The job search has been ranked #3 as the most stressful thing in life. The interviews are typically the most stressful step in job searching. Moreover, interview stress is often worse during the long delay between the end of the interview and hearing how you did. As a recruiting expert, I can help reduce some of your stress during and after an interview by revealing objective “You’re doing well indicators.” If you experience most of them, you can relax knowing that you performed well!
25 ways to tell you are a top candidate
These “you did well” indicators are broken into three categories, covering indicators that occur before, during and after your interview.
Indicators prior to the interview
1. Quick contact after you apply – to schedule an interview with almost no delay — you should take that as a positive sign.
2. No delay scheduling your interview – When the recruiter calls to schedule an interview they are extremely flexible, and they are willing to schedule your interview at almost any time that’s convenient to you, that’s a great start. Incidentally, the length of the scheduled interview might also be an indication of their interest, where 45 minutes or longer for the initial interview can be a positive indicator. If they want to see you in person, instead of holding a telephone interview, that’s also good.
3. If they pay for your trip – to meet face-to-face. If you live elsewhere and they automatically offer to pay to fly you in for an interview, that is a good sign because they don’t invest that kind of money in someone who doesn’t show promise.
4. Who greets you in the lobby – In a large corporation, if the hiring manager personally greets you in the lobby area, that’s a great sign, because most send their assistant. Be further enthused if they appear on time or if several team members greet you.
Indicators during the interview
5. Who attends your interview — even before the formal interview begins. You can get a good idea of whether they view you as a strong candidate by who attends your in-person interview. When a majority of the team members voluntarily show up, or if a member of another team attends, you should be encouraged. Also, if during the middle of the interview they specifically call someone else to join, that’s also a great sign.
6. Their initial introduction includes praise – when the interview begins. A statement that includes positive phrases that reveal they are “impressed” or excited about your skills or background – relax, they like you.
7. They state you meet the qualifications — The first hiring bar that you need to overcome is whether you meet their qualifications. So, if at any time they volunteer anything related to “You clearly meet the qualifications” or “You’re the kind of person we’ve been looking for,” you can then focus on the next barrier which is “Do you fit their culture?”
8. The interviewer is especially enthusiastic – They maintain continuous eye contact and they are highly responsive throughout the interview, that’s a good sign. If they periodically say “excellent,” nod their head in approval or take notes while smiling, that’s also good. In a panel interview, if the hiring manager is especially positive and enthusiastic, things are looking up.
9. They reveal your next steps – If towards the end of the interview they spell out the next steps in the hiring process that you will go through, that’s a good sign. If they explain the steps in some detail and with enthusiasm, that’s even better.
10. Time spent on fit assessment – Few interviewers assess fit until they’re convinced that you are qualified. So, if they spend up to one-quarter of the interview time on assessing your fit for the culture, you should feel good. Also, if at any time they ever say that you appear to be “a good fit for the job” that’s a great sign!
11. The time spent selling you – In a similar light, interviewers don’t spend much time selling candidates that have little chance. So, if they spend at least one-quarter of the interview time selling you on the job and the company, that’s a great sign. Also, if they ask you what information you need to make an acceptance decision, that should make you smile.
12. The interview shifts to the casual – If after the midway point in the interview the exchange turns from formal to casual, that’s a good sign that the recruiter or hiring manager has made a positive assessment. If they’ve made a negative assessment, the exchange will remain formal throughout.
13. Ask, “How am I my doing?” during the interview – If you’re bold, there is a way to eliminate guessing about your status during the interview. Toward the end of the interview, if they ask you if you have any final questions, simply ask them directly, “Have I convinced you that I meet the minimum qualifications for this job?” And, if they don’t respond with a positive answer, then ask them “Are there any areas that still concern you and if so, can I send you some supporting information covering that area?” If they respond with an area of concern, then follow up with the information.
14. Going beyond scheduled time – It’s a great sign if your interview is highly interactive, and when the scheduled time comes to an end, they continue. That means they are willing to invest extra time in assessing or selling you, which is a good sign. If you have a major flaw, they would simply end the interview early and send you home.
15. They ask for your references – Currently, references are normally checked only for the last finalist candidates. So, if they ask for your references during the interview, they are likely serious. Even if they just ask for any additional supplemental information, that means that they see enough in you to want to know more, so they can eliminate any potential roadblocks to your going to the next step.
16. They ask, “When are you available to start work?” – If at any time they ask you when you would be available to start work, that’s a good sign. If they also ask you if you are currently interviewing elsewhere, that’s also a good sign. It shows they’re worried about losing you to another firm and may need to speed up their decision-making.
17. Immediately scheduling another interview – If at the end of your first interview and before you leave, they take time to schedule a follow-up interview, that’s a great sign. If it is scheduled within a week, that’s even a better sign.
Indicators after the interview is completed
18. After the goodbye handshake – At the conclusion of the interview or at the exit door, if the manager or the recruiter continues to talk to you for more than a few seconds, take that as a great sign that they are trying to sell you. If the handshake conversation goes on for many minutes or if they walk you to your car, the recruiter really likes you.
19. Additional introductions – If before or after the interview the hiring manager takes time to proactively introduce you to their boss, things are looking up. In addition, if the hiring manager goes out of their way to introduce you to multiple teammates, that could mean they are seeking team approval.
20. They offer you a tour – One of the strongest signs that you are doing exceptionally well is when they proactively offer you a tour of the area where the group works or around the facility. Never reject this opportunity and try to stretch it out to ensure that you meet as many teammates as possible. If they ever say, “This is where you will be working,” you should smile.
21. They ask you to stay for lunch –If your interview is close to lunchtime, it’s a great sign if they ask you to go for lunch. Or if they ask you to go to coffee with them, accept it. The same goes for a drink invitation after work. Incidentally, these two potential opportunities are a good reason for you to attempt to schedule your interviews at either 11am or 4pm. Always take these opportunities because they provide you with more time to sell yourself.
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22. The hiring manager escorts you out – If the hiring manager physically walks you out to the lobby or to your car, you should take that as a positive sign. Someone as important as a manager wouldn’t have the time to walk out a candidate who had little chance of being hired.
23. Immediate follow-up – is a great measure of how well you did. Whenever they send you a positive follow-up message immediately (i.e., the same day or the next day), you should take that as a positive indicator. If the hiring manager (as opposed to the recruiter) sends you a personal note or calls you, be even more optimistic.
24. Your references are contacted – If you’re smart, you will ask your references to alert you when they are called. When they alert you, you should be optimistic and when one of your references has been contacted immediately (within two days), be ecstatic!
25. Key phrases are used – If the interviewer uses phrases like “when we see you again” or “after you start,” you should be excited. Also, realize that if the interviewer uses the phrase “You’ll hear from me soon” it is a much better sign than if they instead said, “We’ll let you know.”
And last, some really bad signs
In addition to all the positive indicators that are listed above, there are some extremely negative things that you don’t want to experience. Be wary if they hand your paper resume back to you at the end of the interview, or if they fail to shake your hand as you leave. It’s not a good sign if the interviewer answers a mobile call or excuses themselves during the interview. Canceling one or more interviews isn’t a good sign. And be wary if they forget that they have an interview scheduled, they don’t know your name, they confuse you with another candidate, or they don’t have your actual resume before the start of the interview.
Because most aspects of recruiting and an individual candidate’s progress are secretive, it is not surprising that job search and interviewing are so stressful. However, I have found that if you befriend even one recruiter, they are more than willing to share their “doing well” indicators. And if you can’t find a recruiter, please use this article as a checklist. Use it to help reduce the mystery surrounding interviews and your stress level. Know in advance the good and bad indicators before you begin your next interview process
Author’s note: If this article stimulated your thinking and provided you with actionable job search tips, please take a minute to follow or connect with Dr. Sullivan on LinkedIn.