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I’m not sure when it started or who thought it would be a good closing statement, but it’s time you stopped asking the most annoying question during an interview:

“What do you think of my candidacy? Will you be passing me along to the next round?”

It sounds benign. I mean, of course you want to know if the interviewer feels that you are qualified for the job, if you have a chance to continue on to the next round. But what are you expecting the interviewer to actually say to you?

You are making the most annoying mistake – putting the interviewer on the spot. Most people aren’t going to tell you that you’re an awful candidate and if they say they are sending you along, they don’t want to give you false hope.

The process is simple – the interviewer, let’s just say the recruiter, is either going to think you are qualified to be considered as a candidate or not. But that’s about all the say they have in the process. They either pass your resume along to the hiring manager… or not. Who the hiring manager decides to interview or feels is a good fit for what he/she is seeking, is what propels you to the next round.

Even if you were the recruiter’s favorite candidate, the hiring manager may take one look at your resume and think you are lacking a huge skillset or necessary qualification. So regardless if the recruiter passes your resume along or not, you may not ever get the next interview.

What you really want to know is… is there still hope for me in this role?

In order to get to that answer, ditch the whole “sending me along” question (and variations of it). It’s annoying and it’s always difficult for the recruiter to answer. Instead, here are a few questions to replace that with throughout the interview. Note: don’t wait until the end of the conversation to ask these questions, and notice that each one also provides YOU with critical information about the company as well.

  • Could you share with me the background or skillsets that people who excel in this role, tend to have?
  • What type of experience in particular, is the hiring manager seeking? (Depending on the role, add some more qualifiers here – projects, software, actions, and so on)
  • What type of experience is valued as part of the company’s culture?
  • Would you say that direct application of skills or years of experience is more important for this role?
  • What type of personality would thrive in this role?

Before the interview closes out, make sure you know clearly what the next steps are and what the timeline looks like. This is your closing out question if it hasn’t already been answered:

“I really enjoyed speaking with you to learn more about XX position. I’m very interested in the position – what is the expected next steps and timeline?”

Yep, it’s really that simple. Based on the recruiter’s response, you will garner a few things:

  1. Their interview process: the more in-depth he/she goes about the process and next-steps, the better chance you have of “being passed along.”
  2. Their eagerness to hire: based on the timeline they provide, you will know if they are “serious” about getting someone in the role or not. If you will hear back from the within the next two weeks – game on. If their timeframe is a bit longer, you know that they are either not that excited about you as a candidate or they are taking their time to speak with everyone under the sun.
  3. When to follow-up: you will be told exactly when you should hear back from them. If you don’t, that means that you need to reach out to them. If they said you’ll be hearing from them by early next week and it’s Thursday, it’s time for you to send an email. You only need to follow-up once, and after that, their response (or lack thereof), will help you put the position on your still in the running or a no go list.