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How to handle bad job interview situations

By Paul Nelson | Posted - Dec. 10, 2012 at 8:30 a.m.



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SALT LAKE CITY — There's no shortage of horror stories when it comes to bad job interviews. But it's not always the interviewee's fault. How can applicants perform better at a job interview if the interviewer is the problem?

In some interviews, you may have a good cop-bad cop scenario, where one person will be nice while the other applies the pressure. Other interviewers may ask you to do some unreasonable task, where you would need to have an advanced knowledge of higher math just to be considered.

Five Strengths Career Transition Experts CEO Amy Adler says there is a wide array of bad job interviewers.

"I've also heard plenty of stories in which interviewers really don't know how to interview and they come across, really, as difficult people," she said.

The unseasoned interviewer

But there are ways to work around these bad interviewers. For instance, there's the unseasoned boss, who just doesn't know how to do it well. Adler says it's best to show that person how you've managed projects that are similar to what that company is dealing with now.

The unreasonable tasks

Then, there is the kind of boss that gives you some sort of crazy assignment. They may give you a spelling test, assign you a written essay, or give you some sort of ridiculous math problem that may seem completely unrelated to the job you're applying for. Adler says, don't lose your cool.


They're trying to find a way to make you squirm, and the only thing you can do is calmly accept the challenge and do everything you can to come to an answer that's going to be reasonably satisfactory.

–Amy Adler


"They're trying to find a way to make you squirm, and the only thing you can do is calmly accept the challenge and do everything you can to come to an answer that's going to be reasonably satisfactory," she said.

The bully

Then there's the bully. There are some bosses that try to make the interview process as uncomfortable as possible. But, there is one way to diffuse the tension that seems pretty effective.

"You can redirect the conversation to a topic that you both can become interested in; something about the position, something about the company [or] something you've heard in the news," Adler said.

However, if the bullying persists, you may want to think about how much you want to work there.

"It's a real red flag that this is a culture that the interviewee may not want to be a part of," Adler said.

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