Many interviewers, including hiring managers, recruiters, and HR generalists, seem to forget what it was like when they were job seekers and dealt with the bad behaviors some interviewers put them through. Good interviewers are prepared, on time, and treat every applicant with respect. Bad interviewers don't. So it's important to pay attention to bad interviewer behaviors — they can reveal a lot about the culture of the organization and its leadership.
Here's a list of six really dumb things bad interviewers do, and how you can deal with them.
1. Spending most of the time talking.
The least skilled interviewers talk the most, but never realize it. They're simply nervous and don't know what to ask or how to even conduct an interview, so they just talk, talk, talk about things they do know.
What to do: Interrupt the interviewer using a technique called "clipping." Clipping allows you to interrupt the interview respectfully, and refocus the conversation on the talents you bring to the position. When it becomes clear that the interviewer is doing most of the talking, try one of these phrases to clip or interrupt:
• "I appreciate …"
• "I understand …"
• "I agree with …"
For example, your clipping technique might sound like this:
I appreciate all the details you've just given me. I've had experiences accomplishing similar things for my current company, like when I had to deliver a project under a very tight deadline while juggling several other initiatives. Would you like to know more about that?
2. Being silent.
Some interviewers use silence as a technique. After you respond to a question, they just sit there looking at you in silence, trying to pressure you into saying more — perhaps something you might not otherwise disclose.
What to do: If the interviewer is staring at you in silence, return their gaze and ask a simple question such as:
• "Did I give you enough details?" or
• "Does that answer your question?"
By turning it around and respectfully questioning the interviewer, you facilitate a conversation and use the power you have to influence the interview.
3. Saying: "Tell me about yourself."
When interviewers use this ancient line, it's a clear sign they're unskilled at conducting an effective interview. Skilled interviewers open the interview by introducing themselves and their roles. Then they pause so that you can respond to the greeting. Then, they ask you specific questions about different areas of your experience that relate to the requirements of the positions they want to fill.
What to do: Be prepared to answer, because it's an all-too-common tactic. Actually, this is your perfect cue to provide a 30-second overview of your experience that relates to the position, followed by one of the following two questions:
- "What part of my background would you like to discuss first?" or
- "What do you feel are the most important skills someone must bring to this position?"
Again, you're using your power to direct the interview in a way that benefits your candidacy.
4. Being late and making you wait.
I really hate it when interviewers are late. It's just disrespectful. As a job candidate, you have spent hours researching and preparing for the interview. You also commuted to the interviewer's office and got there on time. The least they can do is be on time for the meeting that they requested.
What to do: Suck it up. Simply be gracious and respectful. Treat interviewers the way you'd like to be treated and maybe they'll get the message. While you're waiting, use the extra time to your advantage. Review your questions, silence your cell phone, and maybe go to the restroom to check your appearance.
5. Allowing interruptions.
Interviewers can be pretty rude at times. Taking phone calls, texting, or allowing other types of interruptions is a sure sign that you're not their top priority.
What to do: An interview gives you an opportunity to evaluate whether or not this is the right environment or boss for you. How you're treated in an interview is a good indication of what you can expect if you're hired. If the interviewer is interrupted, use the time to assess how the interview is proceeding, and if it's off track, how to direct the conversation to highlight your best qualifications for this position. You're representing yourself and must stay focused and professional — even when others are not.
6. Engaging in off-topic questioning.
Some interviewers try to impress and weaken the applicant by asking questions they're sure the applicant cannot answer. (I've seen this especially in interviews for technical occupations such as engineering, science, mathematics, and information technology. Maybe it's a left-brain thing.
What to do: Ask the interviewer how the question relates to the position. For example, you might say the following:
"I'm very interested in providing the information you need to assess my talents. Can you tell me how this question relates to assessing individuals for this position?"
In the end, dumb interviewer behavior is not about you. It simply makes the interviewer look like an idiot. Your job is to remain focused and professional in order to best represent yourself. And if you get a job offer after a bad interview, think about it carefully. Bad interviews can lead to bad jobs.
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