18 Signs of a Bad Interview (+ How to Spot Them)
It happens to the best of us. You finished an interview, and you are wondering to yourself, did it go well? Did it go poorly? We're going to cover some signs of a bad interview so that you can better understand it went well or not.
Most people at some point have gone into an interview fully prepared and ready to nail that position. But when the interview is over, days go by without any callbacks. Sometimes, a hiring manager will send an email or call to let you know that you, unfortunately, didn’t get the job.
Sometimes it has nothing to do with the interviewee, and sometimes it has everything to do with the interviewee.
For job seekers, it can be difficult to pinpoint what went wrong. We put together a guide full of examples of situations in which an interview is going south, so you can be prepared and possibly avoid these situations.
How Do You Mess Up An Interview
There are only a few ways that you can truly mess up your chances of moving onto the employment offer. The most important one is simply not being prepared. But preparation is more than just knowing what to bring with you to the interview. Preparation means that you understand who the company is, what they offer, who their competitors are, the person you are interviewing with, and their role, plus more. You should have a firm grasp on the company culture, as well. Plus, anything else that may be indicative of you understanding their business as a whole. That is true preparation as it relates to the company.
For example, if you were to say, "I really enjoyed the new product the company released last year." And the interviewer responds, "We didn't release a product last year." That is going to make you appear didn't seem knowledgeable about the company and not an ideal candidate.
Here are some sure-fire ways to mess up your interview:
- Not knowing anything about the interviewer
- Not knowing anything about the companies core offerings
- Not knowing anything about the companies culture
- Not knowing anything about the companies founding story
- Not being prepared with answers to potential interview questions
- Not engaging with the interviewer, like asking them questions
Is a 15-Minute Interview a Bad Sign
Time the interview took is often the biggest question interviewers have. If you are curious how long an interview should last, read out the guide here. Time can be an indicator that the interview didn't go well. But what is a larger indicator is how the interviewer ended the conversation. Did they seem aggravated? Did it feel as though you didn't have chemistry? Use that as your indicator more so than time. Though a 15-minute interview is concise and, in 80% of cases, would not be considered a positive sign.
18 Signs That an Interview Went Badly
Keep in mind that not every single one of these examples automatically means that an interview went badly. However, in many cases, these situations are less than preferable in an interview.
1. The hiring manager tells you that other qualified candidates are interviewing before and after you.
Example: After the interviewer has finished asking questions, they drop this bomb on you. You may not know what to say. This can be taken as a type of warning not to get your hopes up. The best you can do is follow up with marketable reasons why you are the best candidate for the job.
2. The hiring manager did not mention a lot of information about the company or position you were interviewing for.
Example: During the interview, you were given plenty of opportunities to discuss your background and skills. However, the interviewer did not close the interview with questions about the position of the company itself. This could mean the hiring manager was new or nervous, but it could also mean that they didn’t think you were a good fit.
3. The interviewer seems to be discussing the negative parts of the job frequently.
Example: During the interview, the hiring manager seems disinterested in what you’re saying and doesn’t discuss the position in a negative light. Rather, they keep asking you if you’re willing to deal with this or that negative aspect of the position. This means they could be trying to turn you away from the job or indirectly let you know you won’t get it.
4. They aren’t asking you a lot of skill-based questions.
Example: Before going into the interview, you expect to hear “Tell me about yourself.” Or “Why did you decide to apply for this position?” Or “Tell me more about your education.” When you go into the interview, they seem just to be reading your resume back to you. They may ask one or two questions while staring blankly at you. Then, the interview ends without more questions about your skill set or achievements. This could mean that you didn’t answer one of their previous questions the way they preferred. This could be a huge deal-breaker, so make sure to pinpoint your early answers and tailor them to be likable.
5. The interviewer didn’t make any eye contact.
Example: Through the course of a concise interview, the hiring manager did not maintain eye contact with you at all and seemed somewhat cold. This could be a personality flaw, but it could also mean that they resigned interest in you as a prospect.
6. “We have some concerns.”
Example: At some point during the interview, possibly at the very beginning, the hiring manager cuts you off to voice some concerns. Concerns about your job history, experience, skills, etc. This could be both a good and bad sign. On the one hand, you're being allowed to explain some discrepancies in your resume. On the other hand, they could be letting you down in a more passive way.
7. The interview was much shorter than you expected.
Example: You went into an interview with a lot of material to cover, as per the job description. You expected the interview to be at least a half-hour. The interview ended up being only ten minutes, and you could not cover all of your job history and education. This may have happened because the hiring manager noticed right away that you weren’t a good fit.
8. They ask questions that seem random or sudden.
Example: You are ushered in, shake hands, and sit down. Right away, the hiring manager asks you, “Do you normally dress like this for work?” Or “I noticed you were listening to music pretty loudly in the waiting room.” This could be a sign that you’ve accidentally botched your chances with this particular position. It can also mean, however, that you’re being given a chance to explain yourself.
9. The hiring manager’s body language was negative.
Example: You sit down with your hiring manager and discuss a few things. They spend most of the interview with their arms crossed, don’t smile, are constantly looking at the exit, or interrupt you when you’re speaking. Body language can tell us a lot about the mood of a person. While this could mean they’ve had a bad day, it could also mean that they want you out of there as quickly as possible for the next interviewee.
10. There is little discussion about the next steps of the interview process.
Example: At the end of the interview, you may feel like it went really well. However, when it is over, you get a simple handshake and a “have a good day.” If there is no discussion about the next steps or your upcoming availability, they may not have been thrilled by the interview.
11. You met with fewer hiring managers than you expected.
Example: You were expecting to meet with two or three different hiring managers. After the first interview, you were sent home. Often, the first person you meet in an interview will be the deciding factor in whether you should go home to save everyone’s (including your own) time.
12. They seem annoyed or distracted.
Example: When entering through the door, right away, you can tell that the interviewer is not very happy. If this seems to be already happening before you come in, the interviewer is likely worn out or annoyed about something that has nothing to do with you. However, if they seem to become distracted or irritable during the actual interview, it could mean that you’ve bombed, and they are not happy about the time wasted.
13. The interviewer seems to be in a big hurry.
Example: Throughout the interview, your hiring manager seemed as if they couldn’t wait to get you out of there from the very beginning. They may have seemed hurried in their questions. Cut you off when giving more complex answers. And seemed to jump out of their seat when the interview was over. And if the interviewer seemed like they could not wait to move on to their next task at hand. Especially if it was another interview. Then it could be a sign that all or some of the interview went south.
14. They keep going through your resume rather than asking other questions.
Example: You’ve already submitted your resume and cover letter ahead of time. When your interview is scheduled, and you come in, you notice that the hiring manager is flipping through your resume. They seem extremely focused on it. And ask numerous questions about the resume, such as “Can you elaborate on this job position here?” or “What year did you graduate again?” And if the interviewer is constantly asking you to repeat information from your resume. Or to elaborate on seemingly basic things. Then it may mean that they have some concerns that aren’t extremely obvious to you. However, it can also mean that the interviewer is new and not used to hosting interviews.
15. They keep going over the same information with you.
Example: This can be similar to the situation above. Rather than asking the same questions repeatedly about something on your resume. The hiring manager may keep asking you about gaps in employment history. Reasons you left your previous or past job. Or why you think a specific skill set is ideal for this prospective position. Often, this means that the interviewer has a lot of concerns about different issues surrounding how suitable you are. And you weren’t thorough enough at putting them at ease. Keep in mind that if the hiring manager is asking you a lot of questions about something positive. Such as an award or achievement, it could mean that they’re interested in learning more about you.
16. The interviewer asks you weird or useless questions.
Example: You’re interviewing for a severe, professional position. When you meet with your hiring manager, they ask you a few pertinent job-related questions, and you answer them. Then, out of nowhere, they ask you some pretty silly questions. These can involve general knowledge questions that could go without saying. Unfortunately, this is an attempt to pass the time instead of being rude and cutting the interview short. This can be an awful sign if the hiring manager does not ask you anything about your skills, aspirations, or further experience.
17. They seem to be a bit antagonizing.
Example: When the interviewer asks you questions, and you give an answer, they seem to follow each answer up with a contradiction. “What was your position with X, Y, Z?” “I worked in sales and customer service.” “No, you worked as a sales clerk.” This can seem extremely rude and antagonizing, but it could also be just a personality flaw with this particular hiring manager. Still, if you give answers that the interviewer is satisfied with, they shouldn’t follow up with contradictions to your answers. Regardless, nobody deserves to feel dumb, especially if they’re taking time out of their day to interview without pay.
18. The hiring manager does not give eager or enthusiastic answers to your post-interview questions.
Example: As is expected, when the interview comes to a close, you can ask some questions. The hiring manager may ask you if you have any questions, or they may sort of… sit there. You may ask important questions such as “What are the opportunities for growth here?” or “What are the benefits like here?” The hiring manager appears deadpan and does not give enthusiastic or thought-out answers. This could mean that the interview session did not go well, and the interviewer does not plan on calling you back.
Our favorite resources are included below.
Job interview resources
- Common Interview Questions by Marquette University
- Prepare for Behavioral Interview Questions by Marquette University
- Preparing for Job Interviews by the University of Kansas
- Mock Interview Handbook by CSUCI
- Interview Guidebook by Lebanon Valley College
Resume and cover letter resources
- Writing a Resume and Cover Letter by USC
- Resume Writing Tips by the University of Wisconsin-Madison
- Resume and Cover Letter Guide by Harvard University
Job search resources
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