Most job seekers have had the experience of coming out of an interview feeling it went great, only to learn later that it did not. There are ways to tell an interview is not going well, and ways to correct on the spot in hopes of a better outcome.
Bad Sign: Conversation is “all about you”. If the interview is a series of questions about you, and you give lengthy answers, it’s not necessarily a sign the interviewer is engaged. It may simply mean he or she is moving through a list of questions, eager to be done and move on.
Correction: A good interview is far more interactive. Your answers should end with questions back to the interviewer. For example after sharing your skills, say “How would those skills be used in this job?” The interviewer should be sharing about the job, the company and the problems that need solving. Using great listening skills, you should be picking up on, and responding to what you’re hearing.
Bad Sign: Interview is “all about him (or her)”. If the interviewer goes on and on about his or her own expertise, problems or role in the company, it’s not a sign you’re a trusted insider. It may mean the interviewer is poorly prepared to determine how you would fit in.
Correction: Try repeating back what you’re hearing and as you do, steering in the direction of your skills and how you would be an asset to the organization. For example if the interviewer is talking about how often he or she must travel for client meetings, you could say, “Wow, it sounds like you’re on the road a lot. Do you see this new position holding down the fort while you’re gone, or would you offload some of the travel to the new position?” Then look for a way to show your proven experience in the area the interviewer says the job will focus.
Bad Sign: You’re dressed more casually than your interviewer.
Correction: The best form of correction for this one is avoidance! Figure out the dress code in advance and step up and a little beyond it. If the discrepancy is noticeable you may be able to say “I see you folks dress with a lot of style here. I’d love to step it up if I come work here.” Awkward! Try to avoid this one!
Bad Sign: Instead of interviewing with the hiring manager, you’re handed off a subordinate. It’s unclear if the boss is too busy, disinterested or simply wants to save time by letting his team do a thorough screening before he meets with a candidate.
Correction: Stop wondering about the reason for the switch and instead give this interview your all. Your mission is to so impress this new interviewer that he or she raves about you to the boss and says you simply must be interviewed at the next level. If your new interviewer is thrown in cold, help out by giving a great overview of your skills and background customized to the job and the needs of the company. Ask what your interviewer perceives are the biggest needs in the group and bring out your ability to meet them. Treat the interviewer with great respect and show appreciation that he or she took the time to meet with you. Ask directly for the opportunity to return and meet with the boss at a time that is convenient.
Bad Sign: Job is completely different than what you thought. Sometimes early on in an interview you realize the job is not as it was described and does not match with the title or even the job description. You may feel unprepared, unqualified or even disinterested in the newly described position.
Correction: Slow things way down and ask for a thorough description of the position. Do not assume it’s a completely different job. It may just sound different as your interviewer describes it. Listen carefully and determine where your skills are a match for the job. Do not disqualify yourself for consideration unless you are absolutely certain this job is not a match. Do not highlight the change in description. Instead focus on understanding the needs and showing how you can meet them. At any rate, consider it a red flag that the company described the job one way leading up to the interview and presented it quite differently face-to-face.
Bad Sign: Interview wraps up early or abruptly. This could mean the interviewer is busy but more likely he or she has concluded you are not a match and is eager to move on.
Correction: Ask directly “Do you have concerns about the needs of the job and how I would fill them?” Or “Are there any doubts in your mind about my ability to do the job? Because I’d like to address them.” At this point you have little to lose, so be direct. Ask how the interviewer views you and take the opportunity to answer concerns. If nothing works, consider what you can learn from this “interview fail” that will help you do better next time.