Make sure you read this before you go to your next interview!
You got your professional resume written and now you have an interview. Congratulations! You then prepared for the interview, hopefully using Advance Your Career Resume’s Interview Preparation Guide. Hold on - before you waltz out to that interview - even if you are prepared for typical interview questions - there’s more to be prepared for. Not every professional who conducts interviews knows how to do the task effectively. In fact, some are downright lousy interviewers that have no idea what they are doing. You must be prepared to deal with this possible situation at the interview as well.
Here’s how you know you are in a bad interview:
Unfocused, disinterested or unprepared interviewer
Interviewer does all the talking
Interviewer asks illegal or inappropriate questions
Interviewer hasn’t read your résumé or can’t find a copy
Interviewer doesn’t know what to ask
Overall the goal is to "keep your focus on making the interviewer feel comfortable with you.” say Judy Rosemarin, president of Sense-Able Strategies, Inc. Whether the interview is miserable or is going well, always try to make the interviewer feel comfortable with you and able to see themselves in you. Addressing the needs of the company still must be your focus.
Here’s how you can always be prepared to overcome these awkward or frustrating situations:
1. Always bring an extra copy of your resume to the interview, preferably printed on a nice heavy stock. If they don’t know what to ask you, you can say, “Can I take you through the highlights of my career?” If you have a professional resume, you will have gone through the process of mining your accomplishments and will be ready to talk about them.
2. Some interviewers love listening to themselves talk. Stay in the moment and pay close attention, even if the windbag is just going on and on about themselves. Take mental notes or jot them down on a small notepad as they are talking. Above all, don’t show exasperation. A technique for attempting to get a word in edgewise is to lean forward with a slightly opened mouth, advises Anne Kadet on Smartmoney.com.
3. Even a nonstop talker will likely eventually ask if the interviewee has any questions. Be ready to take full advantage of this break! Ask questions or describe your fit with the company and the position based on your mental or written notes. Before you go to the interview, make a checklist of points that must be covered - no matter what. Read the job posting and make a match to all the qualifications that you have that make you a great candidate for the job. If you need to, write down some brief notes that will cue you with just a few words.
4. If interviewers are spending a lot of time asking ridiculous, just-filling-time questions like “What are your weaknesses?” and “Where do you see yourself in five years?” This is your cue to take charge of the interview. When about 15 minutes remain, professional development speaker and author Rob Sullivan, recommends saying: “I noticed we are running out of time. There are a few points I’d like to share as they relate to why I am a great fit for this position. With your permission, I’d like to share those with you now.” In Sullivan’s experience, “the interviewer is likely to breathe a gigantic sigh of relief” because what the interviewee has essentially said is, ‘I am about to make your job really easy. I’m going to tell you what I think is most important without your having to ask. You can decide if it’s compelling enough.” The strategy is also effective, Sullivan says, “because it demonstrates confidence and leadership on the candidate’s part.”
5. Another way to phrase this is to say “May I ask you a question?” followed by, for example, “May I tell you more about my latest success launching a new product?”
6. If you don’t get an opportunity to ask questions, you may be forced to diplomatically interrupt. For example, if the interviewer is talking about a problem and you have an example of how you have overcome that problem - jump in. Try to interject with grace, tact and politeness.
7. If an interviewer is rambling on about sports or the news, and isn’t just using this tactic to break the ice at the beginning of the interview, try to gently guide the conversation back to the interview by asking questions that relate to your accomplishments.
8. Rudeness and disrespect. Hopefully, you never come across an interviewer who seems busy, preoccupied, or distracted and continues to glance at email and allow interruptions from phone calls and visitors during the interview. But if you are, Job Search Debugged author and coach Rita Ashley suggests asking the harried interviewer if he or she would like to reschedule. This is a polite way of pointing out the inappropriateness of his or her behavior.
9. If you are asked an illegal question, you have a few choices, says Todd Anten of Cal Poly Career Services. Answer the question if it doesn’t bother you to answer it. Or you can refuse to answer the question, which may cause some waves. Or instead of answering the question, ask what the intent is behind the question or what the interviewer really wants to know. This is usually the best option, since it allows you to provide a tactful answer without sacrificing your rights. For example, if the interviewer asks if you are a U.S. citizen (which is an illegal question), a smart answer would be, 'If you mean to ask if I am legally authorized to work for you, the answer is yes.' In cases like these, it's best to rephrase the question into a legal one and then answer it. This displays flexibility and composure -- strong job skills.”