When the Interviewer Doesn't Interview You

One of the most common types of bad interviewers is the interviewer who doesn't really interview.


If you go on enough interviews, you’re going to run into some bad interviewers. Plenty of people who interview candidates don’t do it enough to become good at it, and plenty of them are even nervous themselves--something job seekers tend not to consider.

[See 21 Things Hiring Managers Wish You Knew.]

One of the most common types of bad interviewers is the interviewer who doesn't really interview. She might spend most of the meeting talking herself. Or she'll lead the conversation in directions that aren't relevant to the job and your ability to do it. Or, like one interviewer I recently heard about, she might simply start off by asking you what questions you have for her, and never get around to asking questions of her own.

While this might seem like a nice alternative to being peppered with hard-hitting questions, this type of interview can actually make things harder for a candidate, because it's not as easy to find chances to showcase your qualifications for the job.

[See 5 Ways Employers Could Improve the Hiring Process.]

If you find yourself in this situation, don't just go with the flow. Instead, the best thing you can do is to subtly take a bit more control of the conversation. If you’re being given room to ask questions, ask about the strategic challenges the company is facing, and then respond with your thoughts on how you’d approach those. Or 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 ____.”

If your interviewer is inexperienced—or just not very skilled—taking more control yourself can ensure that you don’t pay the price for that.

[See more job advice at U.S. News Careers.]

Alison Green writes the popular Ask a Manager blog where she dispenses advice on career, job search, and management issues. She's also the author of Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Leader's Guide to Getting Results and former chief of staff of a successful nonprofit organization, where she oversaw day-to-day staff management, hiring, firing, and employee development. She now teaches other managers how to manage for results.


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