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How to Deal with a Difficult/Non-Responsive Interviewer

interview tips May 27, 2022

What is the likelihood that every interviewer you speak with is gracious, kind, thoughtful, attentive and really wants to make sure you have the best experience of your life?

Let’s face it. There is a very small chance that your interviewer is going to be completely engaged and excited about chatting with you. Even if you go into your interview with a positive expectation, you always have to prepare for the worst.

Item #1—What About Bob?

The challenge in front of you is not to assume a static environment. Expect the unexpected because no two interviewers are ever exactly the same. As part of your interview preparation, ideally, you are conducting practice interviews with another person. One difficulty with that is the person already knows you. If possible, it’s a good idea to have them assume different interviewer personality types.

We always practice with our imaginary interviewer, Sue, in my sessions. Today, I want to introduce you to Bob. Let’s just say Bob is less pleasant to talk to than Sue. He doesn’t want to turn his camera on during a video interview. His phone is constantly buzzing and chiming with notifications. He regularly cuts you off in the middle of your answers. Bob looks disinterested in what you have to say, and maybe even comes across a bit upset or angry for some reason.

What do you do when you run into a Bob? All your preparation and practice may be thrown off unless you have practiced specifically for this worst-case scenario.

So, the number one item that will help you deal with bad interviewers is being mentally prepared for it. Remember that this interview is a job responsibility for them. They are not going into these interviews voluntarily. It is a work duty and naturally it’s not going to be the most exciting part of their day.

Item #2—Personality Types

The number one strategy is to practice this kind of interview scenario. When you are practicing with a friend, colleague or coach, you need to ask them to play different characters. Run through your interview practice with each of these characters to better prepare yourself for any personality type you may encounter.

Here are a few examples you might utilize:

Sue—Sue is great. She is our cool interviewer. She has a warm, friendly personality and is very forthcoming with information. Most importantly, Sue is actively listening to you and engaged in the process. Think of Sue as your hiring manager, the most likely interviewer to be paying attention.

Jane—Jane is a little more difficult than Sue. She is less forthcoming with information and definitely harder to read. She doesn’t smile and she doesn’t really engage with your questions. Jane is sitting back and letting you do all the work.

Bob—Bob is the worst. He is really going to push your buttons and frustrate you throughout the interview. Everything he does gets you off track and you are fighting an uphill battle from the start.

Item #3—Prepare for the Worst

It is very beneficial to practice dealing with all of these common personality types. Have your practice partner assume all of these roles and challenge you in different ways. Spend more time practicing with characters like Jane or Bob because they will better prepare you for the worst situations you might encounter. You may be hoping for a Sue, but you should expect a Jane or Bob.

If you only practice for Sue and go into your interview expecting the best-case scenario with an interviewer who is fully engaged and easy to talk to, you will be completely thrown off when you get someone who is less interested in being there. The reality may end up being somewhere between Sue and Jane. However, you will still be properly prepared for someone like Bob, just in case your worst nightmare comes true!

Watch my full video on this topic below:

For more practice interview tips and resources, visit my YouTube channel, follow my blog or sign up on Practice Interviews.

Jeff H. Sipe

Jeff has interviewed over 1000 people in his career and previously spent five years working at Google headquarters in Silicon Valley. You likely found Jeff through YouTube and you will find the same level of dedication in his one on one practice interview sessions.

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