2024-01-31T13:30:41-05:00Nov 20, 2023|

How to know if a Canadian job interview went badly

As a newcomer, interviewing for a job in Canada can be an overwhelming experience. You’ve crossed so many hurdles to get this far in the hiring process, from researching the employer, determining that this job opportunity is right for you, and crafting the perfect resume that made it through the Applicant Tracking System (ATS) and impressed the hiring manager.

In all likelihood, you’ve spent a lot of time preparing for this interview. You may have done your research on the interviewer and company culture, practised your responses to commonly asked interview questions, and put together a list of intelligent questions to ask the interviewers.

However, no matter how prepared you are, a job interview can still go off the rails. Perhaps nerves got the best of you or you were asked an unexpected question that caught you off guard. Many newcomers have experienced job interviews in Canada that didn’t go well. Here’s how to spot when your interview isn’t going as you planned and what you can do to get things back on track.

In this article:

Download the free Career Guide for newcomers to Canada

Signs your Canadian job interview isn’t going well

When you’re looking for your first job in Canada, each interview seems crucial. It’s not just your career that hangs in the balance, but your self-confidence as well. Although it’s unlikely that every interview you appear for will go well, if you’re able to read the interviewer’s signs of disinterest early on, you might be able to use the remaining time to fix the situation and improve the outcome of the interview. Here are some signs that your job interview isn’t going the way you hoped:

The interviewer’s body language

If the interviewer’s arms are crossed, they don’t smile, or lean away from you as you speak, it could be a sign they’re just not that into you. This closed-off body language typically indicates a lack of interest or trust. If an interviewer is fidgeting, looking around distractedly, or worse, constantly checking their phone or watch, they’ve likely decided against you and are waiting for the interview to end.

Another body language sign to watch out for is raised eyebrows. An interviewer might raise their eyebrows if they find it hard to believe something you said or aren’t convinced by your response. However, it can, in some cases, be a positive sign of pleasant surprise.

The interview is short

Interviews are nerve-wracking enough, so the shorter the better, right? Not necessarily. Most interviewers set aside dedicated time in their calendars for each interview, and that is the length of time they expect to spend with the candidate.

If your interview is shorter than expected and the interviewer doesn’t give you a reason why the interview has been cut short (such as an emergency), they’re likely just going through the motions. Similarly, if an interviewer isn’t asking behavioural questions or situational questions that relate to the position or ends the conversation after two or three questions, it’s a sign that they aren’t impressed with what they’ve heard so far.

There’s no mention of next steps

Red flags include an interviewer not bringing up a second round of interviews or at the very least mentioning when you’ll hear back from the company. If it’s the final interview round and you’re not asked when you’re available to start, or how much notice you need to give, it’s likely you’re not a contender for the job.

They offer you career advice

An interviewer offering you general advice on your career as they escort you out of the room or before they end the virtual interview is a pretty clear sign that you won’t be hired. Whether they’re asking if you’re certain you’re in the right field of work or recommending that you pick up a few extra skills, it’s hard not to get demotivated when someone questions your career decisions.

As a newcomer to Canada, it’s wise to listen to what they have to say and thank them for their time. Since you’re new to the industry, their advice may prove to be useful, and being gracious about it can help you keep that door of opportunity open.

Reasons why your interview might go badly in Canada

As disheartening as it might be, there are several reasons why your job interview might be going badly. Some of these include:

They’ve already identified a qualified candidate

There are times when a bad interview results from circumstances outside of your control. If the hiring manager has already identified a qualified candidate for the position, they may appear disinterested or like they’re going through the motions. 

You may not always be the first candidate being interviewed for the role, and it’s possible that the interviewers found someone else they spoke to more impressive. While some organizations are transparent about having already identified a lead candidate in the job posting, this isn’t always the case. Some organizations keep interviewing candidates until their chosen applicant has signed their job offer.

Your salary expectations

Often times, in Canada, the salary for a role is not included in the job posting, and salary expectations are discussed during the interview process. The hiring manager may be interested in you, but can they afford you? Asking for a salary that exceeds the company’s budget can sour an otherwise great job interview. You’ll probably realize the money you’ve asked for isn’t in line with what the job pays if the interviewer’s body language quickly changes or they go from hot to lukewarm. Many interviewers will also lose interest in candidates who quote a number that’s well below the industry average because it shows that the candidate isn’t familiar with the Canadian job market.

Salary negotiation is a tricky business. Come prepared by researching the salary range for the job title and years of experience. Another tip is to offer a salary range, rather than a firm figure.

Distracted by personal events or illness

Life happens and an interview could go badly because you are (or the interviewer is) distracted by a serious life event, such as a family member’s illness, death, or a major transition in your personal life. You’re a human being, and it’s hardly surprising you won’t be on your A-game if your thoughts are elsewhere. If you’re struggling to cope and know that the interview won’t go well, there’s no harm in checking if the interview can be postponed.

Going into an interview without practice

While some of the reasons outlined above are outside of your control, responsibility for being well prepared for your interview lies firmly at the candidates’ feet. You may not be able to predict what questions you’ll be asked during a job interview, but it’s safe to assume that at least some of the common, often repeated questions will show up in your conversation. If you’re heading into the interview without a customized elevator pitch or carefully planned answers to questions like “Tell me about yourself”, “Why do you want to work here?”, and “What are your strengths and weaknesses?”, you’re going in unprepared.

Spend time practising your responses to commonly asked interview questions and familiarize yourself with the STAR method of answering behavioural questions. Ideally, you should also know which skills you want to highlight and should have ready examples to showcase how you leveraged them to accomplish your professional goals. Obviously, you should know the job description well, and research the company and team you are interviewing for, to ensure that your interview answers are as relevant as possible.

Poor planning

Poor planning could cost you the job. This could be anything from showing up in jeans when the hiring manager is in a suit and tie or saying no when the interviewer asks if you have any questions for them. It’s important to spend time researching the company ahead of your interview, plan your route so you don’t arrive late, and dig into the company culture, so you’re dressed appropriately. Not doing your homework before an interview is absolutely inexcusable.

How to turn around a bad interview in Canada

During an interview, there’s still the opportunity to turn things around. Just because an interview is going badly, doesn’t mean it has to end badly. Here are some suggestions to help you change tracks and improve your chances of success, even if the interview isn’t going the way you had planned:

  • Be adaptable: Throughout the interview, be sure to listen, read the interviewer’s body language, and adapt to what you can see. What does and doesn’t resonate with the interviewer? Which of the examples you’ve listed have sparked more or less visible interest or curiosity? Perhaps adjust your next answers to incorporate more of what seems to be working.
  • Find a way to connect with the interviewer: If the interviewer is trying to stifle a yawn, it’s time to change course. Take a moment to think about what you were saying. If you were describing a project you worked on in your home country, is it possible that the interviewer couldn’t relate to your example? If so, try to focus on transferable skills or relate your skills to volunteer or part-time work you’ve been involved in in Canada.
  • Know when to stop talking: Although an interview is a place to sell yourself, going on and on without a break isn’t always the right way to do it. If the interviewer is starting to look bored, ask yourself if your responses are longer than necessary. Long-winded answers can often lead the interviewer to lose track of the important points you made, and even worse, lose interest in the conversation. The STAR interview technique can help keep your answers short but comprehensive and can help hold the interviewer’s interest.
  • Ask if you can address the interviewer’s concerns: Sometimes it’s clear you haven’t made the impression you hoped. In such cases, muster up your courage and ask if the interviewer has any concerns. It’s an opportunity to address them during the interview. Fixing such situations might be as simple as providing more information, such as an example of a time you led a certain type of project or confirming that you have the technical skills to effectively complete projects in-house. Even if you don’t get the job, asking for feedback will help you do better in future, because you’ll know what Canadian employers want to hear about.
  • Stay positive: It can be distressing to see an interview you prepared so hard for going off-track, but it’s not over until it’s over. No matter how it’s going, be sure to remain calm and maintain a positive, confident attitude. It’s possible that your next answer might be impressive enough to change the interviewer’s mind.

What can newcomers do after a bad job interview

As a newcomer, landing a job in Canada is likely a top priority and a bad interview can leave you feeling frustrated and upset. Moreover, such an experience can negatively affect your self-confidence and lead you to question your capabilities. However, just because one job interview didn’t go the way you planned doesn’t mean that all your efforts have been wasted. Here’s what you can do to after a bad interview to salvage the situation or learn from it:

1. Don’t beat yourself up.

Maybe you had a bad day or weren’t fully prepared for this interview. Remember, it happens to the best of us and feeling upset is a normal reaction. It could also be that the interview didn’t go well for reasons outside of your control. Don’t dwell on it negatively for too long, because it’s easy to convince yourself it went worse than it actually did.

2. Learn from your experience

Ideally, you should do a post-interview assessment regardless of how you think it went. Take some time to reflect on the experience and ask yourself if there’s anything you can learn from your mistakes. Write them down and create an action plan so you’re better prepared next time. Try to recall which questions caught you off guard, and which of your answers didn’t go down well. At the same time, recognize what you did well. Perhaps you remained unruffled or nailed some of the questions asked of you. Make a note of these in order to better prepare for future interviews.

3. Send a thank you email 

Once you’ve had time to reflect on what went wrong and why, send a thank you email to the interviewer. If you were interviewed by a panel, be sure to send a thank you note to each interviewer individually. Not only is it common courtesy after a job interview, it’s also an opportunity to explain your actions in the note. For instance, if you were ill on the day, let the interviewer know that was overshadowing your performance. Reaffirm your interest in the job, and explain you’d welcome the opportunity to meet again, if it’s available.

Even if you’re certain you won’t receive a call-back after this interview, there may be future job opportunities at the company that might be of interest to you. So you want to leave the interviewer with a positive impression of you, one that is polite and professional.

As a newcomer, cracking your first Canadian job interview may seem crucial, because your financial stability hinges on landing a job in Canada. Unfortunately, it’s not always possible for each interview to go as planned, and during the interview, you may observe signs that the interviewer is less than impressed with your responses. That said, bouncing back after a bad interview without losing your confidence is important. After all, many newcomers appear for multiple job interviews before getting their first job in Canada.