How to Interpret 7 Common Things Job Interviewers Say

Businessman and businesswoman talking in office

Job seekers tend to overanalyze everything that happens during the hiring process – from how long it takes a company to respond to their application to how friendly the person calling to schedule an interview sounds. But what they analyze more than anything are the specific words they hear from interviewers. As a workplace advice columnist, my mail is full of letters from people asking what their interviewers meant by remarks as simple as "we'll be in touch soon" or even "good luck."

Here are seven of the most common things interviewers say that job seekers either misinterpret or read too much into."You're very well qualified for this job." Candidates often get excited when they hear this and assume that it must mean that they're a front-runner for the job. But most or all of the candidates who an employer interviews are well-qualified; that's how they got to the interview stage. After all, employers don't generally ask to interview people who aren't well-qualified. You're less likely to get your hopes dashed if you interpret this statement as: "You are well qualified, as are the other candidates who we're talking to."

"We're ironing out some details about the position." This isn't always a danger sign, but it can be. It can indicate that the job description is about to change dramatically, or funding for the position may be in doubt, or they're thinking of putting the hiring for the position on hold, or all sorts of other things that could derail your chances or turn the role into the wrong match for you.

On the other hand, it can also be something minor that doesn't have much of an impact. Either way, don't panic too much if you hear these words, because if it does turn out to be a big change, it's far better to find that out at this stage than after you've already accepted the job.

"Let me show you the office you'd be working out of." People often think that an interviewer wouldn't bother showing them the office space or introducing them to others on the team if they weren't close to making an offer. But many interviewers will do those things as part of their standard interview routine with strong and weaker candidates alike, so don't read anything into this.

"We'll get back to you soon / in two weeks / by Friday." Whatever timeline your interviewer gives you, don't put too much stock in it. Hiring processes are notorious for taking far longer than people think they will, and even the people in charge of hiring tend to underestimate how much time they'll need. Whatever timeline your interviewer gives you, you're safest if you double or triple it in your head – or even ignore it entirely!

"Feel free to email me with any questions." Interviewers often say this to be polite, but it's not an invitation to bombard them with nonessential questions after you go home. Sometimes candidates think they'll impress the hiring manager or look more interested if they follow up with questions, so they think up questions to send over just for the sake of appearances. Since the questions aren't crucial ones, this usually ends up being fairly transparent and annoying, since it means that you're asking the hiring manager to spend her time writing out answers to questions that she can tell aren't genuine or pressing.

"We have more candidates to talk to before we make a decision." Candidates often get disappointed when they hear this, figuring that the interviewer is signaling that they shouldn't get their hopes up. Sometimes that is in fact the case, but this is also a very normal thing that many interviewers say as a matter of routine to all candidates – because it's true, and it's a normal part of hiring to talk to other people. It doesn't generally indicate anything about your chances.

"I look forward to talking more." Candidates tend to hear this as an implied promise that there will be further conversations, but that's not necessarily the case. It's more of a polite closing that interviewers use automatically, even when they haven't yet decided which candidates will be moving on in their hiring process. It's sort of the "I'll call you" of the job-search world. It really means: "If you end up moving forward in the process, we'll talk more."

Alison Green writes the popular Ask a Manager blog, where she dispenses advice on career, job search and management issues. She's the author of "How to Get a Job: Secrets of a Hiring Manager," co-author of "Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Manager's Guide to Getting Results" and the former chief of staff of a successful nonprofit organization, where she oversaw day-to-day staff management.
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