Saturday, December 09, 2006

Dealing With A Difficult Interviewer

A good friend of mine recently had a series of job interviews (seven in all) with a well-known company. One of these interviews was with a person whose job was to see how well my friend handled pressure. Basically, the interviewer spent an hour challenging everything my friend said. When he saw that my friend went to the University of Michigan, he said that he was an Ohio State fan, and asked him to convince him why Michigan had a better team. He suggested that he must have cheated on a test to get such a high score. And anytime my friend responded to a question with an answer that wasn't totally clear, there were tough follow-up questions until he clarified his point.

Luckily, my friend is fairly cool under pressure, so while he was agitated by the interrogation, he was able to keep it together for the interview. I know that I probably would have been a bumbling mess in the same situation, but his story got me thinking about how one could prepare if they knew in advance that an interview would be very tough.

Many companies are known for using this practice of bully interviewing, and if you do some research online in advance, you might be able to find out whether your company does this. A good source of information is The Vault which features employee surveys from thousands of companies, where people often comment on the interview process.

If you have no idea what to expect from the interview, it certainly doesn't hurt to do as much preparation as you can. If you're in college, check to see if your career development centers offers mock interviews, they're extremely helpful and will give you confidence going into the interview. If you don't have access to such a service, ask a friend or family member to ask you practice questions. Remember, the more confident you are, the better you'll handle any tough questions or awkward situations.

If you do get a difficult interviewer, there are a few things you can do to make the best of the situation. If an interviewer starts bullying you, recognize that they could be just playing games to see how you handle the situation. Do not take anything they say personally, and do not argue back, though you should defend yourself in a respectful manner. Stay calm and take your time answering each question fully and try your best not to show how nervous or uncomfortable you may be. Regardless of whether the interviewer has been told to act horrid or not, you are being evaluated at how you handle a one-on-one situation, and this is your opportunity to show your maturity and professionalism. In fact, a difficult interviewer might even present an excellent opportunity to distinguish yourself from other applicants, many of whom may torpedo their chances with a poor performance.

And as always, no matter how pissed off you are that someone put you through the interview from hell, you should always still send them a nice thank you note within a day or two of the interview. Good luck!


Alison said...

Interesting information. My husband once had a 7 hour long interview with no chance for food, drink or bathroom breaks. It was weird in that he had to go to several different rooms where one was extremely cold, and one was very hot. Very strange day and he didn't get the job. But there were also about 300 applicants for the job so it was a long shot to begin with.

Meg said...

Alison, that's the craziest interview story I've ever heard. I have no idea what I'd do in that situation, except be really freaked out about what actually working there would entail. Thanks for sharing!