When interviewing, always assume that the person interviewing you doesn’t know which questions to ask to ascertain whether you’re the best candidate. My clients have relayed stories to me about getting thrown off track because they allowed their egos to get in the way when faced with an interviewer who didn’t know about them, their qualifications and even the interview itself! Shockingly, many (or even most) times interviewers are not experts at interviewing.
Your interviewer doesn’t necessarily know how to screen candidates and they may ask you questions that disappoint and even offend the prepared candidate. When interviewed by an interviewer who is unprepared, the savvy candidate can use this scenario to their advantage by casually filling the void in information (without embarrassing the interviewer) by telling them what you can do for them and why you’re a great fit for the job. You may feel like you are being repetitious, but continue to be calm and completely describe your qualifications and how they make you a great fit for the needs of the interviewer.
Come armed to your interview with information that will help ease your interviewers task by knowing both the job description and what you can do better than anyone to fill this role. Know how you can add value and be successful at this particular role. Be relaxed when answering questions that seem “off base” like, What’s your favorite color? or, What’s your favorite website? with an answer that reflects positivity and willingness to be flexible. Have 5-10 talking points that explicitly highlight what you know about the company, what appeals to you about the position and why you’re qualified to excel at the job.
I had one candidate that failed an interview prior to our coaching session as he became so offended by a question that he refused to answer it! I suggested that if this occurs in a future interview, he should try controlling his knee jerk negative response to an odd question and use it instead to show his flexibility. Find something social to say that will indicate you could fit in with the corporate culture. Any answer is fine as long as it’s not hostile or weird. For instance, one possible answer to what’s your favorite color could be blue as it reminds me of wide open skies that inspire me expand myself and reminds me of my love for the outdoors. Or my favorite website is….fill in the blank with one you know others at this firm would relate to.
The best thing you can do in an interview that is not being handled professionally is treat the interviewer with respect and try to go with the flow. Adapt your style to his/her style in both how you modulate your voice, how quickly you speak and how you reveal your value. Let him know you are enthusiastic about the job and be clear on how you can add value in an area, which the firm is seeking support.
Often you can learn about company issues prior to your interview by reading the management profile, checking the company’s website and LinkedIn profile and from asking questions from recruiters or current employees. Try to tailor your message so it meets your prospective employers needs. Make a clear statement about how you can help him accomplish his goals. If you can’t discern what their goals are before the interview…ask during the interview and then be prepared to offer a good answer how you can meet their needs/objectives.
Relax, breathe and be authentic! Don’t stretch what you can do but do identify what you’ve done in the past that will prove you would be the best choice for the position you’re seeking. Be prepared for interruptions and for questions that might not seem related to the job and try to respond with grace. For instance, if the interviewer gets an interruption from a phone interview, don’t get flustered.
Here are a few strategies to turn the situation around when faced with a bad interviewer:
If you sense the interviewer is bored, turn the tables and try to get her to talk about herself. People usually enjoy talking about themselves. Ask something like, “What do you like about the company?”
Refocus the Conversation
Sometimes he/she will ask you questions that don’t seem to make any sense. When faced with this kind of interviewer, answer the questions, but put yourself in the driver’s seat by steering the interview toward questions about the job itself. The person in front of you looks like someone who didn’t even know that you were coming in for an interview. He has no clue as to who you are or what your background is. When faced with an interviewer who is unprepared, try leading the conversation by asking if you can tell them what you can do for them and why you are a great fit for the job.
Ignore Interruptions, Be Patient & Steer the Conversation to Where You want it to go
Remember where you left off and when she is finished taking the call you can return to where you left off by saying something like, “As I was saying…” or “to answer your last question….” The point is you must stay in control and calm no matter what happens so you craft your answers to include as much information that’s pertinent about you that relates to why you could do the job best that they have outlined within the course of the appointment. Above all, remain patient with a bad interviewer, smile and maintain your enthusiasm. Take charge of the situation and remember, they’re the one who will determine whether or not you get hired! Your positive attitude, calm demeanor will indicate how you generally handle uncomfortable situations.
Beth is Founder and President of Get Hired, LLC. She advises students on how to bridge the gap from school to career. Beth is the co-author of From Diploma to Dream Job: Five Overlooked Steps to a Successful Career. Her coaching assists students and career changers to successfully match their needs, interests, passions, skills, and personal goals with the needs of a sustainable industry in a sustainable location. She is a resource for print and online media and offers workshops for University Career Service Departments, Executive Recruiters, Outplacement Services, College Guidance Counselors and College Alumni Associations. See website for more details about Beth’s services www.fromdiploma2dreamjob.com. Beth’s Webinar was sponsored by George Washington University’s Career Services Dept. for their worldwide alumni association: Leverage Your College Diploma. You can follow Beth on twitter @BethKuhel