We all know there is much to do with the employment process that has very little to do with the potential employee. One of the most challenging situations job hunters face is the encounter of a ‘bad’ interviewer. Note that we use the term ‘bad’ lightly because the employer may not be bad; you simply may have met a good person having a bad day. Or the chosen interviewer changed last minute and had little time to prepare… or may not have the proper training to conduct a productive interview.
Regardless of why it happens, the reality is that your enthusiastic expectations will not always be met by the strongest of interviewers. Whether the questions felt irrelevant, the mood perceived was cold or the time was simply cut short… here are our best tips for handling it when this harrowing situation happens.
Consider if there are good reasons why you need to answer ‘bad’ questions
Think of this as the ‘innocent until proven guilty’ method. Put yourself in the interviewer’s shoes and consider what answer you would want to hear and why. While it is easy to freeze up and wonder why in the world this question matters, it could be a test of how quick you think on your feet or the assessment of a true job requirement or qualification that you need to prove. If the question at hand makes you consider your fit for the role, that may be a sign of greater conversation and clarification in your response.
Redirect the irrelevant into common ground
While an unfavorable tone or unsuitable query might drive the interview into shaky ground, you don’t have to stay there! With a positive tone and some strategic redirection, try to shift the conversation into what you both want, need and have in common. This may be most effective at the end when it is your turn to ask questions (if this scenario is offered), or you may wish to ‘clarify’ the question at hand by re-directing it into one of your own. If you can verify what essential elements of the job are and how you can fulfill them, you can reach common ground even when it feels like a battlefield.
Follow their lead, then lead to follow-up
Ensure that your attempts to get things on the right track don’t take a wrong turn. Answer what is asked without resentment or concern and show respect for the interviewer even in the times you don’t feel it is being given. The end of the interview is an ideal time to lead into the follow-up you are seeking. Conclude with gratitude, a few statements highlighting what you enjoyed learning about the position and company and create a fit between what needs were expressed and what solutions you can offer. This may also be accomplished in writing after the fact in a post-interview email. Finalize with ‘fit’. After all, an interview is simply a chance to determine how and where your skills and abilities align with the essential functions of the role. If you can take the high road and end on a high note, your chances of success are not nearly as low.
Is every experience with a ‘bad’ interviewer salvageable? NO. Is it always a learning opportunity. YES. After some reflection, and a good night’s sleep, review the situation with a fresh mindset. What redirection questions could you have asked that you can use if something similar happens again? Is there anything you can ask in follow-up to initiate the path towards common ground? Was this interview a sign of how the company operates and an opportunity that no longer interests you? What you gleam from the situation may not be a job, but something far more important: perspective.