We’ve all had them, those hellish days when we’ve wished we had never tumbled out of bed. Interviewers have those days as well. Constrained by business ethics to conduct themselves with the utmost professionalism, the fact remains that those who must interview prospective employees often deal, simultaneously, with larger issues. When these personal matters spill over into a job screening session, however, the manager’s attitude can color the entire tone of an interview and even blacken it against you! For instance, you might, be speaking figuratively when you ask rather innocently, “Would my job functions include writing reports after I have met with the client?” The interviewer may snap back with, “You don’t have the job yet! That’s for me to decide!”
Or, perhaps, during an interview, the rather pleasant manager with whom you feel you’ve established a rapport receives a call from home; a so-called emergency involving his eight-year-old that is, in fact, nothing urgent in the eyes of most people. The interviewer may become frazzled and even embarrassed that you were a witness to that conversation. He may hang up with his spouse or child and then resume the interview in a brusque or hurried manner.
In these situations, it can be easy for you to become rattled or even belligerent. However warranted, such a response will only work against you. As the interviewer is already in a less than optimal state of mind, an approach that is patently offensive or defensive will only aggravate the situation further. If you can maintain your composure, you will have scored points for your demeanor. You can accomplish this by:
Counting silently to 10 before responding. Yes, this does work. It gives you a few precious seconds to collect yourself and think about how you will frame your response.
Mentally transferring your anger to an inanimate object. If you are seated, envision your anger flowing down your arms, out of your fingertips, and into the chair. This mental exercise will prevent you from venting back or verbally attacking the interviewer.
Distracting the prospective employer with a question totally unrelated to his or her question. Although this can be tricky, it has been known to work in potentially explosive situations. Instead of retorting something disastrous such as, “Who qualified you to interview people?”, you might redirect the situation by asking brightly, “Is that your dog in the photograph on the wall, the chocolate Lab? I love dogs. I have a German shepherd myself; she’s four years old and loves to fetch.”
Asking if the interviewer is “all right” may have the opposite effect, as your question implies that something is indeed amiss. However, use your instincts. If you sense that something is seriously wrong, that perhaps, for example, the interviewer just received bad news a moment or two before you walked into his office, you may wish to exercise sensitivity as well as logic. You might suggest that, if another time may be more convenient to discuss the job opening, you would be willing to reschedule the appointment.