What Does It Mean If An Interviewer Says Good Luck During An Interview?

After exiting an interview we all try to look for positive signs that we’re in with a good shot of being chosen to fill the vacancy or move on through to the next stage of the interview process.

Sometimes to our detriment, we’ll attempt to read into the finest of nuances of body language or eye contact. For the most part, these indicators can be reliably used to help build a picture of just how you were perceived by the interviewer. 

Decoding the language the interviewer used during the interview is a little more difficult.

Some verbal exchanges such as ‘well done’ are clearly positive. Others are less definitive and can be open to interpretation.

Being wished ‘good luck’ by the interviewer is one such phrase where it isn’t immediately clear if it’s a positive or negative sign for your chances of being hired.

If an interviewer says ‘good luck’ it could be interpreted as meaning that you are not a clear-cut favorite to advance in the interview. After all, if the company is keen to have you on their team why would they need to wish you any luck? On the other hand, the words may simply be a figure of speech the interviewer uses habitually with all candidates. 

So is there anything more we can, or should, read into this choice of language? Well….perhaps. And that’s what we’ll break down below.

What does it mean if an interviewer says good luck at the start of an interview? 

If good fortune is wished at the start of the interview process, such as in the context of ‘let’s begin, good luck’, then this is nothing more than one human being polite to another.

It simply acts as a marker between the end of formalities and the commencement of the portion of the interview where you will be judged.

What does it mean if an interviewer says good luck at the end of an interview?

The sentiment of being wished ‘good luck’ by an interviewer at the end of an interview is open to a wide range of interpretations. 

By this point, the interviewer will have a far better grasp of your personality, experience, and skill set, and will be able to compare your suitability for the job against other candidates that have already been interviewed.  

Mentioning good luck post-interview might insinuate that the interviewer knows you will be continuing your job search beyond this application. A case of ‘better luck next time’ if you like. 

After all, the phrase isn’t necessarily one that you consider saying to a candidate whom you are eager to see join the team. 

Put yourself in the interviewer’s shoes for one moment. 

An experienced interviewer knows when they encounter someone who will be well suited to the position being advertised, and an asset to the organization. So the last thing they would want to do is sow some doubt and cause the candidate to consider looking for job offers elsewhere. 
However, on the flip side, until all of the interviews have been completed there is no absolutely no way for the interviewer to know the capabilities of all candidates so wishing you good luck might simply be a kind gesture.

In either case, hearing good luck from someone who doesn’t have the authority to make the hire is nothing to lose sleep over, or get excited about.

Does the interviewer decide who the successful candidate is? 

By wishing ‘good luck’ to an interviewee it could also be interpreted that the interviewer has little influence over the decision of who gets to advance to the next stage of the interview process.

And this may be true.

During the early rounds of an interview process, there may be tens of face-to-face interviews to conduct. Far too many for a single hiring manager to undertake.

This means that if the interview comprises a standard set of questions that are scored to make answers comparable across candidates, then the hiring manager may have designated some interviews to an interviewer who has minimal influence over the eventual hire.

In theory, this standardized style of interview removes some of the biases and subjectivity over who might be considered the best candidate for the role.

What will an interviewer say at the end of an interview to a candidate they like? 

Rather than try to decipher the use of the words ‘good luck’ there are far clearer and easier indications to learn whether you’re on to a winning thing. 

Discounting the clear and obvious “you’re hired”, here are a few other signs that the hiring manager wants you on their team include: 

  1. The interviewer attempts to gather information on what other opportunities you are pursuing aside from the position they are hiring for. Rather unsubtly this is when an interviewer attempts to gauge how much competition they might have to get you to sign on the dotted line. 
  2. The interviewer offers you an open channel to communicate with them after the interview has ended. Handing out a personal e-mail or phone number demonstrates a clear expression of interest as they simply wouldn’t invest time in a candidate they deem not suitable for the position.
  3. During the interview, the hiring manager affirms that the skill set you bring to the table is what the company is looking for. Sharing information voluntarily in this manner when it could have remained private to the interviewer is a sign that they wish for you to know that the match is a good one. 
  4. The interviewer introduces you to the team who you will be working with. It makes no sense to introduce a candidate who is a ‘hard no’ to a team who they will never be working with.   

Conversely, a sign that you perhaps are not in line for a follow-up call is when the interviewer mentions that you are either overqualified or underqualified for the position being advertised. 

Even if intentionally praising you for having a far superior resume than is needed, the mention of a mismatch of skills for the role being advertised is never a good sign. 

Hiring an overqualified candidate means the company may risk losing you to a higher-paying position as soon as one comes along. This will incur a loss of time and energy that has gone into training, will disrupt the team, and mean the hiring exercise will have to be completed all over again.

Final thoughts

Although there are many good reasons to try to interpret how an interview has gone (e.g. should you begin applying for that other great sounding job that closes its application in a few days?; can you finally hand in that letter of resignation to your current employer?) it’s best for your mental health to stop second guessing what might be impossible to decode. 

Hearing good luck from an interviewer very well may be an indicator that you didn’t quite make the cut this time, however more than likely is that the interviewer is simply being courteous and genuinely wishing you goodwill.

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