What to do when you and an interviewer just don’t click
Don’t worry—these job interview tips explain how to get through an awkward situation and still make a good impression.
Three cheers for your potential new job! You landed an interview, the employer seems great, and the salary range is higher than your current pay.
But then something weird happens during your job interview: You and the interviewer just don’t click. Maybe they don’t seem impressed by your answers. Maybe they just seem put off by…something.
Don’t despair—and definitely don’t give up hope. These interview tips offer a few different ways to handle the lack of chemistry and walk away knowing that you left a positive impression and ultimately conveyed your value.
Find common ground
There are a few precautionary actions you can take. As part of your interview preparation, Google the interviewer to learn more about their professional background, education, and clubs or organizations they belong to. Look for any similarities you may share. Maybe you worked for the same employer, both played lacrosse in college, or have another shared passion. Leverage that information during your interview. Not only will you be able to connect on something, you’ll also show them you did your due diligence.
If nothing significant emerged from your research, don’t panic. During the question part of the interview, get them to open up and give you more insight as to who they are. People love talking about themselves. Ask the interviewer why they like working at the company (aside from the people) and about work-life balance. Simply showing them that you’re interested in something other than the job can be a way to overcome some awkwardness.
Grin and bear it
Sometimes that gut feeling may occur as soon as you shake hands; other times it emerges as the interview progresses. Regardless, as soon as you notice that red flag, you absolutely have to stay on top of your game.
Make a mental note like, “Hmmm, we don’t seem to have chemistry,” and then proceed pleasantly and professionally. If you’ve ever been in a job where you and a colleague (or customer or client) didn’t see things eye to eye, you still had to proceed anyway to make the best of it. Treat this interaction the same way.
Acknowledge it in your head and push through it by staying focused on the questions at hand. Your primary role during the interview is to sell your coveted skills and experiences.
Keep your cool
If the interviewer starts grilling you or becomes antagonistic or rude, you still need to stay above board. Remain calm, cool, and collected. Don’t get defensive.
They may question some of your work experience or make presumptions based on your current employer, for instance. Whatever the case, breathe deep and rely on your talking points that highlight your top skills and experiences. Respond to the question, not the emotion. Show them you can execute even when feeling pressured.
Spot any red flags
Remember, you are interviewing the employer just as much as they are interviewing you. So, don’t dismiss an awkward or uncomfortable job interview, especially if your particular interviewer was your prospective boss.
If a potential colleague interviewed you, consider how it would be to interact with them on a daily basis. Was the lack of chemistry due to an extenuating circumstance? Did they seem distracted, exhausted, or stressed? (That’s another red flag.)
Whether or not you click with your interviewer, the key is telling yourself you’re going to ace the interview anyway. And then, after the fact, regroup and assess whether or not you still want to proceed if you get a job offer. Withdrawing your candidacy and searching for a different job on Monster is always an option.
Monster’s career expert Vicki Salemi has more than 15 years of experience in corporate recruiting and HR and is author of Big Career in the Big City. Follow her on Twitter at @vickisalemi.