There's a lot of distance between what a hiring manager says and what they really mean. True to best HR practices, managers are trained to ensure that their words and actions don't indicate any type of personal bias.
While it can be nerve-racking to try and decode their vague responses, understanding what they actually mean can help you mentally prepare for the worst and, more importantly, know when it's time to start looking for other opportunities.
Here are some of the most common things hiring managers say if they weren't impressed by your interview:
1. "We'll be in touch."
If they don't think you're a good fit for the role, hiring managers will keep their responses short and unenthusiastic to avoid getting your hopes up. Sometimes (unless you're consistent about following up), you might not hear back from them at all even after the position as been filled.
Depending on their word choice, however, not all hope may be lost. For example, "I'll be in touch with you soon," shows a lot more promise.
2. "I don't want to take up too much of your time..."
Generally, face-to-face interviews last about 45 minutes or more, so it's a bad sign if your meeting was scheduled for an hour but got cut short.
Don't be quick to give up if this happens, though. You might benefit from stepping it up and putting more effort into selling yourself. Not all first impressions are permanent!
3. "We are have a few more candidates to screen, so we'll update you as the process unfolds."
This typically means you've been categorized as Plan B: They didn't dislike you, but they didn't love you.
It's also possible that they already made an offer to another candidate and are waiting to hear back. If that doesn't work out for whatever reason, you might be next in line for consideration.
4. "If you don't get selected for this position, would you be interested in the [X] position?"
This response is a bit more encouraging. If you're asked this question, don't answer "no" immediately. Let them know you'd be open to learning more.
Saying no right away indicates you're not at all passionate about the company, and if the position you wanted happens to open up again in the future, it's unlikely they'll reach out to you.
If your hiring manager was truly impressed, continue to engage with them — but don't be too persistent and annoying about it.
Usually, you'll be able to tell if you've been considered as a top candidate. Positive signs include meeting with additional team members and being asked questions specific to start dates and salary requirements.
Also, if you get notified that employees at the company you interviewed at viewed your LinkedIn profile (after the interview), it means they're doing more research on you because they see you as a strong candidate.
Debby Carreau is an entrepreneur, author and founder of Inspired HR. She has been recognized as one of Canada's Top 25 HR Professionals and is a regular contributor on multiple TV shows, Entrepreneur Magazine and many other print and online publications. She is a board member for YPO and Elevation Group as well as an Advisory Board member for FinDev Canada.
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