The other day, I interviewed someone for a position in my company and this individual passed with flying colors as far as being qualified for the job. (It was a software development position)

However, I was under the impression that he wasn't interested in the job at all, even though he took on our onslaught of problems/questions with ease. Moreover, I talked to this individual's recruiter, and the recruiter seemed to give mixed signals about his interest in working here.

Nevertheless, we asked this individual to come back for a 2nd interview and it appears that he is coming. Thus, this brings us to my question. How can I tell if an individual is interested? I understand that some people can be introverts or nervous, but he really seemed like he wasn't interested at all, saying stuff such as "I don't really like that kind of environment".

What questions might help in gauging his interest? I am beginning to think that such people are not worth the time, even if they are more than qualified from a technical standpoint.

  • 5
    How about: So, why do you want to work here? And if they draw a blank then you know.
    – MrFox
    Oct 11, 2012 at 20:23
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    It sounds like you did gauge their interest, determined they didn't want to work there, and invited them back anyways. I'm not sure what you are really looking for here.
    – enderland
    Oct 11, 2012 at 20:35
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    @suslik: that can work, but you have to dig deeper incase they are giving out canned answers, I suggest ask and listen to the intent, sincerity and emotion behind the answer, so if it is a lie might be able to tell. Oct 11, 2012 at 21:00
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    Flip this around. A candidate has to sell themselves to you so that you are "interested" in hiring them. A lack of interest in the candidate is not necessarily a constant. It's a waste of time if you can't (or won't) try move the needle on their interest; but it's a pet peeve of mine when companies take a lack of interest on the candidates side as an automatic negative.
    – Nicole
    Oct 11, 2012 at 21:13
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    Not an answer, but hope it helps: I'm never really interested in a job during the interview. Interviewers always give the rosiest of rosy pictures of the company, and I have no idea what it's really going to be like. And who knows what lowball offer is around the corner. If you haven't given me a genuine reason to be excited to work there, why should I be?
    – Telastyn
    Oct 12, 2012 at 1:16

3 Answers 3


Why not simply ask the question? If you are concerned about whether or not it is worth your time to continue the interview process, I would ask something along the lines of "Does this sound like a position that you would be interested in? I know you've raised concerns about X. Are there other aspects of the job that I can share with you that would help you determine whether you would ultimately accept the job if offered?"

If you are concerned about whether or not the candidate would be a positive influence if the candidate was hired, ask a question along those lines. Perhaps "We're very big on teamwork here and we would want anyone we hired to be an enthusiastic contributor. I know that you've raised concerns about X. Given that, would you be able to be an enthusiastic contributor here even with X? Can you talk about situations in the past where you have worked in organizations that have environments that you don't like and how you handled that?"

Let the candidate allay whatever concerns you have or let them talk their way out of the running. With any luck, regardless of the outcome, you'll have a good discussion about exactly what you need and expect, what the candidate needs, and what areas you have flexibility in.

  • 3
    Perfect. There's no reason to be subtle here. And there's no reason to take someone who won't pride themselves on aspects of the job that you consider excellent parts of your culture. Oct 11, 2012 at 21:24
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    @Justin cave: good poit about team work. The only problem I point out about asking is most of the time you will get canned answers, that's realit but if you go a few levels deeper by gathering more info you can make a more informed decision. Oct 11, 2012 at 21:38
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    The best question is often a straight one. No need to beat around the bush.
    – TtT23
    Oct 16, 2012 at 4:10
  • The simple answer to the question about working in environments that one doesn't like can be summarised in "I change the environment, or I change environment". Which means I try to improve it, or I go. Which is obvious, nobody can work in an environment he/she doesn't like, nor should do it.
    – Diego
    Oct 16, 2012 at 16:15
  • @Diego - Depending on the exact nature of the complaint, sure. On the other hand, almost everyone has aspects of their job that they don't like. A candidate might not like an environment where they have to provide after-hours support or where they have to track time to do charge-backs to other departments. Neither may be something that the developer can realistically change and neither may be a big enough deal for the developer not to take the job if offered. Of course, either might be a deal-breaker for a different developer which is why you want to ask the question. Oct 16, 2012 at 16:25

If you're going to grill someone technically, it's difficult for them to show excitement about the job. Would you judge how much students enjoy a class based on their demeanor during the final exams?

Either have a separate interview or break away from the technical aspects and start discussing what the candidate wants in a job. During my last job interview, I met with 4 different people and each one wasted time telling me about the company. That's why none of them are in sales.

Identify the attractive aspects about this position and make sure you sell the candidates on this. The role of the recuriter is not to only identify quality candidates but to attract them to the firm. It's not enough to identify who likes the job, but to pursuade them to like it.

  • 1
    Good answer. An 'A' level developer probably doesn't HAVE to accept your offer, he or she has options. A 'C' level developer will probably seem a lot more eager to please. When you call to schedule the second interview, just ask the candidate to confirm he's really interested in the position, to avoid wasting your time and his. Oct 12, 2012 at 19:24
  • Yes, all the +1. A normal person doesn't want to seem they want a job if they might fail a technical interview - the person will just feel (justifiably) embarrassed. It is, after all, a pretty vocal failure, whether the OP cares or not.
    – bharal
    Nov 18, 2014 at 0:48

The candidate says:

"I don't really like that kind of environment"

---and that is not your answer becuase??! haha---

Let's see here, is this the "environment" you are interviewing him for? If so, I think that is a big hint.

I want to start this off by saying you are absolutely right to question his interest level, as a candidate will never tell you on his own, so .......you dig.

To note, With software developers it is always more difficult to judge social psychological cues, since many engineer types are some what socially awkward, not all and this is getting better (I know I know, I'm going to get called out on that one, but as one I think I have some say, ok!, so back the F off!)

What I am trying to say is, for example, if you were hiring someone for a hair stylist position, you would probably get a lot more feed back and impression if the person wasn't interested.

You need to keep in mind the reality is that in this US economy, many people are working jobs that they may not be naturally interested in. (That's why it is called work in the first place but that is another issue.)

So he may be wrestling himself with the same question - It could be very likely that he doesn't know either.

Some things I have seen and done -If you can, during the interview, walk him around the office during busy times, introduce him to different people who he might work with, talk with him, see how he interacts and responds. See if he talks about anything personal you can get hints from - not conclusions - hints. For example, during an interview someone told me they were moving out becuase his girlfriend just moved out here. He made it clear he was going to be in this specific area, so at least I knew his scope was much smaller. Just information gathering as much as possible, put it in a spread sheet if you have to.

Next, what is the impact of you just asking: "What is your interest level in this position?" If not a big impact, just ask. Yes, he may give you a canned answer. BUT if you listen carefully you can look for the intent behind the answer.

In the end, there is always risk. He could be 100% interested today and loose interest in a month, you never know, but try to lower the risk as much as possible by gathering information.

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