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Bad Interviewers and How To Deal With Them - Part 2

Continuing our theme of 'add a layer of confidence' I'd like to share with you some of the mistakes made by poor interviewers and give you tips on how to deal with them. My HR background* gives me unique insider insight into the field of recruitment.

Last post I covered what to do when an interviewer is doing all the talking. This week we are going to tackle the potential pitfalls of the ‘general chat’. 

Two women in business suits talking over coffee

Post 2: You are not asked about your experience, you seem having a ‘general chat’.

You are enjoying the meeting.  You’re having a coffee, maybe in the cafeteria, making small talk, exchanging ideas on business or current affairs. All is progressing nicely and you’re keen to get started on the interview proper … then they say “well it was nice to meet you”, shake your hand, and show you out.


You leave, slightly bewildered, having no idea what the interviewer was after, but you feel you got on well ... so fingers crossed you’ll get the job.

You’ve just experienced what I like to call the ‘general chat’. 

If you’ve already had a formal interviews the ‘general chat’ can be a sign off interview and you should relax and enjoy it. It’s a chance for you to get to know your potential new colleagues and experience some of the company atmosphere.

However, be warned, when used on it’s own, or as a first meeting, you need to be prepared to manage part of the conversation. Otherwise you may find you miss the opportunity to sell your skills leaving yourself open to being judged on superficial  impression alone.

Here’s what to do:

  1. Listen (at first)
  2. Get into ‘rapport’ with the interviewer
  3. Give your opinion in a friendly manner (hold fire on any strong opinions)
  4. After a few minutes ask questions about the role; something like “Tell me about the role, what experience you are looking for?”
  5. Listen (again) 
  6. Find the right moment to interject, say something leading like “Would it be useful for me to outline my skills in those areas?”
  7. Seize the opportunity to outline your skills and how they relate to the job.

In summary, if the interviewer doesn’t ask you meaningful questions, and it’s a first interview, you need to guide the conversation towards your skills.  Be prepared to interject and take control of the conversation.

This can be a tricky situation but if you do take control it can also be a golden opportunity to shape the conversation in order to outline your skills. 

Next week - how to deal with ridiculous questions like “Who would you take on an expedition to the North pole, and why?”

*My credentials

25 years in Human Resources for large (global) corporate organisations including Pepsi, BP, BBC, Clarks shoes, Eurostar and Lendlease (development).  I specialised in recruitment for 5 years of my career working my way to become ‘Head of Recruitment’.  Following this ownership for recruitment always found it’s way back into my remit.   I know about it and I passionately care about people having a fair playing field.
Throughout my career I have interviewed and sat alongside hundreds, if not thousands, of interviewers. 

Further help to prepare

There’s much written about preparation -  I won’t repeat - here’s some well put together material:

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