Interview bingo: Phrases that mean things are going well

May 07, 2024

4 mins

Interview bingo: Phrases that mean things are going well
Debbie Garrick

Freelance writer and translator, ex-recruiter

Interviews with recruiters are a unique kind of conversation, and no matter how good we might be at reading the room, the nerves, the excitement, and all the information you’re bursting to share can make it hard to tell if you’re “doing well” or not. You felt like you connected but they didn’t really ask much about your qualifications — does that mean they aren’t interested? They asked you about salary—that’s got to be positive right? (spoiler: it might just be a case of gleaning information and checking alignment). The interview was super short — does that mean they hate you? Eyes down and bingo cards ready, here are some common phrases to help you tell if you did well in an interview shared by Chris Helvajian, a recruiter at Better Up.

Phrases you shouldn’t read into

1. Can you tell me a little more about X?

A recruiter’s job in that initial interview is to get to know you, find out about what you do in your current role, and decide if you’re a good fit for the hiring manager. They’re going to deep dive into things you mention and that’s not a bad thing, but don’t celebrate just yet. This kind of phrase is simply the recruiter seeking clarity or checking for alignment. Helvajian shares that when he interviews a candidate for the first time, he’ll usually spend the first half of the interview listening to what they have to say, asking leading questions, and trying his best to get a sense of the person. This type of question is the perfect example of trying to get you to talk more so they can find out more about you and how you work.

2. Is that normal at your company/in your role?

According to Helvajian, “The recruiter is always looking for alignment or trying to figure out if you have the experience or skillset they need.” They aren’t trying to criticize or catch you out with questions like this, every company has its own way of working, so similar roles may have wildly different skill sets. It’s the recruiter’s job to figure that out.

3. Could you share your salary expectations?

Wow, a salary question already! They must like you, right? If this is a final interview, then having an in-depth discussion about salary is positive, but just being asked about what you’re looking for in an introductory interview is more likely a sign that they want to know you’ll fit within the budget they have available. Everyone has a budget, even if there is some wiggle room.

Phrases that aren’t as bad as they sound

4. I’m not sure what you mean by X … could you clarify?

If your interviewer hasn’t fully grasped what you said, don’t panic! It’s not necessarily a criticism of your communication skills. Halvajian notes that this might point to something deeper: you may have touched on a crucial point and the recruiter wants to explore it further. You might actually be onto a winner here.

5. I’m going to have to cut this short.

Normally, super short interviews aren’t a great sign. However, if there’s a reason, like a personal emergency, and the recruiter shares that with you, Helvajian suggests you take it as the truth. As a recruiter, he feels transparency, openness, and honesty are key. If he thinks that continuing the interview is a waste of time then he would be honest about it and say something like, “I don’t really think there’s any alignment here,” rather than keeping your hopes up with an excuse only to let you down at a later date.

6. Silence.

An awkward silence can be just as unnerving as a tricky question in an interview, but it’s not always a bad sign. Helvajian suggests considering the following:

  • Recruiters are human, just like you. They need time to formulate questions, especially if they are replying to something you just said.

  • They might be taking notes – particularly if you’re on the phone – mental notes still count.

  • They need time to process what they’ve just heard.

  • If you’re on a video call, there may simply be a delay.

Remember that recruiters aren’t usually trying to torture you or make you feel uncomfortable, they’re just doing their job the best way they can. So chill out, take a breath, maybe think up some questions of your own, and take that moment to think about the things you still want to share. Moving on, here are the winning phrases you’ll want to hear!

Phrases that you want to hear

7. It sounds like we’re in alignment so far …

Lucky number seven! You’re sounding like a good fit for the role, which means there’s a good chance you’ll continue to the next stage of the recruitment process if things keep going well.

8. I encourage you to continue exploring X.

Helvajian mentions he’d use a phrase like this when the candidate has touched upon something that the hiring manager is really interested in. It’s his way of giving someone a little head’s up for something they’ll be asked about at the next stage, so it’s definitely a positive sign. You’re on your way to the jackpot!

9. I want to share the timeline, as we’re looking to fill the role this week/ASAP.

This one could of course just be sharing information to see if there is alignment, but Helvajian explains that the recruiter might also be checking to see how quickly you can be available as you seem like a good fit and they want to hit the ground running.

10. Let me talk you through the next steps.

Woo hoo! You’re in the home stretch. Let’s face it, if you were the recruiter, would you waste your precious time telling someone you’ve already decided isn’t a fit about the rounds of interviews to come? We didn’t think so.

11. I’d love for you to connect with the hiring manager, are you free for a 30-minute call tomorrow?

#Nailedit! If they want to connect you to the hiring manager then you’ve done it. Bingo, go you!

While interviews are a serious business, this glimpse inside the recruiter’s mind might help you get a feel for how it’s going during the conversation. Of course, there’s still a lot of guesswork, but recruiters like Helvajian always try to conduct interviews with empathy, clarity, and honesty. If he doesn’t think you’re a fit then he’ll tell you.

So, if the interview isn’t going well and he wants to cut it short, he’ll tell you why. Recruiters carry out hundreds of interviews and they understand that not everyone performs well in that type of scenario and that the pressure can get to people. Just remember, all they’re trying to do is get a sense of who you are and why you’re keen to work for the company because finding alignment means everyone’s a winner!

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