How to Handle a Bad Interviewer

How to Handle a Bad Interviewer

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Job interviews are difficult under the best of circumstances.

But they’re made even more painful when the person interviewing you doesn’t have a clue what they’re doing.

You can’t blame the interviewer. In truth, many people are thrown into the situation ill-prepared. They’ve never had any real guidance, so they’re left to navigate this crucial situation with little more than a vague mandate to figure out if the person sitting before them is a fit for the job. They glance at the resume (if time permits) and jump in.

For you, the interviewee, that can lead to many a frustrating conversation. Ultimately, both you and the organization waste time as a result.

Bad interviewers come in all forms. For example, perhaps you’ve encountered one who:

  • Is overly social and unprofessional
  • Asks inappropriate (potentially illegal) questions about age, religion, marital status, etc.
  • Appears to not understand your background
  • Fails to ask questions
  • Doesn’t explain the role or answer your questions

This is certainly not an exhaustive list of bad interviewer behavior, but you get the idea.

The question now is this: How do you deal with a person like this, and how do you get the interview back on track? Is there any way to save yourself and (possibly) redeem the situation?

Here are a few things to try if and when you find yourself sitting in front of a bad interviewer.

Don’t Show Your Irritation

Bad interviewers are annoying, for sure. After all, you spent time preparing for this meeting; why couldn’t they?

You have every right to feel this way, but don’t let it show. When you’re frustrated by the person, it’s easy to let small signs of disrespect slip out. You don’t want to ruin any chance there could be because of a subtle eye roll or condescending tone of voice. Maintain your professionalism, regardless of what the other person is doing.

Guide the Interview Conversation

Remember that the interview is a two-way conversation. If the other person isn’t steering the ship, you can take the wheel. Offer the information you want to share, don’t wait for the right questions to be asked. Be politely and pleasantly assertive.

For example, if the interviewer is going off on an irrelevant tangent, bring him or her back by saying something like this: “I’d really like to share some details about my experience and how it could be useful in this role,” and then follow it up with a great accomplishment story that highlights your relevant skillset.

Don’t be afraid to pose specific questions, too. Remember that you’re here to get information about the job and the organization. If it’s not offered, ask for it.

Also read: How to Read and React to the Interviewer’s Body Language

Focus on Impact Over Details

If it appears that your interviewer doesn’t understand what you do, take the time to help them without being overly detailed. This is especially important for people in highly technical roles who may be interviewing with HR employees.

Don’t get into the weeds; instead, talk about the impact of your work. At the same time, avoid treating the person like they’re an elementary school student. It’s okay to say something like, “Are you familiar with this? Would it be helpful for me to explain it a little?”

In the early stages of the interview process, this is more likely to be an issue.

Focus on Relevance

If your interviewer is asking questions about marital status, family life, religion, or other protected class topics, be cautious. There’s no need to go into detail on these things, but it’s also counterproductive to launch into a lecture on employment law.

Instead, speak to the heart of the issue. What concern is being expressed and how can you alleviate it? For example, you might be able to say, “I’m available to work evenings and weekends if that’s needed” or “I don’t have any family obligations that will pull be out of work.”

If the interviewer is pressing on these matters, you can always ask directly, “Can you tell me why this is relevant for the role?”

Use the Information

Finally, remember that an ill-prepared interviewer tells you something about the organization. This might be an indication of how these people do business. However, it could also just be a bad day for the interviewer. You won’t really know which it is unless and until you get another interview or get hired.

But if an interview really leaves you feeling frustrated, you probably want to move on. When employees don’t respect the interview process, it’s likely there are a lot of bad hires floating around—and they’d be your colleagues. You don’t want to end up in the wrong role, in the wrong organization and with the wrong people. Let a bad interview stay just that; don’t let it become a bad career situation.

Chrissy Scivicque
About the Author
Chrissy Scivicque

Chrissy Scivicque is a career coach, corporate trainer and public speaker who believes work can be a nourishing part of the life experience. Her website, Eat Your Career, is devoted to this mission. Chrissy is currently a contributing career expert for U.S. News & World Report and the author of the book, The Proactive Professional: How to Stop Playing Catch Up and Start Getting Ahead at Work (and in Life!), available on Amazon.

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