Robyn Greenspan wrote a great post called When Bad Interviews Happen to Good Candidates. She has some horror stories of interviewing (the first one makes me sick), as well as advice from coaches on what it means (or how to move on).
Interviewing is a tricky thing. I remember the first major disappointment I had in an interview was when I realized I had put in a ton more prep time than the interviewer, who was reading from a lame list of questions that really didn’t make sense. The interviewer didn’t know what to do with my responses… she just nodded her head and moved to the next one. It was as if she was hardly paying attention – just going through the motions.
Shortly after that experience I was at a job search club and I asked others who also said they were discouraged at the lack of training for people who interview. Here are some miscellanous thought I have on bad interviews:
- If the interviewer is aloof or unprofessional or otherwise represents their company or the role you are applying to poorly, consider that data to use on evaluating whether you could stand to work at that company, or in that environment.
- In an interview you can take the driver’s seat. Be careful to not overstep any boundaries but you don’t have to submit to a poor interview by just answering questions – shake it up, give rich responses that are not cliche (which is what they expect), or respond in such a way that really makes them think (or wake up)… I only recommend you go crazy with this is you determine you really don’t want the job or like the company/environment :p
- Consider it a learning opportunity to improve. Sometimes the purpose of the interview is not to move forward in the process, rather it is to prepare for that one big interview that is coming up (from another company). Practice strategies and tactics so when you are in the big interview you can feel more confident about your interview skills (and perhaps deliver a more natural interview).
- No interview is too small to consider. Even if it seems to be going bad you don’t really know what the interviewer is thinking. Maybe they simply have horrible people skills and you’ve misread that as “disinterested.” Or, they have already decided they like you, compared with the other candidates, and they really don’t need to ask you the questions to make a decision but feel like they should get through them. Whatever the reason, realize you might not be reading their body language or feedback accurately.
Interviewing is beyond stressful because you have so much riding on it, but you aren’t the only one who is performing in an unnatural environment. Calm down, put the interview into perspective, have fun, be yourself and give the interviewer a break.
But always, always, maintain dignity and don’t let an interviewer, or the experience, crush you.