columnist Alison Green answers questions about workplace and management issues--everything from how to deal with a micromanaging boss to how to talk to someone on your team about body odor.

A reader asks:

Over the past several months, I have been lucky enough to make it to second and third round interviews. At one recently, I was told unequivocally that I was one of two remaining candidates. Everyone was so nice that I was shocked when I wasn't offered the position.

Currently, I am awaiting another decision. The final interview was out of town. I was the last to be interviewed and was told no more rounds. I had to prepare a very detailed presentation based on some research along with a writing sample. They seemed to be super super impressed, so much so I was a bit embarrassed. On that following afternoon, I received an unsolicited email from the hiring manager. He wrote: "Thank you for coming in and doing such a fine presentation on such short notice. You did very well." He also wanted to say that I was "very much still being considered for the position" and they were reaching out to references. They did, as I know one for certain has responded. He also said I would have my final decision by "close of business on Friday," which was very specific. He also apologized for the wait and hoped I would understand.

But Friday came and went with no reply as promised. Is this just a nice hiring manager who may be sending mixed messages to a candidate in an effort to be kind and keep a candidate informed?

How would you approach this? Would you be so complimentary and add superlatives when you might not intend to offer?

Green responds:

Well, the thing is, you should never, ever, ever assume that you're getting an offer. It's just too hard to know from the outside, no matter how interested a company seems. Besides, all kinds of things can change: A stronger candidate can emerge at the last minute, the needs of the job can change, an internal candidate can emerge, the employer can simply decide they prefer someone else, and lots of other things.

As for whether these interviewers have been too nice and too encouraging to you ... Good interviewers want to be nice and encouraging, especially to candidates who we think are strong, since we want them to be excited about working with us. After all, if you were choosing between two job offers, and one employer had been warm and kind and enthusiastic about working with you and the other had been reserved and hard to read, wouldn't you prefer the first one? Plus, many interviewers understand that interviewing is stressful and try to make it a less nerve-wracking experience for people, and part of that is giving people information and being as warm as possible.

What happens, though, is that some job candidates then interpret those things as signs that an offer is forthcoming.

These things are not signs of that.

The only sign that an offer is forthcoming is when an employer says to you, "We're offering you the job."

That's it.

Whenever you find yourself sure that you're going to get an offer or shocked that you didn't get one, you have forgotten this rule.

A warm, kind, informative interviewer does not equal an impending job offer. It only equals a warm, kind, informative interviewer.

Also, just to complicate this further, not getting an answer by their self-imposed deadline doesn't mean you're not getting an offer. It just means it's taking longer than they thought, which is also super common.

The best thing you can do is assume you didn't get the job, move on mentally, and let it be a pleasant surprise if you did.

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