on the table at the start while others say you’re better off waiting for a real job offer to negotiate. One easy way to tell whether you can expect a job offer in the first place is to pay attention to salary questions. If they didn’t inquire about your salary expectations at some point during the process, it could be your resume isn’t on top of the pile. A company will only try to find out whether it can afford a candidate it’s interested in.

Next: A sign that means they’re not at all interested in hiring you

8. They don’t talk start dates


Find out when you’re expected to start. | Martin Barraud/iStock/Getty Images

Remember that employers only suffer through a long hiring process because they have a position that desperately needs filling. Therefore, it’s wise for job seekers to probe about the next steps and hiring timeline before leaving the interview. But if those inquiries are met with vague, noncommittal answers, it could mean the company isn’t planning to hire you at all. Interested companies will discuss start dates before making an offer to guard against any unforeseen delays with filing, paperwork, and onboarding.

Next: Who’s selling whom here?

9. They don’t sell you on the company culture

woman in interview

They should persuade you to work there. | Julief514/iStock/Getty Images Plus

You’ll spend the majority of your time selling yourself to a potential employer, but when an employer starts selling the company to you a job offer could be pending. Every company wants to make sure the top candidate accepts its offer outright. So if there’s little mention of recent company developments, affordable benefits packages, or company culture it’s likely the company doesn’t intend to waste much more time on your application moving forward.

Next: A phrase that foreshadows rejection

10. They’re ‘still looking at other candidates’

Businesspeople shaking hands

You’re not the top choice. | Minerva Studio/iStock/Getty Images

It’s never a good sign when your interviewer mentions they’re still looking at other candidates. Or worse, they reference the bunch of qualified candidates they’ve already met with who are your competition. This phrase means they’re still shopping around for qualified candidates and are attempting to soften an upcoming rejection by insinuating they’ll have no choice but to take the hire most suited for the role.

Next: One word that signifies failure

11. They mention the word ‘overqualified’

Job interview

There is such thing as too good. | Robert Daly/iStock/Getty Images

One of the most common reasons why applicants are not chosen for a job is because they’re deemed overqualified for the position. That’s right. A candidate can be overlooked for being too good at their job. Often, the less experienced candidate can be onboarded for cheaper and isn’t assumed a flight risk should the job get too boring months later. If the interview team is hinting toward your skills in this way, you probably won’t get the job.

Next: With whom did you interview?

12. You weren’t introduced to others

Two business colleagues shaking hands across the table

They should want you to meet all the key players. | UberImages/iStock/Getty Images

If your simple one-on-one interview turns into a team meet-and-great with other key members of the team, it’s clear you’ve made a good impression. But if you’re feeling shut out from the rest of the company, sequestered from other employees in a front office meeting room, then you might be out of luck. Failing to be introduced to the big dogs could mean they didn’t think you were worth mentioning.

Next: The deal with references

13. They don’t call your references

call for job reference

They’re not going to call if they’re not interested. | iStock/Getty Images

Companies won’t waste their time tracking down the references for a candidate who’s not going to get the job. In most cases, an employer who’s doing their due diligence on your professional background has already made a decision to hire you. Of course, not all companies will inform you of this particular hiring step. But if mentions of your references are noticeably absent from interview conversations, it might suggest the employer’s mind is set on another candidate.

Next: Pay attention to the end of your interview.

14. There’s no indication of next steps

candidate in a job interview

You need to know the next steps. | iStock/Getty Images

Most companies have multiple steps in their interview process. They’ll likely schedule a second interview and check your references. Or at the very least they’ll provide a timeline for candidates they plan to move along. Hiring managers won’t let a solid candidate leave without knowing the next steps in the interview process. If you leave an interview unsure of what’s to come, it might mean you didn’t get the job.

Next: The No. 1 telltale sign you didn’t get the job

15. The job ad was just reposted

businessman shouting on the phone

This isn’t the nicest way to find out you didn’t get the job. | Tomwang112/iStock/Getty Images

Perhaps the most telltale sign you didn’t get the job is when you find the job listing reposted elsewhere after your seemingly terrific interview. It goes without saying that companies will close job postings once they’ve found suitable matches. So when you uncover a freshly updated job posting for the same position you just interviewed for, it’s likely the company hasn’t found its perfect match yet — and you’ve probably already been removed from the running.

Follow Lauren on Twitter @la_hamer.

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