1. We want to find the best person for the job. Because interviews are stressful, it's easy for a job candidate to start feeling like the interviewer is an adversary, but it's really the opposite—interviewers go into every interview hoping you'll be the right candidate. After all, we have a vacancy on our team, and we're highly motivated to find someone who's a great fit to fill it. We don't want to put you in a job you won't excel in.
2. We're busy. Interviewers don't always have time to respond to follow-up emails or calls to check the status of your application. Considerate interviewers will eventually get back to anyone who invested time in interviewing, but it might take longer than you'd like. And time constraints and higher priorities mean that your attempts to check in after your interview but before a decision has been made might go unanswered. You shouldn't take it personally.
3. We might have our hands tied by human resources. If you've ever encountered an interviewer who doesn't deviate from a set list of questions, or who won't give you any feedback, or who refuses to commit to a timeline for next steps, the problem might be HR. In some companies, HR issues unreasonable rules that restrict how candid hiring managers can be.
4. We're afraid of making the wrong hire. The costs of hiring the wrong person are high—work not being done properly, disruption to our team, potentially months of counseling and warnings, and the awfulness of having to fire someone. We're scrutinizing you to make sure that hiring you won't be a mistake.
5. We want to hire someone we get along with. Hiring isn't just about who has the best skills to do the job; it's also about who will fit in best with the workplace. Interviewers think about the fact that we're going to be around whoever we hire quite a bit, and no matter how skilled you are, we're not going to want to hire you if you're arrogant or whiny or otherwise unpleasant.
6. We're trying to figure out what you'll be like to manage. Smart hiring manager probe for insights into what you'll be like to manage: Will you require detailed reasoning for every little request or just get it done? Will you be a yes-man who never reveals what you really think, or a straight shooter we can count on for the truth? Will you require hand-holding, sulk when you get feedback, or complain about petty problems with your co-workers? We're on the lookout for signs of all of this.
7. We want you to help us figure out why we should hire you. Interviewing people is hard work. It's even harder if you have to drag answers and relevant information out of a candidate. You can help us see that you're right for the job by coming prepared with real-life examples of how you've excelled in the areas the job requires.
8. We won't always tell you what we really think. We might nod encouragingly while you badmouth your last boss, but we're really noting that you're willing to trash talk your employers. Or you might give an answer that's an instant deal-breaker, but you probably won't hear that on the spot—or even be able to tell. Part of interviewing is encouraging people to reveal themselves, which often means not showing any judgment during the meeting.
9. We're wondering what you're not telling us. We know candidates aren't always completely candid in interviews, and we're wondering what you are revealing. Is it something minor, like the fact that you really left your last job because your boss was a tyrant, or major, like the embezzling charge you narrowly avoided last year?
10. We hate rejecting people. In fact, some interviewers hate it so much that they don't do it, which is rude and unfair to candidates. But the rest of us do it, knowing all the while that you might have really wanted this job, even have been counting on it, and we hate it. We do know that our decisions have big impacts on other people's lives.
Alison Green writes the popular Ask a Manager blog, where she dispenses advice on career, job search, and management issues. She's also the co-author of Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Manager'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.