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What If You Encounter a Bad Interviewer?

You walk into a job interview fully prepared to make an impression - the employer research done, your attire impeccably professional, and polished answers ready for the typical questions (and you have questions of your own). But, one thing you might not think to prepare for is how the interviewer will act or communicate. In many ways, being proficient at interviewing job candidates requires as much skill and preparation as being interviewed does, and you may find that not every interviewer you meet during your job search is professional, well-behaved or demonstrates skill/experience at interviewing.

When it comes to job interviews, no two interviewers will be alike. You may be interviewing with human resources, a hiring consultant, an office manager, your potential boss, or a potential team member or coworker (who may have even been passed over for the job). The interviewer could be someone who talks non-stop without asking questions, asks questions that seem silly or irrelevant, is not prepared for the interview, is distracted by other things, or is simply having a bad day. You could also encounter someone who is rude or antagonistic.

Below is a list of tips for dealing with a seemingly unskilled or unfriendly interviewer and for navigating a potentially bad interview to a positive outcome.

Keep Calm and Interview On

If an interviewer is spending the time talking about themselves or not asking good or relevant questions, you may become annoyed or think you should end the interview. You want to keep your cool and not show your annoyance, but also listen for opportunities to chime in about your qualifications or tie your answers to the skills and experience you offer. You can also look for an opening in which to ask, "May I tell you about my experience with X?".

Don't Take It Personally

If an interviewer is distracted - answering emails, texts and phone calls instead of engaging with you, or if they seem to be in a bad mood, try to block out their behavior and continue to be as friendly as possible. If the interruptions and demeanor become unendurable, you can politely ask if it's still a good time to meet and offer to reschedule if that would be more convenient for them. You may think it's you, but depending on the circumstances with the interviewer, the other candidates for the position may have the same experience.

Steer the Conversation

If the interviewer is unprepared or asking irrelevant questions, try your best to answer their questions but also steer the conversation back to the relevant topics. Try inserting examples of your accomplishments into the conversation or pose questions yourself, asking them about the job and its responsibilities and challenges, then explaining how you would approach those challenges. In essence, you may need to conduct the interview for them, ensuring they get the information they would need to properly assess you and your qualifications for the job.

Stay Confident

If the interviewer is being rude or even outright argumentative (e.g. being dismissive or belittling your responses), don't let it rattle you. Chances are their attitude is about something other than you, so try to stay calm and continue to answer their questions with confidence. 

Stay Positive and Engaged

You may encounter an interviewer who is unemotional and unwilling or unable to give you a nod, smile or word of encouragement. Many trained interviewers assume a poker face in order to avoid providing any feedback (either positive or negative) during the interview. Not being able to get a read on what the interviewer is thinking about you and your responses can be unnerving, but the best thing to do is not get flustered and continue being engaging without second-guessing what you are saying.   

See the Opportunity

If the interviewer is the person who would be your boss at this job (or even a team member), see the interview as an opportunity to learn whether you would want to work with him or her. How they behave and interact during the interview is probably a good indication of how they will potentially be as your supervisor or co-worker.

Be Ready for Anything

Rather than focusing on what the interviewer should be doing or asking, just listen and go with the flow of the conversation. Keep smiling and making eye contact. Look for those opportunities in which you can explain how well you fit the job or help the interviewer feel that they would like to work with you.

Perhaps the biggest reason to be very well prepared for a job interview is that you never know what to expect, especially when it comes to the interviewer. To ensure you aren't thrown off your interview game by someone who doesn't have good interviewing skills or possibly has a difficult personality, think about these tips to make sure you go into the interview armed and ready for anything.

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