Job interviews can be scary, even under the best of circumstances. But when the hiring manager gets in your face, or you make a grave mistake, the situation can go from startling to downright terrifying.
Here are some horrifying examples of interviews gone wrong and how to handle bloodcurdling situations.
The hiring manager took one look at the candidate’s resume, crumpled the document, hurled it across the desk and stated: “I hope you have an iron.”
Lesson: Executives sometimes do outrageous things to throw candidates off-balance and test their mettle, explained Bob Miller, owner and partner of Wheaton McCrea, a recruiting firm that specializes in placing IT managers. They want to see if you have the confidence to stick up for yourself or how you react to criticism and adversity.
“Maintain your composure and turn a negative into a positive,” Miller advised. For example, say something like: “I see that you don’t like resumes. Me either. They’re about the past. Let’s talk about what I can do for you in the future.”
The candidate droned on so long, he made a member of the interview panel doze off. He didn’t get the job.
Lesson: “There’s really no way to recover from something like that,” explained Barry Drexler, an interview coach based in New York City. “You have to monitor your audience and adjust your delivery, pace and intensity if you’re losing them.”
The hiring manager said: “Give me three concise reasons why I should hire you.” Before the candidate could finish his extensive list of justifications, the disgruntled manager chastised his listening skills, declared him unfit for the position and ended the interview.
Lesson: “Listen to the question and clarify if you have to,” Drexler said. “Because if you don’t answer correctly—you’re done.”
The candidate knew that she didn’t meet all the qualifications when she applied for the position, explained Juliet Murphy, a career coach and president of Juliet Murphy Career Development. But she felt good about her chances when she was invited back for a second interview.
However, she cooked her own goose when she told the VP that she knew he was concerned about her lack of experience and elaborated on her shortcomings. Unfortunately, the interview came to an abrupt end when the VP ushered her out.
Lesson: Don’t point out your shortcomings unless you’re asked about them, Murphy said. And don’t make assumptions about what an interviewer might be thinking; be truthful but not too transparent. Don’t say everything you’re thinking.
By the end of one candidate’s interview, the IT director was favourably impressed, so he asked his colleagues to spend a few minutes with the candidate. One of those colleagues, the operations manager, seemed a bit frazzled but otherwise fine. But when the candidate casually inquired about the manager’s role, the latter began criticizing the company’s new owners, called their expectations unreasonable, and referred to colleagues as lazy. Yikes!
Lesson: Be empathetic but don’t agree if a hiring manager badmouths the company or a former employee, Drexler advised. Once he or she calms down, ask how you can help if you were to be hired.
When asked about his ideal job and company, the programmer replied: “I just want a job where I can go in a room, do my work and be left alone.”
Lesson: A lot of people feel that way, but some things are better left unsaid, especially in job interviews.