What to Do if Your Job Interviewer is Incompetent

Let’s face it. Not every job interviewer knows how to interview.

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Karen Burns
Let’s face it. Not every job interviewer knows how to interview. Folks at smaller companies may not get enough practice. Or, your particular interviewer may simply be inarticulate, inexperienced, or untrained. It happens. For whatever reason, sometimes you’ll need to “run” a job interview.

First, don’t let on that you think your interviewer is incompetent. Take charge, but be subtle about it.

[See 20 ways to annoy your interviewer.]

Near the beginning, ask, “How much time do we have?” Later you’ll be able to pace the agenda by referring to the time.

To break the ice, ask a few leading questions: “What’s a typical day like in this job?” And, “Can you describe the team?”

Direct attention to your relevant qualifications and (this is important) clearly relate them to the job under consideration. Don’t assume the interviewer will make these connections on his or her own.

Important: Make the interview enjoyable so the interviewer comes away with a positive impression of you. But don’t allow the conversation to wander. Chatting about hobbies or vacations builds chemistry, but if it goes on too long, you may need to be the one to get the meeting back on track. You can do that by saying:  “I see we have only fifteen minutes left. Before we run out of time I’d like to talk about... .”

[See 5 resume tips for job hoppers.]

Finally, make sure the interviewer knows you want the job (if you do). In sales-speak this is called “asking for the order.” Say, “I believe I can do a good job for you. What would be the next step in the process?” If you’ve played it right, the interviewer will never notice you managed the whole meeting.

Karen Burns, Working Girl, is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use. She blogs at karenburnsworkinggirl.com.