Tips: It’s Them, Not You: Five Awful Interviewers

Robert Half International,
Posted: 2010-03-12 11:43:31

You felt ready for your employment interview. You got a good night’s sleep and wore your best suit. You contemplated your answers to questions ranging from “What do you have to offer our firm?” to “Where do you see yourself in five years?” Unfortunately, when you arrive, you realize that you considered every possible problem except the one you actually encountered: a bad interviewer.

Most professionals are so focused on performing well for a sharp hiring manager that it’s a surprise to meet with someone who is inexperienced, unprepared or unfocused. Following are some common types of bad interviewers you may encounter and how to ensure a meeting with any of them still goes well:

The First-Timer.
This person is probably more nervous than you are. The First-Timer is likely extremely organized and has a list of questions, all of which must be asked and answered in order. He or she is not at all interested in non-scripted details: When you offer insight into an accomplishment you thought stood out from the rest, the hiring manager just nods politely and moves onto the next question, all the while taking comprehensive notes.

In this situation it’s best to just go with the interviewer’s flow; you don’t want to make the person feel inept. A good way to highlight information you think is crucial – but that is not on the interviewer’s “list” – is to ask if you can talk about a few relevant accomplishments after the person is finished with his or her questions. The First-Timer will still feel in control of the interview, and you’ll feel you’ve done your best to demonstrate your ability to do the job.

The Silent Type.
You don’t mind answering questions at length, but you’d like to find out a little bit more about the position. Yet, your attempts to open dialogue are not generating responses. Since you can’t force the Silent Type to open up, and you don’t want to upset the person, it’s best to try to get additional details from other sources.

You might try to do some more research on the company on your own, including talking to those in your network to see if they can offer insight. You may have an opportunity to meet with others at the company who will be more forthcoming with information. Whatever tack you take, you need to get the entire picture of the job and the company before you can consider accepting the position.

The Never-Ending Interviewer.
You’ve been talking to a hiring manager for close to two hours, having answered every question the person asked long ago. He or she has moved on from telling you about the job to telling you about his or her recent safari in Africa.

The best advice: Continue to pay close attention. Though the conversation may veer in various directions, by listening carefully, you may get a better idea of the attributes this person seeks in a new hire, allowing you to emphasize your skills during the interview and in a strong follow-up note thanking the interviewer for meeting with you.

The Distracted Interviewer.
From the moment you walk in his office door, this person can barely focus attention on you long enough to ask a question. Between taking phone calls and talking to employers who poke their heads in for a “quick answer” to a problem, your interviewer has only managed to find out the name of your last employer.

In an extreme situation, you might diplomatically offer to come back at a less hectic time. After all, maybe you’ve arrived during the busiest time of year, and he or she simply didn’t have a chance to prepare for the meeting. If the Distracted Interviewer accepts your offer to come back, and the hiring manager is still disorganized on your second visit, consider this a potential sign of how things are at this firm. Would you want to work for someone who can’t organize his or her time well enough to conduct a proper interview?

The Intimidating Interviewer.
Your potential boss has just finished itemizing what your job would entail, and the list includes working a number of weekends and extensive overtime, as well as more administrative duties than you’d anticipated. While you appreciate the hiring manager’s candor, you already know this isn’t the place for you.

It’s best to be honest: Tell the hiring manager that, based on his description of the job, you think you wouldn’t be a good match for the position and thank him or her for meeting with you. The person will appreciate your honesty and that you didn’t waste his or her time during the interview process.

While you can’t completely prepare for what you’ll encounter when you meet a hiring manager, you should consider the personality types you may meet during an interview. By applying your past experiences and trusting your instincts, you’ll be more likely to succeed – and be asked back for another meeting.

Robert Half International Inc. is the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm with a global network of more than 360 offices throughout North America, South America, Europe and the Asia-Pacific region. For more information about our professional services, please visit

Copyright 2010 Robert Half International, Inc.

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