After a job interview, it’s common for a job candidate to go over every single thing the interviewer said or did, looking desperately for clues to see how the interview went. Like at the end of an interview, when they hear words like “good luck” or “we’ll be in touch” or even “we’ll let you know.”
What does that really mean for their chances? Is there some secret nugget to be mined from those words, beyond just a polite way of ending the interview?
What the words at the end of an interview can mean
Here’s the thing. As much as we’d like to read the answer to our chances at the job into them, the words themselves often don’t tell you all that much. Interviewers are not always as careful as we like with their choice of words.
And vague words like these, uttered at the end of an interview without the addition of something specific like “we are very interested” or “we will be calling you soon for the next steps” are simply not a promise of anything, even if they come with a smile. It’s a little like a first date.
BUT … they also are not necessarily saying you are out of the running. Most of the time, until any decision has been made, they try to share as little as possible so as not to give any misleading information. This is one of the reasons the job interview process can be so maddening at times!
So what is an interviewer thinking at the end of an interview?
Basically, they can be thinking anything. Some possibilities:
- That was a good interview. But I still don’t know how you’ll compare to the other candidates.
- That was pretty bad, but you seem like a nice person. I’ll wish you luck.
- Uch. I really didn’t like you or your attitude. But I’ll say something polite so I don’t give it away.
- You were so nervous. I want to say something comforting. I’ll tell you we’ll be in touch. That’s probably true at some point regardless.
- I liked you. You’re wrong for this job, but maybe we’ll have something else for you at some point.
- I liked you a lot. You may be our candidate. I’ll wish you luck, whether or not you’re the final choice.
- I think this is the one! But our HR department has warned me not to say anything definite at this stage.
- It’s almost time for lunch. I think I’ll have pizza.
But even if the inconclusive “good luck” or “we’ll be in touch” are the only words they use, there may be more to the story.
It’s not just the words that send clues
So now comes our old friend body language. Or tone of voice. Or eye contact. What others signals is the interviewer sending along with the words?
- Are they speaking in a strong, firm voice while looking you straight in the eyes?
- Is their head nodding affirmatively as they speak?
- Are their eyes wide open and twinkling a bit? (Not quite like Santa Claus, but maybe a little.)
- Are they leaning toward you or gesturing as they speak in a way that makes it seem they are reaching out to you?
- Are they perhaps separating each word a bit to emphasize the point plus adding a broad smile?
While no guarantees, any of those things can add an extra positive note to vague words. On the other hand…
- Are they avoiding looking at you directly as they speak?
- Are their eyes narrowed and eyebrows down a bit?
- Are the words coming out a little weakly or said without any emotion?
- As they say “good luck” do they turn their head to the side a bit (almost apologetically)?
- Do they look a bit tight-lipped when they speak?
Again, none of these mean you did not do well for sure, but they can be signs that “good luck” or “well be in touch” are nothing more than mere words at the end of an interview.
Some final thoughts and a word of CAUTION
I worry sometimes that job seekers will read these articles, and spend the entire interview watching for signs or signals about how well they are doing. The thing is, if you do that, you may be ruining your interview by pulling yourself out of the moment!
So PLEASE … read these articles with a grain of salt to help you think about how things went after the interview. And hopefully to provide some comfort or perspective.
But while you are in the interview … don’t stop to worry about how it’s going! Just listen carefully, be there 100%, do your best to be yourself, answer questions as directly and sincerely as possible – and remember to show how well you match the job and the company.
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