When you’re preparing to launch yourself into the lion’s den of a job interview, you’ll usually be entirely focused on your own performance, from planning out your dress, to ensuring you’ll look your best, to perfecting your handshake.
While all of these preparations are undoubtedly vital, they make it all too easy to lose track of the fact that an interview is a dialogue and, by its very nature, is not all about you.
Unfortunately, how well you interview is only half the equation. You also have to hope you get an interviewer who knows what they’re doing.
As someone who’s been on both sides of the table, it becomes immediately obvious when you’ve been lumped with an inexperienced interviewer.
This is never ideal, but, as long as you are able to recognize the traits of a bad interviewer, you can take action to make sure that, in spite of them, you still manage to give the best possible account of yourself.
Here are some 3 common scenarios that can arise with a poor interviewer and tips for handling them:
1) An Interviewer That Does All the Talking
If you’ve ever interviewed for a fairly high pressure role, or one that requires a good deal of assertiveness, you’ve probably been on the end of interviewing tactics designed to weed out those who are too passive to succeed.
One classic example of this is where an interviewer remains almost silent, an aggressive technique that can make those of a nervous disposition feel uneasy and lead to them babbling on. Indeed, the police even use this method in interrogations.
Of course, this is the preserve of experienced interviewers who know exactly what they are looking for. At the other hand of the spectrum, as you might expect, you’ll often find an inexperienced interviewer doing the exact opposite; talking endlessly (possibly as a result of their own nervousness) to the point that you’re struggling to even get a word in.
In some cases, you may feel that this is because the job is in the bag and they’re desperately trying to sell its appeal to you, but this a dangerous assumption to make. Even if your interviewer doesn’t seem overly concerned to hear more about your credentials, you owe it to yourself to make sure that they have the necessary evidence to make an informed choice when, hopefully, they offer you the post.
2) An Under-prepared Interviewer
There is nothing more disheartening than going into an interview, only for it to soon become clear that your opposite number isn’t 100% clear on who you are, and isn’t particularly familiar with your resume. Indeed, in some cases, where a department is trying to fill multiple vacancies simultaneously, it’s not unheard of for an interviewer to be a little hazy as to which role the candidate in front of them is actually applying for.
Alternatively, you might be lucky enough to be one of selected few candidates being interviewed for a high level position, a role which requires senior staff to be present at interview. In this case, you can find your interviewer is clearly distracted by their many other concerns, recruitment not being their primary responsibilities.
Either way, you’ll have your work cut out for you. In some cases you’ll have to simply remember that, in giving your answers, you cannot assume the level of knowledge from your interviewer that you may have expected. So, for example, if you give information in reference to something listed on your resume, make sure they actually know what you’re talking about.
If you really feel the situation is hopeless, do not be afraid to ask if they’d prefer to reschedule. As long as you pose the question in a polite manner, it won’t reflect badly on you, and even seem considerate. Besides, if it’s come to that, you don’t really have anything to lose.
3) An Overly Aggressive Interviewer
Many people, when placed in a situation that they are not completely comfortable with, can respond by bluffing bravado. Interviewers lacking in experience are far from immune to this.
This is worth bearing in mind if you’re sensing a combative atmosphere in your interview, if your opposite number interrupts you midway through a response, or openly contradicts you for instance. Whether this is a deliberate ploy, or a sign or nerves, your only option is to keep calm and carry on.
One great way of doing this is to have a glass of water to hand. Even if you’re not thirsty, taking a sip is a great way to give yourself a little time to surreptitiously keep your cool and order your thoughts.
What was your most memorable interview with a bad job interviewer? Tell us in the comments.
About the Author
Will Kerr has enjoyed a fruitful career in recruitment and writes about his experiences in order to help job seekers progress their careers. You can read more of his work over at www.job-centre-vacancies.co.uk.
Photo By Samuel Mann