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3 Questions You Don’t Know the Answer to AFTER a Job Interview

Short of actually being told by the interviewer or someone else in the company  during or immediately after your interview (which does happen on VERY rare occasion), after you finish an interview there are just some questions about the job you can’t answer for sure  – even if you google the question relentlessly day in and day out groggy from lack of sleep looking for an answer – or even a clue.

And lord knows, don’t let job search advice blogs – even…ahem… good ones like mine – lead you astray! ;-)  Some things you just don’t know and can’t know until you do know.  It’s that simple.

So if you’re curious…here’s my top three job search unknowables list. (There are of course many more job search unknowables, so please feel free to add your own favorites!)

1.  Did I Get the Job?

In my post about how to tell how you did on your job search, I offer tips to assess how the interview went. Often there are actions or things you notice that can provide some good insight into whether you might get the job offer – or at least get called back for a second interview.

But the truth is…unless you are actually made an offer – no matter what point along the interview process that happens – you just can’t know for sure…and neither can anyone else. Sometimes not even the people at the company know until they are ready to make the offer.  Things happen. New candidates come along. Favorite candidates drop out. Position descriptions are revised – or frozen. Nothing is sure until you are made the offer and accept….and even then things can happen.

Am I saying this to scare you? NO…quite the opposite. I want you to go into this knowing you can only do your best and the rest is in the hands of other people – some of whom are not all that sure what they want or what they’re doing!  So have patience. Don’t try to impose rules on them – or make too much sense of what’s going on or read into everything they say or do…you’ll only drive yourself nuts!

2.  Is the Job Really Available?

Once again…there is no way to know for sure. I just saw a comment from one of my readers on a recent post How To Interview People for a Job (and Still Stay Human). She tells about something that happened to her a few years ago:

“I actually took the day off work to go on an interview. At the end, the interviewer flat out told me that he already had chosen someone for the position. (So why waste my flippin’ time?!) *aargh* “

Now this is certainly not the norm. But it does happen. Why? OK…this is about stuff that goes on behind the scenes: Sometimes companies have to show they’ve interviewed people even if they have someone in mind. In some types of organizations, there are also Equal Opportunity Employment forms that need to be filled out showing enough people have been interviewed and that an effort was made to look beyond “the usual suspects”.

Why shouldn’t you worry about this? First, it’s not all that common. Second, every interview is a chance to get seen. You never know if you might wow them enough to either change their minds or get them to consider you for a different job now or later.  Look at it as not only a chance to get a job, but to begin a lifelong networking contact since you never know where people wind up. For instance, I’ve been impressed enough by some candidates to remember them later when I worked with other departments.

3.  Will I Like the Job?

This one is the slipperiest of all. There’s just no way to know. Sure, you can get a feel about people during the interviews – and even by the way you’re being treated during the often mysterious hiring process. But until you actually start the job and have been there for a while, there’s no way to know for sure what it will feel like. Your coworkers. Your boss. The daily requirements of the job. The environment. Even the type of work, especially if you’ve never done it, may be a surprise.

Once again, I’m going to suggest “Don’t worry.” You can only make your best guess and then go with it. Even the worst jobs can bring unseen benefits.

I once took a job with a man who was AWFUL to work with. Not so much awful to me specifically, but the way he treated people was awful…and my job was to help make sure things got done HIS way.  Ugh. I might have guessed from the interview, since he barely asked me anything about myself and he did almost all of the talking. It was always about him – and his rivalries – and his stupid staff – and even his love life. Ugh. Ugh. Ugh. BUT…I wound up learning lots of things (about the work I mean) that later paid off big time. And I met really nice people – one of them is one of my closest friends to this day. Plus I actually was given his job – a total surprise to me – when he found a better one. (And if you’re wondering whether I helped…uh…encourage him to leave for the win-win of it…well, I’ll leave you to guess the answer to that.)

I guess the point of all this is, while there are certainly things about the job search (and job find) process you can’t possibly know the answers to (even though I know some of you are determined to figure it all out ;-) ), sometimes we just have to let go and see where we wind up.  Truth is, since we’re blind to all the possibilities we can’t yet see, if we controlled every step of the way, it might feel better in the moment…but oh the things we’d miss out on. So take a deep breath – some of you maybe take two breaths – and just let it unfold in its own time.

If that’s too philosophically prescriptive, then just know sometimes there are no answers..and that’s ok.

Some more posts you might enjoy:

How To Tell If a Job Interview Went Well

How Often Should I Call an Employer After My Interview?

After the Job Interview: Why Haven’t They Called Me Yet?

Stuck in the Waiting Game After 2nd Interview

12 Ways to Stay Sane After a Job Interview

I Got the Post-Interview Temporary OCD Blues

Will My Low Credit Score Ruin My Chances for a Job Offer?

5 Ways Interviewers Make Job Seekers REALLY Angry

Can Weekly Follow-up Calls and Emails Help Get You the Job?

20 Things You Can Do To Open Up New Possibilities at Work and Beyond

 

About the author…

Ronnie Ann, founder of Work Coach Cafe, bases her real-world advice on her many years as an organizational consultant where she helped interview and hire people, added to a certificate from NYU in Career Planning & Development and her own adventures as a serial job seeker. She can also be found on her new blog, and on Google+.

Comments

  1. Hi Ronnie Ann,

    Welcome back!

    I’m fascinated by the “Will I like the job?” question. In my experience, very few candidates really vet their future companies and future bosses before saying yes. So much pain could be prevented by more careful vetting.

    I have written a couple of posts on this topic and will likely keep writing on it because it’s so important.

    Check out my site for:

    “10 Due Diligence Steps to Take Before You Say Yes to a Job Offer”

    “Prophylactic Measures: 12 Tips on How to Avoid Ever Working for the Boss from the River Styx”

    Cheers,

    Donna

  2. Nice post Ronnie!

    It just goes to show that even if we’re well prepared and make the best case possible in an interview, you’re at the mercy of the employer on whether you get the job or not. You just need to be prepared for a “no.”

  3. Thanks Donna! So true about taking the time to check out and assess your future company. Even though there are times when “just gets me a job” rules, if it even gets to feel a little serious…time to dig dig dig for info. Of course doing that upfront is optimal, but I’m being realistic since I know sometimes people apply where they can (I’ve been there) and do triage later. ;-)

    Thanks for the kind words Rick!! Kind of like dating, huh?

  4. Great thoughts Ronnie! I have asked 1), on occasion, at the end of my interviews, so did I get the job? I guess I’m not the norm, huh? :)

  5. Thanks Aidan! No…most people don’t ask that. But on occasion when they do, I tell them I like their spirit. And then I tell them they’ll just have to wait. ;-) Nice blog, btw.

    ~ Ronnie Ann

  6. Like dating? Sort of, although there’s not so much emotion involved. Gut feel? Perhaps.

  7. Re: #2…You nailed it once again, Ronnie Ann!

    Once the interview was over, it never even occurred to me that it had been my “chance to get seen”. All I could think was, “That was four hours [including the commute] of my life that I’ll never get back.”

    Re: “Sometimes companies have to show they’ve interviewed people even if they have someone in mind. In some types of organizations, there are also Equal Opportunity Employment forms that need to be filled out showing enough people have been interviewed and that an effort was made to look beyond ‘the usual suspects'”.

    This is how my company works. The hiring manual actually states the following: “The job posting must contain specific language to indicate that an internal candidate has been identified and is being considered for the position.”

    At the time I went on that interview, there was no such indication. But, I’ll definitely keep your answer in mind for future reference! :)

    Thanks!

  8. Oh! And in response to #3…. I actually landed a new job. I start in less than two weeks. It’s a lateral move, but I don’t care. I’m desperate for new experiences. (Sudoku and reading can only help re-wire my brain, but so much.) Just thinking about all the tasks I’ll never have to do again makes me giddy. So, right now, I can’t even think about “Will I like the job?” I know only time will tell.

    But, I think perhaps a little anxiety has manifested itself in my subconscious. I did have two dreams about climbing stairs. In one I was climbing so high that I was almost able to touch the planet Jupiter! The next night the staircase was slightly twisted and had three steps missing. I managed to overcome these hindrances, but just as I stepped over the missing steps the entire staircase started to become unhinged. Then I woke up.

    I know this isn’t Dream Coach Cafe. ;) But, something about climbing and not descending…guess I’d like to think of it as a good omen.

    Sorry for digressing.

  9. Thanks for stopping by Rick. Regarding your words “not so much emotion involved”…you mean in dating or job search? Lord knows, I think there’s more than enough emotion in both! ;-)

    Hey perri. Glad you liked #2. Had a brilliant source. ;-) And more importantly… congratulations! Lateral moves are often underrated. I can see you know it’s what YOU make of the job no matter what kind of move you make.

    As for the dream (rubbing hands with glee) …maybe I should make it Dream Coach Cafe at that! I love dreams like these. So fascinating… even better than sudokus (which I love). On one hand, I’m told dream interpretation is partly about how you handled things you could control. So far so good. And it’s also about how you’re left feeling about things you couldn’t control…also seems good. And turning to a kind of zen perspective, we could say that the stairs unhinged or in effect dissolved because there are no stairs that matter and at the same time you are the stairs and were just letting go. To me, good omens all around. And possibly a wonderful inspiration for a work of art. ;-)

    My best to you in your new job, perri! Please still stop by once in a while. I’d miss you.

    ~ Ronnie Ann

  10. Heck, just because I’ve landed a new job doesn’t mean I’ll quit WCC! I like it here. :)

  11. @ Ronnie — To clarify: “Not so much emotion as one would find in dating.” (although don’t expect a lot of emotion on first dates, just like first interviews. ;-) )

  12. Thanks perri! That means so much to me. I totally enjoy your visits. Best of luck on the new job!

    Speaking of enjoying visits…thanks Rick! Good to know. I’ll have to change my game plan. ;-)

    ~ Ronnie Ann

  13. Nice post and its really true indeed!

  14. Thank you Jose! How nice of you to take the time to say that. Little generosities like this make my day. Best of luck to you!

    ~ Ronnie Ann

  15. hello? Good day to you! this post was really good! thanks for sharing! GOD bless you always!

  16. I have something that I’m concerned about from an interview I had today. Something they said to me as I was leaving. I had found out about the job threw my school and as i was leaving the interview the HR lady turned to me and said “of course we’ve only extended this job to schools so far and will be interviewing several people over the next week or so but you’ll hear something back from us either way”. Does that mean that they don’t think I’m ‘the one’ and that they were saying it in a nice way? It’s a position that i want really bad at a company that would be beyond impressive in a resume. I’m really worried about that one little sentence there.

  17. Congratulations, Sherry. You’ve just joined the ranks of millions of other job seekers who, just like you, are trying to figure out exactly what an interviewer meant. And even after 20 years in business and much success, you still won’t know for sure.

    To me it just means that they have more process to go through and will let you know what happens. You are definitely NOT out of the running based on that. As someone who has been an interviewer many times, I can assure you sometimes the companies themselves don’t even know at this point.

    But most companies have to interview a certain number of people even if they really like the first one. Just the way things work. ;-)

    Good luck! Please let us know how it goes.

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