We’ve all had a tough interview— one in which we seemingly couldn’t say anything right, felt as if we’d been talked over or ignored, or left without any clarity on where we stood with the hiring manager. And while these tough interviews aren’t ideal, they can be made easier by learning the most common tough interviewer styles, and how to aptly deal with each one. As Joseph Liu, career change consultant and host of the Career Relaunch Podcast, explains, “Being aware of your interviewer’s style helps you prepare your overall approach and craft your responses in a way that leaves them with a good impression of your communication skills and potential for the role.”
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Here, then, are four types of tough interviewers, and exactly how to deal with each one of them.
The Skeptic Interviewer
According to Liu, a skeptic interviewer believes most candidates are exaggerating their talents, capabilities, and skillset, “or making unfounded claims about their key accomplishments.” So, the skeptic interviewer questions everything—which may make you feel as if you must defend yourself throughout the interview. “The best way to approach these sorts of interviewers is to give them reasons to believe what you’re saying is in fact true,” Liu says, and recommends you make your statements believable by providing concrete responses backed by quantified results.
The Oddball Interviewer
An oddball interviewer asks seemingly whacky, off-the-wall questions that have little to do with the position or your future goals—think: If you were an animal, what kind of animal would you be—Liu says. “Even though many experienced interviewers would say oddball questions don’t ultimately allow you to assess whether a candidate can excel in a role, the oddball interviewer may believe that asking random questions reveals how well you think on your feet, which may be a quality they’re seeking in a hire,” Liu explains. When asked oddball questions, don’t get defensive, Liu says. Instead, “just play along, walking through some sort of framework and logic to give the interviewer a sense of how you approach unexpected situations,” Liu recommends.
The Rude Interviewer
The rude interviewer is just that—rude. “The rude interviewer understands that he or she, rather than the candidate, holds all the power in the job interviewing equation,” Liu says. “Therefore, they may feel at liberty to throw all courtesy out the window to pressure test you and see how well you deal with unpleasant situations.” To win over a rude interviewer, you must remain calm and take the high road, says Liu. “Focus on delivering well-thought out, unemotional responses that illustrate your skills and experiences,” he suggests. “Avoid getting into the mud with them, and use it as an opportunity to demonstrate your professional composure in stressful situations.”
The Stress-Tester Interviewer
No stress test is fun, and a stress-tester interview knows that. He or she “believes that making the interview as difficult as possible allows them to spread the field and identify truly outstanding candidates,” Liu explains. “By making the interview extremely difficult, they can quickly assess who clears the bar and who’s truly prepared.” But it’s not all bad being with a stress-tester: Being interviewed by one “is actually an opportunity for you to demonstrate how well you can rise to the occasion and deliver superb responses,” says Liu. “Preparation is key here. You should script out and rehearse as many likely questions as possible so you can come across as well-polished.”
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