What’s more difficult than an interviewer who asks tough, probing questions? An interviewer who hasn’t a clue how to interview. You can leave this type of interview feeling as if you ignited no interest, bombed the interview, and won’t be asked back. Where was the scintillating conversation? Where was the discussion about your qualifications?
How are you to know if they’re a lousy interviewer – or you’re a lousy interviewee? If you have prepared for the interview, you know where the problem probably lies. Fortunately, your preparation enables you to jump in, rescue, and take control of those awkward moments, turning that interview around in your favor.
Ask for Information
Interviews are really a two-way street. This not only means that you need to be interviewing the company as they are you, but that the company needs to sell themselves to you, as you are selling yourself to them. If the interviewer doesn’t have those skills, you need to elicit the information.
Guide and Inform
Interviewers who ramble on about the company need to be re-directed. Interviewers who are unable to speak about the company or position should be prompted with your questions. Interviewers who are unprepared, or perhaps forgot about their appointment with you, must be briefed – by you – on your background, because they probably don’t remember your resume.
Create the Opportunity to Sell Yourself
Experiencing holes and awkward pauses in the conversation? If the interviewer doesn’t ask what your skills are or why you’re a great choice for the company, speak up and tell him. Toot your own horn. “I’d like to tell you about the time I put a winning proposal together under a stiff deadline, since the job we’re speaking of is also very deadline oriented.” That doesn’t mean talk non-stop, but it does mean don’t sit there and be silent for long periods of time.
Jump right in with the questions you came prepared to ask. What priorities need to be addressed immediately? What’s a typical day like? How long has the interviewer been with the company? Why does he stay?
Other interviewers may ask questions, but stupid and unimaginative ones. “I see you worked at The Snappy Scissors Company. How did you like working there?” (“Um, I hated it. That’s why I left. Duh.”) Instead, say what you learned while you were there, and remember not to disparage any previous employers. Resist rolling your eyes if they go through your entire resume this way or if you’re asked, “If you were a tree, what type of tree would you be?”
Sometimes a bit of movement helps. Request a tour of the office, which will provide focal points for questions and an opportunity for conversation. Ask about the decision making time frame and if there are other steps involved. See if you can set up an interview with others in the department or your interviewer’s boss or other decision makers in the company. Perhaps they’ll be a better interviewer!
Be patient with these inept people. Whatever their interviewing skills, or lack thereof, it’s possible they’ve had limited interviewing experience. Speaking up and taking control of the interview may be the only thing that not only gives you the information you need, but saves the interview from being a total bomb. They may be a bad interviewer, but they aren’t the one being interviewed.
No matter how bored you are, no matter what you’re thinking, smile and be enthusiastic. Take command.