You had an interview this morning and you distinctly remember the hiring manager paying you a compliment. At least, you think it was something positive—right?

Well, there are a few comments that sound promising—until you translate them from hiring manager to normal person. Turns out that sometimes the interviewer is finding a nice way to tell you it’s not going to happen. So listen up and pay attention when you hear any of the following:

1. “You’re So Enthusiastic”

Translation: “You’re Freaking Me Out”

Enthusiasm is good: No one is going to hire someone who could care less about the work. However, a person who’s overly excited isn’t going to top any lists either. Do you think someone who’s starstruck by her company or her boss would feel comfortable being honest with the team and making tough (but necessary) decisions?

As Muse writer Richard Moy points out in “How to Keep Your Cool When You Interview With Your Dream Company,” you also need to do your due diligence and make sure the open position is right for you. If you answer each question by gushing over the company, the hiring manager will wonder if you’ve really thought it through.

So, feel free to share how long you’ve been following the company or why you personally admire its work. But don’t sell yourself short by acting like you’re a deranged fan who would just be lucky to work there. Make sure you spend ample time discussing the kick-ass applicant you are, and why you’d be a great addition to the team.

2. “You’re Not the Typical Candidate”

Translation: “I’m Not Sure You Can Do the Job”

“Yes,” you think, “I’m an individual!” And if you’re a non-traditional candidate—say you have less education than the position description calls for, or you’re changing fields—you should keep an ear out for these sorts of comments.

They translate to: “You don’t meet all of the qualifications.” So if the hiring manager says something like this, don’t give a two-word answer like “I know,” or even, “Thank you.” Take the opportunity to follow up with a strong line that emphasizes why that means you bring unique—and valuable—experience to the table. It sounds like this: “It’s true I’ve only worked in commercial real estate for two years. That’s because I spent my first three years out of school working in financial management. I use the lessons I learned counseling people on how they should invest their money every time I make a sale. ”

3. “You’re Very Persistent”

Translation: “I Need Some Space”

You know that following up is kind of a touchy subject for hiring managers. They appreciate someone who is timely and responsive, but they’ve also had to deal with one too many people who flood their inboxes asking for an update every 48 hours—for the duration of a six-week process.

While you want to be seen as diligent and on top of things, you don’t want to be seen as a pest. The fix is pretty straightforward: If you get this feedback, lay off a bit. Keep the faith that if you are the person he wants for the job, the hiring manager will reach out to you. If he has a follow-up question, he’ll reach out to you. (And if you’ve already been exchanging emails, you know that your correspondence goes through fine, so there’s no need to check in just in case of an overzealous spam filter.)

So, if the hiring manager says she’ll be in touch regarding the next round, give her at least a full week. And if you’ve already checked in once, you need to be patient—and use the time you saved to keep your eyes open for other opportunities.

4. “You’re Such a Great Ambassador for Your Company”

Translation: “I Don’t Think You’re Ready to Move on”

It’s true: You fit in so well and are so loyal that it’s second nature for you to discuss an organization’s merits. How great is it that the interviewer recognizes that?

The answer is: It’s good and bad. In reality, a comment like this could mean the hiring manager thinks you’re too embedded to want to jump ship. For example, I once held a job I loved so much that, for years afterward, when people asked me about the organization, I’d say, “The program seeks to…and so we always…and we also…” (even though I didn’t work there anymore). By talking about what “we” looked for, I made it pretty clear that I still loved that job, probably more than the one I was interviewing for.

So, when you discuss your current responsibilities, talk about the work you do—and tie it to how it’s prepared you for the role you’re applying to. And when you talk about your current (or former) company, skip “we” and call it by its name, or say something generic like, “In a prior role,” or the “the program was designed to…”

Many hiring managers try to couch what they’re telling you in nice terms. These translations can help you cut through the niceties so you know what to work on to be a stronger candidate.

Photo of man listening courtesy of Shutterstock.

Updated 6/19/2020