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Great advice from The Lawyer Whisperer

September 27, 2016

I interviewed for a job and the interviewer was disengaged, disinterested and preoccupied. I was totally thrown off. How do I handle this if it happens again?

Julie Q. Brush

Interviews are funny things. No matter how prepared you may be, a curveball can come sailing in and knock you completely off-kilter. And in order to recover and handle it successfully, you have to remain calm, focused and think on your feet.

As a candidate prepares for a job interview s/he possesses a set of expectations for the experience. Meeting with an interviewer who is engaged, courteous and interested in his/her candidacy are a few such expectations. But no two interviewers are created equal – and the quality of an interview experience will vary from person to person.

In a perfect world, interviewers are on time, prepared, engaged, engaging, interested, informative, transparent and…think you’re the greatest. But we don’t live in a perfect world. And there will be times when an interaction with an interviewer is unexpectedly negative. Encountering an interviewer who is disengaged can be confusing and a bit unnerving. So how can you be more prepared if/when this happens again?

To start, it is useful to explore why an interviewer might be disengaged in the first place-as understanding the possibilities will help you handle the situation more effectively. Below are a few reasons an interviewer might tune out. S/he:

  • Has a work issue on his/her mind
  • Has a personal issue on his/her mind
  • Has an important meeting scheduled after your interview and is preoccupied with time
  • Is not supportive of the hire
  • Does not care about the hire
  • Believes his/her opinion doesn’t matter in the hiring decision
  • Has already decided to hire another candidate
  • Is bias against your resume/experience before the interview starts
  • Has received negative feedback about your candidacy before your meeting
  • Believes the candidate is disinterested in the opportunity

None of these circumstances are easy to turn around, but there are a few approaches that may have impact…and create a better interview experience for you:

Know Your Interviewer.

As part of your interview prep, it’s critical to know the details of the person(s) with whom you are meeting: their background, work history, articles written, professional and community involvement, hobbies, alma maters etc. This information will serve as the foundation of the conversation threads you will use to ask the interviewer about him/herself………

Ask The Interviewer About Him/Herself.

People love talking about themselves. Who they are, what they do, their opinions, hobbies, interests, passions, likes, dislikes…whatever the topic. So one of the best ways to increase interviewer engagement and interest in You is to ask about…them. I can’t explain the psychology of it (in less than 10,000 words), but the bottom line is that when interviewers spend more time talking about themselves, they tend to be more interested, engaged and positive about the candidate they are interviewing.

Turn Up the Energy and Enthusiasm.

Most everyone likes to engage with people who are upbeat, enthusiastic and positive. This type of energy is infectious – even for those who seem disinterested. If you think your conversation has lost steam, turn things up a notch. Smile, sit up straight, make eye contact, project your voice a tad louder and be funny. That doesn’t mean you should act unnatural, but putting a little more “oomph” in your presentation can help others engage more easily.

Express Interest In The Role & Articulate Your Value-Add.

Candidates are not the only ones who want to feel loved. Employers do as well. One of the biggest complaints among employers today involves candidates who don’t project interest. So make it a point to articulate why–exactly–this opportunity appeals to you and why you want to be part of the team. Also discuss how you will add value to the organization. Don’t wait for the question, because it many never come. Instead, be proactive & raise the topic yourself.

Ask Comprehensive Questions.

High quality questions are a catalyst for high quality conversations. As you prepare for your interview, compile a list of insightful questions/talking points to infuse throughout your interview. And watch the quality of your interaction rise.

Interviews are never easy. And encountering a disengaged interviewer can create an added layer of challenge to the mix. But by understanding the drivers and being prepared, you’ll take control of what you can and give yourself the best chance to have all eyes and ears on You.

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