Wouldn’t it be great if you could hear what your job interviewers say about you after your interview is over?
If you’re worried that interviewers are trash-talking you, they’re probably not, even if you weren’t right for the job. But interviewers do have certain ways of naming potential issues – and potential strengths – of the candidates they talk with. I’ve interviewed probably thousands of candidates in my career, and here are some of the most common things that my colleagues and I find ourselves saying about candidates after interviews.
[See: 25 Best Business Jobs for 2017.]
“He was fine but not great.” This is very, very common. Candidates frequently have the basic qualifications listed in the job, but just aren’t strong enough in those areas to meet the bar the employer is searching for. After all, think about how many people you’ve worked with over the years whose work was just OK. You probably didn’t love working with them, and interviewers are no different. They are looking for people whose skills are stellar, not mediocre.
Unfortunately, this is one of the harder things to give feedback about when rejecting candidates, since few people want to say, for example, “you seemed OK, but not as smart as we need.”
“She’s good at X, but she’s not as strong as we need in Y.” This is another common conclusion at the end of an interview. Candidates are often excellent at one thing without being excellent at another key component of the job. That’s not always clear from someone’s resume; it can take the interview to really see it. For example, someone applying for a communications director job – where both written and oral communication skills matter – might have outstanding writing samples but in the interview doesn’t shine at face-to-face conversation. Or the interviewer might realize that the candidate’s experience isn’t quite as deep as it appeared from the way it was written up on her resume.
“I had trouble getting a sense of ___ .” Ideally, when an interviewer is having trouble getting a read on a particular skill or trait, she’ll pause and do more probing. But sometimes there’s not enough time left to do that, and sometimes this is the sort of thing that’s tough to realize until the interview is over and she’s reflecting on her assessment. When that happens, one option is to schedule a follow-up conversation, but if the employer has lots of other strong candidates, it won’t always make sense to do that.
“Very wordy!” For a lot of jobs, communication skills really matter. So when candidates are so long-winded that their audience’s eyes are glazing over – or if their logic is hard to follow, or if they don’t give direct answers to their interviewers’ questions, or if they display other communication issues – that can be a deal-breaker. There are some jobs where this matters less, of course, but for most jobs, being able to communicate clearly and relatively concisely carries real weight.
“He has great interpersonal skills.” Good hiring managers don’t hire people solely based on personality, but interpersonal skills do matter, and the ability to build rapport can make people more effective at working with others. When several candidates are similarly qualified, the one who’s warm and friendly will win out. On the other end of that spectrum …
“I have concerns about her interpersonal skills.” This is a nice way of saying anything from “she wasn’t very friendly and didn’t make any effort to connect” to “this person seemed like a jerk.” The former might not matter in every job, but the latter always will. Interviewers want to hire people who will be pleasant to work with and who won’t alienate their colleagues.
“I don’t think he understands what the job is all about.” Sometimes candidates come into interviews with misunderstandings about what the job entails. That can be the fault of poorly written job postings, but sometimes it happens no matter how clear and detailed the employer has been. You particularly see this with people who think the job is more senior or glamorous than it really is, or who remain convinced that they’ll be spending a lot of time on X when the job is focused on Y. Good interviewers will be forthright about trying to correct this kind of misconception, but some candidates hold on to their initial impressions no matter what the interviewer says.
“Really impressive. Let’s move forward!” This, of course, is what you’re hoping your interviewer will say. Most of time, your interviewer is hoping to be able to say it, too!