Here are 10 clues to figuring out how your interview went—along with one very important caveat: No sign is foolproof. Sometimes you can be sure that you flubbed an interview but get a job offer anyway, and other times you might be absolutely sure an offer is coming your way, only to find that one never materializes. So keep in mind that these are guideposts, not guarantees.
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1. Did the interview talk about next steps and a timeline with you? Good interviewers will make sure that strong candidates know exactly what will happen next and when they can expect to hear something. (Of course, there are plenty of thoughtless interviewers out there, too.)
2. Did the interviewer ask you about your own timeline? Did you hear things like, “Is there any particular timeline you need to adhere to?” or “Please let us know if you get another offer”? If the interviewer seems concerned about ensuring that they don’t lose you to another offer, that’s a good sign.
3. Did the interviewer try to “sell” the position or the company to you? If they spent extra timing talking up the advantages of the job, trying to woo you with information about the culture or development opportunities, this can be a sign that they know they’re interested and they want to make sure that you are too.
4. Did the interviewer mention that the company has a lot of good candidates they’re talking with or that they have a lot of decisions to make internally before they move forward? Sometimes statements like this can be an attempt to tamp down your hopes.
5. Did the interviewer interrupt you or look bored? This might signal that you were rambling, or it might signal that the interviewer had simply lost interest. Either way, it’s not a good sign. (And if you notice it happening, make sure you change gears.)
6. Did the interviewer spend a lot of time answering your questions? Whether or not candidates are strong contenders, I always ask what questions they have for me. But when I’m very interested in someone, this part of the conversation is much more in-depth. I’ll often probe to make sure that I’ve answered questions to their satisfaction and encourage them to be forthcoming about any reservations they might have.
7. Did the interview run over the allotted time? If I’m not especially interested in a candidate, I’ll be looking for opportunities to wrap the interview up because there’s no point in drawing it out. So if the interview takes longer than expected, it’s often a sign that your interviewer considers you a serious contender.
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8. Did the interviewer show you around the office, introduce you to others, or suggest a future meeting with someone else on their staff? Again, if I know I’m not going to move forward with the candidate, I don’t waste anyone’s time (including the candidate’s) on these sorts of extras.
9. Did the interviewer give you any direct feedback? Sometimes an interviewer will tell you forthrightly what she thinks of your candidacy. If you hear statements like, “You’re exactly what we’re looking for” or “I’m concerned that you don’t have more experience in ___,” take them at face value.
10. Have your heard from your references that the employer has called them? Reference-checking is time-consuming, so most employers don’t start that process unless they’re seriously interested in a candidate.
Again, none of these are foolproof. Even when an interview goes great and you’re a perfect match for a position, you still might not get the job. But as you’re waiting to hear back, seeing a pattern in the signs above can give you some idea of how things might have gone.
Alison Green writes the popular Ask a Manager blog where she dispenses advice on career, job search, and management issues. She's also the author of Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Leader's Guide to Getting Results and former chief of staff of a successful nonprofit organization, where she oversaw day-to-day staff management, hiring, firing, and employee development. She now teaches other managers how to manage for results.