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5 toxic interviewer personalities and how to deal with them

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Interviews are a common way for employers to assess a candidate’s match for a role. But they are also the best way for candidates to decide if they’d like to work there. 

They don’t always go to plan. Sometimes it’s on you but other times it’s because the interviewer is behaving badly. 

Job interviews are a two way process and you should pay close attention to what your interviewer says and how they conduct themselves. 

If you encounter any of those personalities during your interview it’s not a good sign and you should probably run away. But if you don’t feel like walking out there are ways you can reframe the interview to be more productive based on your interviewer’s toxic personality.

The best friend

The best friend is overly social and unprofessional, he spends most of your time together talking instead of asking you questions or talks about things that are completely unrelated to the interview. 

You might think it’s great as they’re nice and it’s a lot less stressful than answering questions but, if they don’t let you show that you’re a good fit for the role, how do you expect to get the job?

When you realise that the interviewer isn’t going to ask you anything relevant, wait for them to take a breath or politely interrupt and refocus the conversation to why you are here. 

For example:

After 10 minutes talking about how you both love travelling, you still haven’t been asked anything. Say:

By the way, I saw on the job description that the role involves some travel to clients offices, can you tell me more about your clients and what will be expected of me when I meet them?

If they keep talking without giving you a chance to talk, interrupt them and use what they say to tell one of your stories (using the STAR technique of course).

“That sounds very exciting, it reminds me of my previous role when I was the account manager for Tomato & Co… “

And off you go…

The disorganised

Last minute changes to the interview schedule, turning up late, not having reviewed your CV or knowing who you are are all signs that the interviewer is underprepared. 

There could be lots of reasons to justify an interview being chaotic. Maybe it’s the manager’s first interview ever, or they’ve been called to an emergency meeting and didn’t get a chance to prepare, or they’re just the type of person that likes to just ‘wing it’…

But that’s not your problem! The role of the interviewer is to allow you to perform at your best. 

Don’t get overwhelmed by it, just keep your calm and answer the questions in a clear and structured manner to help the interviewer get back on track.

If you feel uncomfortable with how the interview is going, politely ask them if they’d like to reschedule to a more convenient time. 

The bully

This is the kind of person who thinks they need to test how you react under pressure because the role you are going for is ‘tough’.

They will rattle you by being late or just plain rude, check their phone, interrupt or contradict you and sometimes even shout at you… Seriously! 

Intimidating behaviours in an interview are not acceptable, even when the role is challenging. 

Try to keep your cool and react as you would if you were in front of a rude client or stakeholder. 

But if you’re starting to get upset by the situation, tell them this:

Let me stop you there. I don’t believe that shouting / accusing me of lying / swearing is appropriate for an interview. I completely understand that the role is challenging and am more than happy to answer relevant questions about how I would deal with a difficult stakeholder or participate in a role play if you would like to see me in action.

And if they still think it’s ok to treat you badly, walk out! 

The bullshitter

You can spot a dishonest manager when they can’t give you a straight answer about salary, working hours or career progression. 

Other signs that the manager is full of s*** include being vague about what the job entails, a mismatch between how two people talk about it or pushing your questions aside. 

They’re also the kind of people who don’t stick to their word and forget when they’ve promised to send you some info, get back to you or give you some feedback. 

Realistically, to get the answers you need, you need to put in the work and find out the information yourself by doing some research, asking other people, or constantly chasing them. 

Hard work!

The offensive one

When the interviewer thinks it’s ok to make inappropriate comments about the person they’re replacing, their team or clients during an interview you need to ask yourself if you’d like them to talk about you in the same way.

Another outrageous thing they thinks it’s ok to do, is to ask you about personal things that have got nothing to do with your ability to do the job, like your age, sexual orientation, religion or whether you’ve got kids. It’s not OK!

When you’re faced with one of them, try to assume the best and that they’re just a bit clumsy but make sure you change the subject or redirect them to asking pertinent questions. 

For example:

They ask you if you are in a relationship, have kids or what your religion is

Maybe what they really want to know is if you are going to be able to work shifts or be away from home a lot > What you should say is: “I understand that the role will involve working a variety of shifts, if you are interested in whether I can work nights or weekends, this won’t be a problem.”

If you really can’t see why they are asking you the question > What you can say is: “I will be more than happy to tell you more about my personal situation once I have joined your team.”

Whatever type of interviewer you encounter, good or bad, remember that they are a reflection of the company culture and management style.

The choice is yours!

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