Surviving a Horrible Tech Job Interview in One Piece

If the thought of going on a job interview makes you nervous and stressed out, you’re not alone. In fact, a survey found that nearly 92 percent of Americans are afraid of at least one part of the interviewing process.

And when the hiring manager intentionally tries to intimidate you, or paints a doomsday picture of the work environment, the situation can go from startling to downright terrifying.

Here are some horrifying examples of interviews gone wrong—and how to handle these bloodcurdling situations.

The Pressure Cooker

The candidate expected a professional conversation with the hiring manager; instead, he found himself eye-to-eye with a stone-faced interrogator who fired off questions that left him feeling uncomfortable, inadequate and intimidated.

Lesson: “It’s no accident,” noted Barry Drexler, owner of ExpertInterviewCoach.com. Stress interviewing techniques are common in high-pressure industries, and are purposely designed to test a candidate’s ability to handle demanding roles, deadlines and difficult clients. If you find yourself facing an interrogation (and you really want the job), stay calm, don’t doubt yourself, and prevail by demonstrating your ability to think on your feet.

Solitary Confinement

A newly minted CS grad thought the interview went well… until the hiring manager took the opportunity to expand on the written job description: “You realize that you’ll be sitting at a desk coding 12 hours a day and coming in on weekends, right?”

Lesson: Since attitude (and aptitude) trump skill for entry-level workers, the interviewer will be studying your body language and facial expressions to see if you are willing to do whatever it takes to succeed. Especially for newbies, the ideal response to what sounds like a nightmare work environment is “bring it on.” Say it with conviction, Drexler added.

Going for the Jugular

After exchanging pleasantries, the interviewer immediately asked the candidate to describe his experience with a software development tool not listed on his résumé. This rattled the candidate, who stumbled through his answer.

Lesson: Again, this is another example of an interviewer testing your mindset and composure. If you find yourself in this situation, admit that you haven’t worked with that tool before pivoting to your relevant qualifications and experience. Be sure to end every answer on a positive note, and keep in mind that the successful candidate typically meets only 70 to 80 percent of the written job requirements.

Dead Right

The candidate sealed her fate when she got into a heated technical discussion with the interviewer. When the company turned down her application, she emailed a screenshot of the solution to the hiring manager just to prove her point. The manager responded that the candidate was right—but that didn’t change the company’s decision about the hire.

Lesson: Even if you’re right, let it go! Live to fight another day, advised Tim Leylek, branch manager, IT Direct Hire for Addison Group.

Chronic Interrupter

The hiring manager liked to conduct interviews while multi-tasking. The candidate found it distracting when the manager kept interrupting to interact with co-workers.

Lesson: If the hiring manager has to take a break during the interview, say something along the lines of, “Was my last answer what you were looking for?” to re-engage the conversation when they return. Some managers have been slow to realize that candidates have choices, and the job interview is a two-way street.

A Mysterious and Sudden End

Everything seemed to be going well—at first. The candidate solved a series of simulated problems during a video interview. Yet the manager broke off the discussion abruptly by saying, “We’re done here,” and hanging up without providing any feedback.

Lesson: “Don’t stoop to their level,” Leylek said. Wait a day or two and send a note thanking the manager for their time; you never know when your paths may cross again.

Daddy Dearest

A candidate brought her father to the job interview—and was shocked when he was turned away by the security guard. Even though her father left before the interview started, she didn’t get an offer.

Lesson: More than one in three senior managers (35 percent) said they’re annoyed when helicopter parents are involved in their kids’ search for work. Leave your parents at home, and keep a job hunt that’s already stressful enough from transforming into a total disaster.

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