IT Employment

Five unusual job interview challenges

Be sure you're not a casualty by following these five guidelines to diffusing some potentially explosive job interview situations.
What do you do when you face unusual job interview challenges? How you respond to awkward situations or off-the-wall questions in a job interview likely will determine whether you get the job offer or not. Be sure you're not a casualty by following these five guidelines to diffusing some potentially explosive job interview situations:

1. Be prepared to handle a flippant or insulting comment

A recent college graduate was interviewing for a job with the regional manager of a large company. The interview went well until, as the recent graduate was putting on a flashy overcoat, which was fine for a 21-year-old, the manager said, "That's quite an overcoat. Do you wear that to a racetrack?" The young man calmly responded, "No. Why? Does it remind you of your bookie?" Both men just smiled at each other.

Some interviewers want to see how interviewees will react to an embarrassing or challenging situation. Therefore, you should go into a job interview on your mental tiptoes so that when the interviewer throws a verbal punch, you can throw a quip back and not wind up on the canvas.

2. Delay answering about what salary you are seeking

If someone opens an interview by asking what you want for a salary or if this question is asked too early in the interview, you should not give a figure because you have not had adequate time to sell your strengths to the potential employer. As you expand your qualifications, you gain leverage in salary negotiations. Most companies have flexibility in salary ranges. The proper response to an early inquiry about your salary requirements is: "I'll be glad to discuss that with you later, when we've had a chance to explore the position and my qualifications in more detail." Also, don't forget to do research on the salary parameters on the position and the usual hiring range. Sometimes you can research salary ranges on line.

3. Be humble in your confidence

Successful executives are assertive and, if we believe a recent survey, even aggressive. If potential employers ask you a question that you may perceive as irrelevant or ridiculous, don't panic. It is OK for you to learn how the question may be relevant to the position. The use of humor and honesty, while being respectful, is always the better approach. If you were asked if you were married, one possible response is, "I like keeping my personal and professional separate. Do you see being married as having an impact on this position?" Be humble in your confidence as you inquire about the connection between the question and the position and responsibilities of the position.

4. Find ways to talk to the unresponsive interviewer

Unfortunately, there are some people who have to conduct interviews who are ill-suited for the task either by temperament or training or both. Use yourself are the Chief Resuscitator of the interview. The interviewer's terse and sparse comments may just be fatigue, if you're the last interview in a busy day. Or the brief perfunctory grunts you hear may also be a reflection of the interviewer's permanent state of mind.

Maybe the interviewer is introverted, angry, depressed, frustrated, overworked (likely in today's business environment), just plain cantankerous, or who knows what else? What you need to do is unlock his or her mouth to establish a rapport so that you can get the information you need. To get the person to open up, ask open-ended questions (especially "how" and "what" questions) that focus on the job. If necessary, try repeated attempts to get the person to talk more. If you find the responses are still terse, ask yourself if you would be comfortable working for this person if he or she were your direct supervisor. If the answer is no, trust your instincts and look elsewhere.

5. Get back to business

The opposite of the terse, blunt interviewer, of course, is the talkative, ego-centric interviewer. You'll get to know more than you'd like about the person very quickly in the interview. Often, this loquacious individual will quickly delve into inappropriate levels of self-disclosure. Don't feel obligated to do the same. If you want to tell the interviewer your life story, save it until after you've received the job offer and established a friendship with your employer. Otherwise, be discreet in your responses, and trust that the professional will respond in kind.

In an employment interview, you want to have a good balance of conversation: ideally, 60% interviewee and 40% interviewer. If the interviewer is talking too much about irrelevant matters, the interviewee should get the interview back on track by redirecting. The interviewee should wait until the interviewer takes a breath (everyone has to breathe sooner or later) and immediately change the subject. For example, the interviewee might say, "It's important that you know another strength that I have for the position is xyz," etc. If the interviewee wants the job, it's necessary to have ultimate, if not apparent, control of the interview.

There are many potential pitfalls in employment interviews. If you come prepared, you'll be ready to handle just about all of them. There are challenges in interviewing successfully for a job, but fortunately, there are even more solutions. Good luck.

George Matson, senior consultant with Brookline, Massachusetts-based The Speech Improvement Company, has more than thirty years experience as a speech coach. Visit him online at www.speechimprovement.com.

13 comments
Erich_Lagasse
Erich_Lagasse

All these tips are great to help candidates keep focused during interviews. Moreover, job seekers should try to fascinate recruiters either at the interview or with a post-interview thank you note. We recently posted an article http://academy.justjobs.com/make-yourself-memorable/ that discusses why it's important to fascinate and provides a few suggestions on how to do it. - Erich

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Course if you are going to go down that route you have to subscribe to a Northern maxim. If you can't take it, don't give it. I love interviewers who do most of the talking. In fact I try to arrange it. They always come out feeling a lot of sense was talked and that they had a good time. That's not to say I don't get my questions answered, but they can take as long as they like doing it.

vmax
vmax

If you are earnestly looking to be hired by an organization you need to interview as much as possible. I would recommend sending out resumes to any company that you even remotely think has something to offer. As you go to more and more interviews you will learn the common questions and improve your responses. This can work with phone interviews as well. By participating in "live fire" interviews you get experience with the interview process and different interviewers that can't be gained going over questions with a friend. It???s like practicing for any skill you want to perfect. At your first interview (or first in several years) you are going to be nervous and unsure. After you have been through a handful you will begin to perfect your answers. When you know what you are doing you will be more confident and present better interviews. This will improve your chances to land that killer job you really want. During the 20 years of my working career I have sent out over 200 resumes, been on approximately 30 job interviews and held 8 different professional positions. Did all my interviews go great ??? No way. But I did try to learn from them. I know they all helped me get better for the next job offer. Another point to take way from the chance to interview is the ability to learn from the interviewing organization. What do they do? What do they do better than I???m doing now? What things can I take away from this interview and apply to my current skill set or knowledge base. By looking to take something away from the interview you will be gaining knowledge that can also be applied to your next interview to help improve your possibility of being hired.

voltorsfury
voltorsfury

OK, I did ask some questions, he said he was impressed when i said I could do 24/7, he said he usually gets a grunt or a no, and salary never came up so I didn't mention it either, but the recruiter had asked me in a pre-interview phone call so I figured he already knew.

voltorsfury
voltorsfury

What if the interviewer only asks 3 or 4 questions and then says that's all I've got? I know you should ask questions about the job/company etc. but is that a hint to keep it short? A recent interview went this way and I think I handled it right but I am not sure. Any advice?

jerrykr
jerrykr

"Maybe the interview is introverted, angry, depressed, frustrated, overworked (likely in today???s business environment),..." Is the author talking about the interview(er)? What does the sentence "Use yourself are the Chief Resuscitator of the interview. The interviewer???s terse and sparse comments may just be fatigue..." mean? Attention to detail

FKelley
FKelley

It is illegal to ask about marital status, children, religion, etc. They are irrelevant to the job, therefore, off limits. A skilled interviewer will ask, "This job requires you to work on Sunday. Are you able to be available?" Much better than, "Do you go to church?"

SheFixesThings
SheFixesThings

I have interviewed others and even though the recruiter who represented the candidate was supposed to weed out high salaries , they did not. The Max for one of the salaries was 60k and when I asked for salary req, she wanted 90 which would never happen. I think salary should be weeded out first. Enough of the BS that if they want you, they'll get the money. That has never happened in my 25yrs

Charles Bundy
Charles Bundy

As being one of those "use humor to deflect" because its discriminatory.

EthanBecker
EthanBecker

Hi Jerrykr, I work with George, and I'll let him know. Thx! Ethan-

asitnik
asitnik

There are three ways for interviewers to ask the same question, with the intent of using the answer as a deal-breaker if it is "no". Keeping in mind that some individuals will not be available on certain days because of their religion, ultimately asking whether one "is available 24x7" (the sophisticated way to ask), "works weekends" (a plainly-worded question), or "works Fridays/Saturdays/Sundays" (crass, but frank, way of revealing the interviewer's true intent) is the same question. This misleading question is doubly aggravated when the job postings may not mention any requirement for availability outside regular business hours!

Professor8
Professor8

Compensation should always be the last topic of discussion, and it should be considered a negotiation. If you're the one hiring, you might start at the low end of what you have in mind and work up, or work with other kinds of compensation than salary. If all you've got is $x, then you've got to close negotiations short of that, of course. If you're the job candidate, you open at what you really really wish you could get in line with industry standards, past experience, comparability with other co-workers in your experience, local costs of living...; and be prepared to negotiate down or seek alternate forms of compensation. The nice thing about this negotiation process is that it keeps all parties firmly connected with reality. The employers can't drift off into zero compensation fantasy-land, and the candidates realize they're not so stellar as they imagined, nor as needy as they feared.

fglasser
fglasser

You would want to defuse a potentially explosive situation, not diffuse it!