5 Ways to Handle a Difficult Interview

We all hope that the interview will go great.  The interviewer will ask us all the right questions to elicit our best skills and accomplishments.  And we all know that isn’t always the case.  Some interviewers talk too much and don’t ask you the right questions. Some ask you inappropriate or illegal questions. Here are 5 ways to handle those situations where the interviewer:

Talks too much – Some interviewers go on interminably about the company, its mission, why they like working there.  Some of this information is useful, but spending too much time leaves you little room to discuss how you can help the company.  You might say, May I tell you about a recent project I worked on that is relevant or Let me tell you about one of my successes…

Asks inappropriate or illegal questions – When an interviewer starts asking about your family or the ages of your kids, that should raise a red flag.  What they really want to know is will you be able to work late occasionally or on weekends or come in early.  No need to get huffy and say, that’s illegal.  You can’t ask that question.  Better to say my family obligations will not interfere with my work.  I am available to work evenings and weekends when required.

Keeps harping on the same question or the same job you left or were fired from.  Again, don’t get upset or irritated.  Just keep stating your brief reason and then move on to how you can help solve the company’s problems.  Don’t change the story or add more details.  Keep your answer short and to the point.

Doesn’t ask questions that go to the heart of why you are qualified.  That is your cue to interrupt politely and talk about your accomplishments.  Try to respond to one of their comments and then say, “yes, and I did this for xyz company which can help you solve your problem.”  Each time the interviewer makes a point, say “Yes, and I did this at my last job and I can do this for your company too.”

Asks about your salary on your previous job. If this is the first or even second interview that is too soon to talk about salary.  There are several ways to handle this question.  One is to say, “I have my research on this job title in your industry in this city and the range is from $x to $y”.  Another way to handle it is to say, “This job is very different from what I did before.  The responsibilities and span of control are not the same, so my previous salary is irrelevant.”

Amy Geffen, PhD is a Five O’Clock Club Certified Career Coach with over 30 years of experience in non-profits, associations and college administration. She has worked with financial, insurance and engineering professionals as well as academics and non-profit executives. www.geffencareers.com


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