The LLoyd blog: hidden talent.

10 Tips for Surviving a Bad Interviewer

If you’ve ever sat across the desk from someone who can’t ask the right interview questions, you know how uncomfortable and even painful the situation can be. Job seekers have repeatedly told us that their perception of a company’s image changes as a result of a good or bad job interview. That’s why the skills of the interviewer are often a big factor in a candidate’s decision to accept a job offer or take a pass. Some of the more common turn-offs sited by candidates include:

The interviewer didn’t read my resume prior to the meeting.
S/he was distracted by phone calls, staff interruptions or text messaging.
Inappropriate comments or questions were made making it an uncomfortable experience.

Simply because someone is in the role of interviewer, doesn’t mean they are capable of doing it well. Even worse, if the interview is for a job or company you really want, it is up to you to salvage the interview and make it work in your favor. Bad interviewers are typically unfocused and unprepared. Sometimes they talk too much, other times the air hangs heavy with awkward pauses. If you are still determined to get the offer despite the interviewer’s obvious dysfunctions, here are some suggestions for damage control.

  1. Have additional copies of your resume for the interviewer who has misplaced this important document.
  2. Make eye contact and smile in a friendly way. Keep a poker face during awkward moments – no eyebrow raising, frowns or chilling stares.
  3. Don’t let uncomfortable silences go on too long. Have some questions ready and ask them in a relaxed manner. For example, Can you expand on the responsibilities of the position?…or, What is a typical day like? Try to ask questions that are not Yes or No oriented.
  4. If you think the interviewer hasn’t uncovered your strengths or why you are the ideal candidate, steer him or her in the right direction. Well, it certainly sounds like my background is a good fit. Or – I wanted to mention that I… and then go into further detail.
  5. Coax the interviewer to open up. Ask about his or her own tenure at the company. If the response is boring, you should still appear interested; nod at appropriate intervals.
  6. Ask if there are other people who are involved in the hiring decision. By meeting others you may be able to gauge if this particular interviewer happens to be their corporate oddball, but everyone else seems great. While it’s true that you are being interviewed, you shouldn’t forget that you also need to assess their overall company culture and whether it’s right for you.
  7. Don’t let “wild card” questions rattle you. These are questions like, “what flavor ice cream cone are you?” Questions like this are asked to see if you can think on your feet, or just because the interviewer is quirky. There is no right or wrong answer, so just gather your thoughts and do the best you can.
  8. Inquire about the next step. The bad interviewer may not tell you what will happen next. If you want the job, show interest and enthusiasm and say you are available for further interviews. Ask about the process.
  9. Flattery helps. Bad interviewers don’t usually know they are bad interviewers. As you depart, tell him or her, it was a pleasure to meet them. I really enjoyed hearing about this opportunity, it seems ideal. You offered some good insight about this organization. People like hearing nice things about themselves and your goal is to get beyond this horrible interview.
  10. Finally, think long and hard about working at this company.
    Smart companies usually have qualified people in hiring roles. If you interviewed with an HR Manager with poor people skills, that’s not a good sign. If the interviewer was a line manager or someone directly involved in the position, be sure you consider whether you will be able to get along with this individual on a daily basis. Don’t be swayed by a big name corporation or a hefty paycheck, remember, you still have to go to work there everyday. While you can’t choose your family, you can choose your colleagues. Find an environment that will allow you to thrive, not count the minutes until your work day is over.

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