Have you ever wondered why you didn’t get the job even though you played by all the rules? Well, here are the unspoken job interview rules that probably swayed the hiring manager’s decision.
We have sung the song of job interview tips countless times, and if you’ve been keeping your eye on the ball, then hopefully you have them at your fingertips. But now we want to talk about those that go unspoken; the ones hidden behind the interview panellists’ eyes as they determine whether or not the job is yours.
Before an interview, you do your research, brush up on information about the company, rehearse your answers to possible interview questions, and lay out your best and most appropriate outfit. You’re confident you’ll ace this thing!
You get to the office and even give yourself extra points for coming early and being nice to everyone in the building (which you should do by the way). Once you’re in the room with the interviewers, everything seems to be going great and you’re sure the job is in your hands. Fast forward to 2-3 weeks later and you still haven’t heard back from the company.
You’re confused. Everything seemed great after the interview. You even cracked a joke that surprisingly had the interviewers holding their sides. So what went wrong? Is there another playbook of unspoken job interview rules that we don’t know about? Sorry to break it to you, but there is….
Below are the unspoken job interview rules that could help you demystify the hiring process that most applicants don’t know about...until now.
Rule #1: You must have a clear understanding of what exactly your interviewer does
One of the unspoken job interview rules to help you have a successful interview is to customize the questions to each interviewer’s role.
What does this mean? How you respond to an interviewer who is a manager will be different from what you say to a peer. Your peer will want to know whether you can do your job and hold down your team. They also want to know whether you are good at collaborating with your team members.
The manager, on the other hand, wants to know whether you can do your job without much interference from your higher-ups. They also want to know if they can trust you to make the tough decisions when it counts and the level of support they would need to give you in the role.
Obviously, when going into the job search process, you have to be able to tell your career story and vary it according to the situation at hand. However, to be a better candidate, you’ll need a story specifically tailored to the interviewers, since they usually debrief each other after the interview. Ideally, you should have a few success stories to tell about your career, to help strengthen your case.
Make sure you understand the difference between a hiring manager, recruiter, and a talent headhunter. The talent headhunter's role is to garner interest from passive talent(that’s you); they can set up the first interview and then give the recruiter follow-up tasks. The recruiter is typically the one in contact with candidates throughout the hiring process, but they do not make the final decision. The hiring manager is ultimately the one who can get budget approval for the new hire and give a ‘yes’ or ‘no.’
When you know what each of the interviewer’s roles entails, then you’ll know what exactly to say during each interview.
Rule #2: They just want the highlights and not a full rundown of your CV
In every interview, you should expect a different variation of "tell us about yourself" and "why do you want to work here?" Most people might be tempted to repeat whatever is on your resume, but this will most likely cost you the job.
The interviewers expect you to guide them through your career clearly and briefly and many experienced candidates struggle in this area. The unspoken part of this rule is that the interviewers want to know as much about the candidate in the shortest time possible.
Most interviews are usually 30 minutes long - if you don’t practice, you might end up spending too much time on this answer. This means you’ll not leave enough time to answer the rest of the questions.
Some interview questions also come with certain expectations and subtext. For example, a question like, ‘Tell us about a time when….’ is actually a skill question implying, ‘Have you done similar work before.’
Let’s give another example; when the interviewers ask if you have any questions for them, they want to know whether you cared enough about them to research questions that one could not simply Google.
The infamous, "Tell us about yourself" question is about your compatibility, commitment, and competence.
Rule #3: That thank-you note/email will probably not get you the job
We have always been told to send thank-you notes or emails after an interview to improve our chances. But here’s one of the unspoken job interview rules you probably didn’t know about…sending a thank-you email or note after the interview will rarely sway the hiring manager’s decision to give you the role.
A thank-you note can be a networking opportunity to connect with the interviewer professionally after the interview. Check with the recruiter after the session if you are not sure about sending one because thank-you notes might be expected in some work environments.
It could simply be considered taking an extra administrative step by the interviewer but they won’t necessarily base their hiring decision on whether or not you send one. This shouldn’t deter you from sending a thank-you note after your interview either way. Just do it; you never, know… there’s always a chance it could help.
Rule #4: Following up with the recruiter does not hasten the hiring process
There's nothing worse than having an interview go well and not hearing back from the interviewer for weeks afterwards. I’m sure the single people in the house know exactly what I’m talking about; you’ve been ghosted…but by your recruiter.
Well, I’m here to tell you that, unlike the dating scene, being ghosted by a recruiter is usually not personal. It might be due to internal bureaucracy or ongoing interviews with other candidates (maybe it’s a bit like the dating scene after all).
That aside, sending follow-up emails or making calls will not hasten the hiring process. If you have followed up several times with the recruiter and there’s still silence, that should be your sign to move on. The follow-up timing will depend on your specific situation but after you reach out, understand that sending multiple emails will not change the interviewers’ minds about the hiring decision.
Perhaps the one thing that can speed up the job offer is if you have another one waiting in the wings. Sometimes when you don’t hear back after an interview, it could mean you’re on a waiting list. In such a case, they may have liked you but not enough to make an offer immediately, so they interview other candidates to see who is the best.
This is your cue to leverage the other job offer and boost your market value. If you get another offer and the first company is taking too long to give you an answer, let the hiring manager know to see if this can hasten their decision.
Rule #5: Your body language actually matters
And finally, the last unspoken job interview rule - mind your body language. It speaks volumes, probably even more than what you actually say.
Pay attention to how you sit, where you place your hands, your eye contact, and your facial expressions. Our body language can send out signals we’re often unaware of, impacting our chances in an interview.
To be on the safe side, you can demonstrate active listening skills by making eye contact and giving appropriate facial cues. Such things can make a huge difference.
Read more: Seven body language mistakes that can ruin your job interview
I’ll leave you with one last tip interviewers definitely won’t tell you. Talk to some of the people who actually work at the company before taking the job. No matter how good the interview made you feel about the employer, the people working on the ground know exactly what it’s like to be in that work environment.
Of course, the boss won’t tell you outright that they are a good manager. However, if you ask your potential colleagues about the job and they don’t talk about managerial support, this could be a sign that the employer is questionable. Talking to other employees from the company will also give you an idea of the company culture instead of the calculated responses you get during the interview.
Now that you have the playbook of unspoken job interview rules that no one tells job candidates, you have a better idea of what specifically to do (or not do) during job interviews.
As for me, I will be on the run…these rules were probably unspoken for some unknown reason. But you go forth, conquer your job interviews, and secure the job!