And how to take the reins in your favor
You’ve labored over your resume for hours, combed through all of the job postings, applied with customized cover letters for each position and have finally landed the coveted in-person interview. You’re excited, prepared and ready to wow, but your interviewer seems distracted, disorganized and perhaps more nervous than you are. You fear you may be doomed to a poor interview through no fault of your own. What can you do?
It’s a sad fact, particularly among small to medium sized businesses, that a large percentage of folks tasked with the duty of interviewing applicants are untrained and inexperienced. Whether it is due to low turnover rates or a failure to prioritize interview skills as valuable, unskilled interviewers come in a variety of shapes in sizes. Read on for some ways to spot one and tips on how to turn the conversation in your favor.
First things first, the better prepared you are for your interview, the more likely you are to be able to take whatever is thrown at you in an interview in stride. It is your responsibility as the interviewee to be prepared, understand the job description you applied to, and have at least a precursory understanding of the company you are interviewing with. Having prepped this knowledge beforehand will enable you to take the reins of the conversation and steer it in appropriate direction.
Second, take nothing personally. Even if an interviewer is openly hostile or aggressive towards you (yes, sadly, that happens), keep in mind that nothing they say or do is personal. You have no way of knowing what is going on in your interviewer’s day, so stay cool, calm and collected and try to keep the conversation focused on why you are the best person for the job.
A disorganized interviewer isn’t always a sign of lack of training, but it can tell you a lot about the work culture, especially if you are interviewing with your prospective boss. Coming face to face with an interviewer who is not prepared with appropriate questions, has lost your resume, or seems scattered and disorganized can throw you off your game.
Combat this situation by bringing the calm. Carry copies of your resume just in case the interviewer has misplaced theirs, offer to wait for them to catch their breath and get settled, and relate to the interviewer’s plight with understanding. Lead the conversation with questions of your own about the role you are applying for and suggest ways your experience fits.
An interviewer who sticks to a rigid list of questions without deviation is a dead giveaway for a lack of interviewing skills or, at the very least, may indicate a culture of micromanagement in the company. In this instance, go with the flow, allow your interviewer to stick to their script, and steadily answer the questions as they come. Use follow up questions or highlight specific projects that steer the conversation toward the information the interviewer needs to hear, even if they don’t ask about it.
Ideally, an interview should feel like a natural conversation between the interviewer and interviewee, but that is often not the case. Come prepared with questions that allow you to highlight your skill set while gently directing the conversation, remain calm and gracious and keep in mind that an interview is just a tiny part of your interviewer’s day, and you will leave a lasting positive impression.
Read more about how to turn the interviewing into a meaningful conversation.
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