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Mastering the art of reading between the lines in a job interview

Published on: 30 Aug 2023

Mastering the art of reading

Job interviews are a crucial aspect of any engineer’s career journey. Beyond the surface questions and formalities lies a hidden layer of communication - one that can provide valuable insights into the company culture, the team dynamics, and your potential role.

Learning how to read between the lines during a job interview can be the key to making informed decisions about your future. Here, we delve into strategies that engineers can employ to decipher the unspoken messages and deeper understanding during the interview process.

Body language speaks volumes

Non-verbal cues can reveal a lot about the interviewer’s thoughts and feelings. Pay attention to their body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice. Are they engaged and enthusiastic when discussing the company’s mission? Do they seem genuinely interested in your responses? Positive signs often indicate a healthy work environment. Conversely, if the interviewer appears disinterested or dismissive, it could be a red flag for a less supportive workplace.

Pick up on cultural cues

Listen for keywords that indicate the company’s culture. If the interviewer emphasises terms like “collaboration,” “innovation,” or “flexibility,” then it suggests these values are crucial to the way the company organises itself. If these align with your own values, it’s a positive sign. Conversely, if there’s a lack of emphasis on aspects that are important to you, it might be worth further investigation.

Read the subtext of questions

Beyond the standard technical and behavioural questions, listen closely for the underlying subtext. Questions like “Tell me about a challenging project you’ve worked on” could be an opportunity for you to showcase problem-solving skills. However, they might also be assessing your ability to handle pressure. Tailor your responses to demonstrate both your skills and how you handle adversity.

Ask about the team

Your inquiries can provide valuable insights too. When you ask about the team dynamics or the challenges the team faces, notice if the interviewer hesitates or provides vague answers. Open and transparent discussions about the team, its structure, and any hurdles indicate a company that values open communication and embraces challenges.

Decode the company’s response to your questions

When you ask questions about the company’s future plans, opportunities for growth, or the projects you’ll be working on, pay attention to the level of detail in their answers. A well-prepared response indicates that the company has a clear direction and is invested in your role. However, vague responses might suggest uncertainty or lack of clarity within the organisation.

Trust your gut instinct

Intuition can be a powerful tool. If something doesn’t quite feel right during the interview, take note of it. Your instincts might be picking up on subtle cues that your conscious mind hasn’t fully processed. Instead of ignoring these feelings, use them as prompts for deeper exploration and try to phrase questions back to the interviewer that might help you determine if your instincts are correct or not.

Gauge the response time

Observe how quickly the interviewers respond to your answers. A prompt and positive response might indicate a strong interest in your profile. On the other hand, long pauses or distracted responses could signal hesitation or internal debates about how well you might integrate into the organisation. This insight can help you understand the level of urgency and excitement the company has about potentially hiring you.

Mastering the art of reading between the lines during a job interview can empower engineers to make well-informed decisions about their career choices. By paying attention to non-verbal cues, subtext, response times, and the overall flow of the interview, you can gain valuable insights into the company’s culture, your potential role, and the dynamics of the team. Remember, the interview is a two-way street - just as the company evaluates you, you’re evaluating the company as well. Utilise these strategies to decode the unspoken messages and make confident choices that align with your professional aspirations and values.