How to Tame the Hostile Interviewer

Three Interview Techniques to Help You Take Control

How to Tame the Hostile Interviewer

We’ve all been in interviews when it seems like all the interviewer wants to do is trip you up. It’s like everything you say is somehow misinterpreted to mean something completely different. How can you diffuse such an uncomfortable situation?   

First, understand that the interviewer’s hostility is probably not about you. Most likely, the interviewer started his day off by arguing with his spouse, woke up sick, or just had a disagreement with the boss or a client and, as a result, he’s agitated. Maybe he was never taught proper interview techniques. Or, he may just have a mean streak. In any case, it’s up to you to put the best spin on the interview. Here are three interview techniques you can use to take control: 

Address Miscommunications Immediately

After you give what you think is a solid answer to one of the interview questions, you’re met with raised eyebrows and a quizzical look. Is there a problem with your answer? Don’t panic. Instead, ask the interviewer right away, “Can I clarify part of my answer for you?” This gives the interviewer a chance to explain his issue, and it gives you the opportunity to rephrase your answer. It’s important to address any confusion immediately; otherwise the interview can get off track, never to be salvaged.

Turn the Tables on a Negative Reaction

Let’s say the interviewer asks how you handled a specific challenge at work. After you answer, the interviewer says, “I disagree with your approach. That’s not how we manage problems around here.” Take the edge off this exchange by making it clear you understand every company culture is different. Given what you know about his company, recast your answer, illustrating another way you may handle the situation. This gives you a second chance to respond to the interview question and dispel the interviewer’s antagonism. This also demonstrates your flexibility and quick thinking.

An Interview Is a Conversation, Not an Interrogation

If the person seems bent on grinding you down with endless follow-up interview questions, give your answers and then ask a follow-up question yourself. For instance, ask about how the company ramps up for new product development or where the interviewer thinks the company will be in five years. This tactic not only makes the interviewer talk, but it also provides the necessary give-and-take of the typical interview. Remember: Interviews are not one-sided interrogations, but more a business conversation between you and the potential employer and what you can offer each other.

Whatever transpires in the job interview, never meet hostility with hostility -- you can only lose in that exchange. The best way to approach a hostile interviewer is to have tactics at your fingertips that allow you to turn the situation around and dilute the impact of the aggressive interviewer.