28 October 2012

The web is absolutely saturated with interview advice for job seekers. From the optimum pressure to apply with your handshake, right down to the minute details of attire you deck yourself out in on the day, anyone wondering what they’re expected to do at interview will not struggle to find answers.

Whilst this focus on how candidates should behave is understandable, it’s also incredibly one sided, especially since an interview is, by definition, a two sided affair. Just as not every candidate who gets an interview will put in a good performance, not everyone in a hiring position will have what it takes to conduct a good interview.

Here’s a look at some common flaws that interviewers have been known to display and the methods you can use to steer around them;


Any interview is a relatively high pressure situation. Candidates will put in a lot of work to try and prepare themselves to overcome any jitters they might have, but, unfortunately, there are interviewers out there who also find the process somewhat nerve wracking.

Normally, this will be manifest as chattiness, with the interviewer rambling on at length, often about things that bear, at best, only tangential relevance to your employment prospects. Unfortunately, it’s easy to misinterpret this as an easy going rapport in the offing. However, if left unchecked it can end up relegating your role in the exchange to that of a helpless bystander. Indeed, denying the interviewee a chance to talk is a technique frequently employed in ‘stress interviews’ (where candidates are deliberately tested by being placed in fraught situations.)

The main thing to remember is to stamp your mark on the conversation. Even if they fail to ask the questions that will allow you to demonstrate your skills and experience, you need to ensure you get them across. Be prepared to jump in wherever the opportunity arises (even if it’s just the momentary pause as they take a sip of water) and force the talk back towards territory that suits your ends. Use the chance to ask questions at the end to reassert any points you feel may have been lost during the interview itself, then do the same with your follow up letter


A technique that’s often used for interrogative questioning in a number of lines of work, from the police force to psychiatry, is to remain silent after the subject has finished answering a question. We have an innate human tendency to feel like we should be filling the silence. In the context of an interrogation this is useful as it can lead people to disclose more than had intended. In an interview it can lead to you pointlessly repeating yourself or diluting a perfectly delivered, concise answer with inane extras.

The interviewer may be using silence consciously as an aggressive tactic, or they may just have terrible technique. Either way, just as with the overly talkative nervous interviewer, you need to assert yourself in order to impress your selling points upon this assured, silent type. This can be as simple as sitting comfortably through the silence once you’ve said all you need to say, or politely asking ‘does that answer your question?’ when you’re done, thus putting the onus on them to maintain focus or move it elsewhere. Above all, you want to keep things focused.

Under Prepared

This can be especially awkward because it’s usually so obvious and any professional with at least a hint of self pride will be embarrassed at the fact they haven’t properly prepared for your interview. On top of this, they may have other distractions playing on their mind or, in the case of colleagues vying for their attention, they may have physical interruptions to deal with. In this scenario it is paramount not to add to the embarrassment they are probably all ready feeling. If you play off it, it could easily be channelled into resentment. If you get the impression that a fair interview is not going to be possible at that particular moment in time, by all means ask if the meeting can be rescheduled, but make the effort to do so in a way that makes it obvious you are trying to extended a courtesy to them, rather than asking them to show some to you!

As a final point, though you should remain somewhat contrite at the time, be sure to consider if you still really want to work in an environment where even prospective employees are subjected to such shambolic treatment.

Will Holborn writes on a wide range of subjects pertaining to job seeking and employability. For more career related resources, visit www.job-centre-vacancies.co.uk.