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Posted by on Mar 3, 2013

Three Big Bad Interviewers to Watch Out For

Three Big Bad Interviewers to Watch Out For

A hiring manager I know once told me about an off-the-wall job interview technique he had used in the past. Before the candidate arrived, he would adjust the blinds behind his desk so a blade of sunlight struck the applicant’s seat. He wanted the light to shine right in the person’s eyes. The response to this, he felt, would reveal a lot about the job hopeful’s personality. Someone who requested that the blinds be closed was a go-getter, or at least more so than someone who sat in silent discomfort.

Of course, not every hiring manager will take such a tricky approach. But you never know who will greet you when you go in for an interview.

Some interviewers are great and can even make the meeting easier for you. Many, unfortunately, are not. With these managers, you have to put in extra effort to make a strong impression.

Here are three bad interviewers you may encounter during your job hunt:

#1: The First-Time Interviewer

Every hiring manager needs to conduct a few interviews before feeling comfortable with the process. But what does happens if you’re sitting across from someone who’s still learning the ropes?

First-timers are usually nervous and focused on doing everything just right. They’re often so concerned with their performance — Am I asking the right questions? Am I making too much eye contact? Am I taking enough notes? — that they don’t pay close attention to yours. And that means your responses might be falling on deaf ears.

In this instance, it’s best to let the interviewer finish with her list of standard questions and then ask if you can talk about a few accomplishments you feel are relevant to the job. Also try to pose a few questions yourself, which might help get the hiring manager off script enough to relax.

#2: The Unprepared Interviewer

Not every interviewer will prepare for the meeting as diligently as you do. In fact, the first time some hiring managers may look at your resume is just a few minutes before you walk in the door.

You can expect an unprepared interviewer to do most of the talking in an attempt to hide his lack of knowledge about you. The good news: You may learn a lot about the company and position. The bad news: He won’t learn much about you.

If you sense a hiring manager hasn’t done his homework, make a point of reiterating your most notable skills and accomplishments. It may feel like you’re just rehashing your resume, but, in this case, that’s the goal. After all, there’s no guarantee the interviewer has even read your resume or will ever do so.

#3: The Distracted Interviewer

This type of interviewer will force you to fight for her attention throughout the meeting. You can tell because she keeps stealing glances at her email or pausing the conversation to answer urgent phone calls. The trouble is that the interview time could end before any meaningful discussion takes place.

Unfortunately, you may just have to grin and bear it when meeting with a distracted interviewer. The meeting may have simply been set for a bad time. One option is to request that the interview be rescheduled. Be tactful if you choose this route — you don’t want to push too hard and come across as snippy.

Oh, and when it comes to the trickster interview, like the one I described at the beginning that involved sunlight in the applicant’s face? Try to keep your cool and be yourself. You can’t always outguess a manager who plays games — and you may not even realize when he’s playing one. Answer with confidence, send a thank-you note and take pride in knowing you did your best.

Had trouble with past interviewers? Tell me about it in the comments section.

About Robert McCauley

Robert McCauley is a career expert with Robert Half, a leading specialized staffing firm that helps skilled professionals find rewarding temporary and full-time jobs in a variety of fields. Robert has been writing about the job search and careers for more than 10 years. Connect with him and Robert Half on Twitter and YouTube.

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  1. Two come to mind – soon after I left a somewhat controversial organization I had an interview and the first thing the interviewer said was ‘I always wondered what someone who worked at ‘xyz company’ looked like – I asked since he’d now seen me, was I still being interviewed?

    Another interviewer said that they were only looking for cheerleaders and I didn’t come across that way – I asked if they wanted a cheerleader or someone who was going to do the job? No, I’m not a cheerleader but I’m a person who will get the job done – they offered me the job and I turned it down.

    • Anne — You bring up a good point. The type of interviewer you meet with — and the questions they ask — can reveal a lot about the organization. One interviewer I didn’t write about is the hiring manager who asks inappropriate (or even illegal) questions, like the first example you gave. In some cases, the person may not even realize they have crossed the line. But if you’ve made it clear the questions are making you uncomfortable, and they keep going down that path, you need to seriously consider crossing that company off your list.

  2. It’s somewhat surprising to me just how many inappropriate interviewers there are out there. I recently had an interview that I thought was going well until the person told me she was glad I am married so I wouldn’t need health insurance. I found that rather odd and a wee bit off-putting!


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