When Your Interviewer Doesn't Interview You

A lot of people who interview candidates don't do it enough to become good at it.

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Alison Green
A reader writes:

I have noticed that there are some interviewers who don't ask me many questions, but rather they just encourage me to ask them questions regarding the job/company/etc. I realize that every interviewer has a different style, but when I come across interviews such as this, it always throws me off because I wonder how they are able to judge my qualifications if they are not asking me many questions. It almost seems as though I am interviewing them. Does this mean that they just prefer this interview style, or does this mean that they don't think I'm a good fit for the job, so they both just decide to kill time by letting me fire away questions?

[See 9 insider secrets to getting hired.]

It's possible that, as you suggest, an interviewer doing this has ruled you out and is trying to drag the interview out for an appropriate amount of time. But I think it's more likely that the interviewer is inexperienced or unskilled at interviewing.

After all, an interviewer who wants to kill time can do so by asking her usual interview questions (unless she's just incredibly lazy).

Keep in mind that a lot of people who interview candidates don't do it enough to become good at it, and plenty of them are even nervous--something job seekers tend to not think about.

[See how to handle inappropriate interview questions.]

But you're right to be concerned about the impact on your ability to showcase your qualifications for the job. If you find yourself in this situation, the best thing to do is to take a bit more control of the direction of the discussion. If you're being given room to ask all the questions, ask about the strategic challenges they're facing, and then respond with your thoughts on how you'd approach those. Ask about what types of people have done well in the job in the past, and then come back with, "Let me tell you about times in my past that correlate well to that." You can also just come out and say, "I'd like to tell you about why I'm excited about this job and why I think I'm a good fit for it." Or, "One thing I was hoping to tell you about today was my work for [ fill in the blank]."

If your interviewer had written you off earlier, this may bring out information that will change her mind. And if she's merely inexperienced, taking charge of the interview a bit will help ensure that you don't pay the price (too much) for that.

Alison Green is the author of Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Leader's Guide to Getting Results . She is chief of staff for the Marijuana Policy Project, a nonprofit lobbying organization, where she oversees day-to-day management of the staff as well as hiring, firing, and staff development. Her writings have been published in the Washington Post, the New York Times, Maxim, and dozens of other newspapers. She blogs at Ask a Manager.