The stretch of time between going on an interview and either receiving a call or being rejected can often feel excruciatingly long. Similarly, ultimately being told you haven’t gotten the job—or never receiving that notification at all—can be disappointing. What seems to be every job seeker’s worst nightmare, however, is realizing you may not get the job before the interview is even over.
Interviews are nerve-wracking to begin with, and realizing that one isn’t going well is not a great feeling. However, while knowing an interview isn’t going as planned may be tough to accept, it’s better than never being the wiser in order to fix it. We’ve offered some general tips before on 7 Steps to Saving Your Interview From A Nosedive to help job seekers turn their tanking interviews around, but how do you tell it isn’t going well in the first place? Here are some tell-tale signs the interview isn’t going well and strategies for responding to those specific instances.
The questions are easy, not probing, and/or very short. If an interviewer decides early that you aren’t going to make the cut, they won’t be likely to probe too deep with their questions. You may get some simple yes or no questions alongside uninspired, run-of-the-mill interview questions, for example, that don’t invite you to elaborate any further.
The Fix: Take initiative to steer the conversation deeper. Try asking a follow-up question about the company that’s related to the one the interviewer just asked, which should show that you are still interested and willing to show that you’re the right fit.
The interviewer seems bored. Slouched body language, poor eye contact, and checking the time are all obvious indicators of your interviewer not being engaged.
The Fix: Take your answers a step further and use each as an opportunity to show how you can help the company/where you fit in. Asking questions can also help the interviewer tune back in. Whatever you do, though, don’t call attention to the interviewer’s behavior or the current state of the interview itself, as this can seem aggressive and make the situation more awkward than it already is.
The interview is an interrogation, not a conversation. This is the opposite of what an interview should be; while many job seekers expect interviews to be strict question-and-answer sessions, a proper interview should flow more like a conversation.
The Fix: Offer concrete examples with your answers that can lead an employer to ask more and dig deeper. By mentioning a relevant hobby or achievement, for example, you can draw the interviewer’s attention back and encourage them to strike up more conversation. Just make sure these additions flow naturally with your answer and don’t feel tacked on at the end.
There is no talk of the rest of the hiring process. If the interviewer never mentions any next steps, that’s likely because they don’t plan on offering any.
The Fix: End the interview with a short pitch on why you’d be good for the position, then ask about the rest of the hiring process. This isn’t guaranteed to save the interview if it hasn’t gone well up until this point, but at the very least, it will show you’re proactive and still interested in the company.
While these are all great ways to handle each individual situation, no job seeker is ever guaranteed a position until they actually receive an offer. Even if you don’t save the interview, responding well to trying situations is a much better approach than burning bridges.
It’s also important to note, however, that interviews are a two-way street—and if an interviewer is behaving rudely or inappropriately during your meeting, you may be better off passing up the opportunity and moving on. After all, a company selects hiring managers to represent them to prospective talent, so it’s a good bet that your interviewer is a snapshot of the company and their values as a whole.