when your interviewer just isn’t that into you

If you’re like most people, after you’ve had a job interview, you replay the conversation over and over in your head, trying to figure out how you did. But sometimes instead of focusing on what you said, it’s helpful to focus on what the interviewer said — because the most telling clues about how it went can often be found in the interviewer’s words and demeanor.

Over at U.S. News & World Report today, I talk about how you can tell if your interviewer just wasn’t that into you. You can read it here.

{ 28 comments… read them below }

  1. Listmonkey

    Interesting. I recently had an interview where I wondered if they basically made up their mind 3 minutes in. The interview consisted of two “real” interview questions (as in those “have you done this….?” type of things). The rest was them asking me about the behind-the-scene stuff of a radio show I used to work at that was well-known there, whether so-and-so was a difficult personality, what’s the host like in person, etc. They were giddy like a fan girl/boy. In hindsight it was quite unprofessional — and these were two middle-aged lawyers (although it wasn’t in a law firm)! I thought all the joking around was just getting us warmed up, but the interview was terminated after 20 minutes. I had to ask for a chance to reiterate my qualifications and skills, none of which I was given a chance to discuss. The whole thing was bizarre.

  2. K

    I experienced numbers 6-8 during a fall interview, but I stuck with it. The hiring manager interrupted me A LOT (I was not rambling), wrote all over the back of my resume, asked me the same questions in various ways and tried to get me to say something negative about my former employer(s). After all of the rudeness he got up to bring in the next set of interviewers.

    Before he walked out the room I said, “Excuse me, I have a some questions I would like to ask,”.

    Didn’t get the gig, which is a good thing. I couldn’t stand the thought of working with a Class A jerk.

  3. nyxalinth

    In desperation back in July i applied at a McDonalds. They asked me three questions, and the interview was about 5 minutes long. I figured I was being blown off, even by their standards :P

  4. Anonymous

    I remember one panel interview where one of the interviewers was clearly not into me. She wouldn’t even look up while the other interviewers were asking me questions and when it was her turn to ask me a question (they were all taking turns reading questions off a list), she asked it in the most monotone voice possible. It was like she didn’t even want to make the effort to listen to what I had to say. Plus she kept playing with her jewelry the whole time. Was very distracting and it took all I had to not focus on her.

    Of course I wasn’t offered the job. -_-

  5. Piper

    I recently had an interview like this. It was a second interview for a position that I appeared more than qualified for based on the job description and the first interview. However, all of that changed when I got to the second interview. The interviewer waxed poetically about how great the person was who had previously held the position and how much he was missed.

    Then she proceeded to talk about how much of the job involved statistics and analytics, when none of this was mentioned in the first interview or in the job description. The position was pitched to me as a creative strategy and design job, not as an analytics statistics job. Since statistics are not my area of expertise, the interviewer became quite smug and started asking all kinds of questions about statistics and basically I felt as though she was trying to embarass me and make me feel stupid.

    Then she wouldn’t let me ask any questions at the end. Essentially, I felt like she was making fun of me the entire time. She was so rude and just plain nasty.

    After the interviewer, I told the recruiter that I was not interested in that job or that company.

  6. Anonymous

    I experienced number 7 – ending the interview quickly.
    A Senior Executive Admin who supported an SVP called me and screened/phone interviewed me and said they were very impressed with my resume. Talking to her, I found out she had been with the company for about 1 year. Before that, she was an elementary school teacher with no experience as an admin before. She asked me to come in the next day to meet the VP and two Directors.
    Went in the next day, and waited in the conf rm for the VP to come in. He walked in and I introduced myself and he did not offer a hand shake (which was fine) but did not even introduce himself so I didnt even know his name. Even though I asked the admin the day before to send me the names of who I was meeting, she did not.
    He asked if I had a resume because the admin did not give him one. I gave him my resume and he barely looked it. He asked me one question. He then asked if I had any questions. I asked one, he answered. Then he got up and said, “I really dont have time to interview you because I need to be in a meeting and so are the other two that you were suppose to meet so they wont be meeting you either. And we are looking for someone with a lot of experience (dah, does 15 years as an admin not count). Then he said, do you know where the door is?”
    I left the bldg, went to my car and cried and nevery heard from them again to reschudled the interview which was a good thing.

  7. Anonymous

    I had three interviews with interviewers were obviously not in the present.

    In the first one, the main interviewer (there were two but the main interviewer was the higher up) sat there, leaning on the table, with her head in her hand. She looked as if she was going to either fall asleep or be ill. When I went home, family members thought immediately she had dismissed me. Actually, I got the job but turned it down for other reasons I had found out during the interview.

    The second interview was with an interviewer who had already had me rejected prior to me reaching the office. First of all, he decided to have lunch at the appointment time; therefore while I was on time, I had to wait. Then he proceeded to rip my resume apart and wouldn’t accept any explanations to his misunderstandings. I didn’t get that job.

    The third interview was with a window-watching interviewer. We were in her office, and her office has a huge window looking out onto the street, which gets a lot of pedestrian traffic. She’d ask a question, and as I was answering, she’d watch the people go by. It wasn’t completely soundproof so I could hear the people walking by, and by watching her eyes, I could tell where exactly the person was. I was almost tempted to say something absolutely ridiculous to see if she was even listening. Needless to say I didn’t get that job.

    I know there are circumstances where we don’t even listen to people who are in our daily lives, but I think the interviewer needs to check that at the door and give us a chance. Otherwise, what is the point of asking someone in for an interview if you aren’t going to pay them any attention or act rude? Is there a quota companies need to fill?

    1. nyxalinth

      I think so, in some cases. With some jobs, they’ve already decided to hire someone internally, but have to go through the motions. I might be wrong on this, but Allison can confirm either way.

    2. Ask a Manager Post author

      Sometimes they actually are just going through the motions because they already know who they want to hire. But other times they’re just bad interviewers. It’s very hard to tell from the outside which is which.

  8. Chocolate Teapot

    Did I ever tell you the tale of my shortest ever interview?

    Ambiguous job description, but tailored CV and cover email to fit, sent email to named person on advert, received Out of Office message.

    About a week later, I was emailed to be informed the CV attachment was missing, then the next email said they had found it.

    Next came the agressive phone call on my mobile whilst at work about how I had to come in for an interview as soon as possible. (Why is it assumed that because they are not using a landline it is fine to talk?)

    So a date and time were fixed, necessitating dashing straight out of work and to the venue. Agressive Interviewer acompanied by Boss came in and asked me why I wanted the job.

    I went through the job description explaining my background and what I could do, only to be interrupted that “But we need an expert Chocolate Teapot maker and you have only ever made Chocolate Teacups. I think we had better finish here.” Total Interview time (included entry of Interviewer and Boss plus providing me with a drink)? 10 minutes.

    For the record, the job description didn’t specify being an expert Chocolate Teapot maker.

  9. Katelin

    I had an interview yesterday and it went incredibly well. So well in fact that they offered me the job on the spot!

    I want to thank you very very much Alison, because I’m certain that one of the things that got me over the line was asking the question “What does success look like in this role?”. They loved it, and I got some very valuable information out of it.

    Reading this site leading up to the interview was a huge help. Now I just need to read the entries on how to resign from my current job in a non-bridge-burning way.

    1. Joey

      That’s great but on the spot usually means they didn’t check references, verify employment or really get feedback from anyone. I hate to be debbie downer but I always think that’s a red flag.

      1. Rachel - Former HR Blogger

        They probably just made an offer that is contingent on background checks.

      2. Katelin

        Do be fair to the company, it was for a grad position and I’m still working there today and have had great success.

  10. Liz

    I’m generally a pretty fun person, so even though the last two jobs I interviewed for were filled before I ever showed up for the interview, I think maybe my interviewers just sort of got carried away with things and had a good interview despite themselves. I was crushed when I found out I wasn’t hired after they were so enthusiastic, but I guess it’s a good thing that the interviewers didn’t do any of these things in the article – of course at least if they had then I wouldn’t have been so blind-sided.

    Or maybe it’s not due to my personality at all and perhaps they just felt guilty and so were trying to be nice :) In one case I found out that someone who is now full-time was literally doing the job as an “intern” the day I interviewed for the position.

    1. Tater B.

      I think that’s what hurts the most. I’ve had really GOOD interviews–I asked the right questions and so did they. I just had a wonderful interview about a month ago where they ended by telling me where my office would be, what travel was like, etc. But it seems like they are mailing out the rejection letter before I can even leave the parking lot.

      I know it sounds pessimistic, but I wish I could experience some of these interview tactics….then I’d know not to set my hopes too high.

  11. Liz

    Me too. I once had an interview where the interviewer obviously thought I was a flighty little girl from the minute I walked in the door. At least we both knew what to expect. That was somehow easier than the “oh my gosh we love you even though the rejection email is already written and just waiting for someone to hit send.”

  12. tango

    I also think it’s obvious when an interviewer isn’t into you when she/he spends the whole time talking about the company and job and not one question about your skills, now they relate to what they’re looking for or what you can bring to the company.

    I had a phone interview like that about 6 weeks ago. The hiring manager was very nice and it was interesting to learn all about the company, but at the end, I felt like I was just filler. As if HR required her to interview 3 people and I was her least favorite on paper so she wasn’t really interested in me, my skills or my experience.

  13. Jaz

    I was asked to attend a legal job interview and to my dismay the whole interview lasted no more that 10 minutes. I felt humiliated when I noticed the interviewer rushing the interview? This is because I did a lot of homework and preparation for the interview and was also ready to address questions. All they did was confirm my work experience and history of where I worked. There wasn’t much room for me to sell myself as they didn’t ask me any interviewing questions? I was just told they should make up their mind early next week and short list the interviews by the end of the week. It frustrates me because individuals also have take time off work to attend an interview and some interviewers are just arrogant and have no consideration about the time and effort an interested job applicant has put in to attend the interview. They could at least show a bit of professionalism by asking some potential questions after they have gone to the trouble to organise job interviews.

    1. Heather

      I completely agree with the last comment. I spent weeks preparing for an important interview, lost sleep over it, bought a new suit, new haircut, new nails, revised my resume, researched the company, researched potential interview questions and answers, took an entire day off work for a 3 hour long interview with 4 different people. I walked in, met with 4 different women who looked like they just rolled out of bed, was asked about 2 questions by each woman then showed the door. I was really angry because they were so unprofessional and I never got to meet the actual boss I would be working for. I only met with a couple of ditzy hr girls. I was told I would hear back within a week. Actually heard the same day that they were not interested. They never even called my references. I was more than qualified for the job but it was hard to sell myself to individuals who had as much personality as a wall, I tried talking about myself and accomplishments, but it is such a fine line between coming off interested/enthusiastic and butt smoocher/despesrate!

  14. How Do I Do This?

    I just had an interview that lasted an hour. They asked me about three questions total. I talked most of the time trying to answer interview questions that they weren’t asking. It was bizarre yet I felt like they liked me. I kind of feel like they were keeping their options open. I think I am jinxed when it comes to finding a job!!

    1. Dido

      I just went through the same thing last week. It was for an internal job at my company. I sent a thank you letter the next day and the interviewer STILL has not opened it. I really want the job and I was thinking about sending her a letter but I don’t want to seem too pushy. (it’s been a week since the initial interview).

  15. Christa

    New process of interviewing with one company first contact was the same day I sent resume, that was March 22. I have had phone interview, 1st interview 2nd interview been asked for references, they have said that the decision is between myself and another applicant. I have sent thank you notes, the HR person said that she is trying to convince her boss to have two positions instead of just one to hire us both, If that doesn’t work what else can I do to push myself over the top?

  16. Lori

    I had an interview last Monday. The women was really nice…she first went over my resume and asked questions about my skills and everything seemed great. The position is pretty busy and she spent most of the time talking about the job and we even made future plans with mw becoming the new Business office manager for the new building. I felt comfortable about my interview…we shared jokes abd personal information about our lives as well. My interview lasted for about 40 minutes tops. But she didnt give me a straight answer to when she will get back with me because she is so behind on interviews. I cant believe some of the stories on here where interviwers are so rude and unprofessional. I would not even give them a chance to interview me with an attitude like some stories ive heard on here.

    But anyways, im hoping to get the job!

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