In recent times, the interview process has softened from a more hostile and interrogative style to a more gentrified and dignified approach.
However, it would be naïve to think that hostile interviewers no longer exist. They do, and there’s a chance you may one day come across one such interviewer. The hostile interviewer will not only ask tough questions, but also choose to ask those questions in an aggressive manner. Often, the idea behind hostile interviewing is that, pushed to breaking point, a candidate’s mask will crumble, exposing a more genuine picture of the applicant. Hostile interviews can be especially disquieting for candidates; they can make it hard to think straight and can compromise an interviewee’s performance.
So, if you get wind of the fact that your upcoming interviewer may be prone to hostility – Glassdoor reviews and/or your recruiter can give you foresight here – I offer these five tips to help you deal with that hostility gracefully and effectively.
1. Don’t Take It Personally
Unless the interviewer makes personal comments about you, don’t take their hostility personally. In fact, the interviewer’s hostility isn’t reserved solely for you. Every candidate is getting the same treatment. Thinking about it this way can reduce your feelings of defensiveness, allowing you to think more clearly and respond better.
2. Don’t Retreat Into Your Shell
When faced with hostility, many people feel the need to clam up and retreat into their shells. While you don’t want to be aggressive or confrontational with even the most hostile interviewer, retreating into your shell will harm your chances of success.
The good news is that there are many things you can do to make yourself feel powerful at the interview rather than shrink back.
Prior to the interview, you can practice positive visualization, during which you picture yourself over and over again calmly and effectively answering every question and wowing the interviewer. This can help you to perform better when the time comes for the actual interview.
You can also listening to high-power, bass-heavy songs prior to the interview. Research shows that these songs can make you feel more confident.
You may also try adopting a high-power pose in the waiting room before the interview and during the interview itself. This pose increases testosterone levels and your feelings of confidence. Search through Google images for “power poses,” and you’ll find hundreds of examples to try out.
3. Start Confidently
Make sure that you show your inner steel from the outset by giving the interviewer a firm handshake, making eye contact, and showing a warm, but confident, smile. These assertive tactics let the interviewer know that you are not a sitting duck. This knowledge could help to keep the interviewer’s hostility in check: they will know that you are not likely to crack under pressure. Setting the right tone at the beginning of the interview can do wonders for your confidence.
4. Ask the Interviewer Questions of Your Own
A good way to deal with a hostile interviewer is to return the favor and ask them questions. Don’t get into a tit-for-tat exchange or argument, as that will only make you look bad. Instead, wait for a gap in the conversation, and then take your opportunity.
There are two types of questions you can ask. The first type includes questions that help you get to know the interviewer and strike up a rapport. For example, “When did you join the company?” and “What was your career pathway that brought you here?” Asking these questions may warm the conversation a bit, encouraging the hostile interviewer to lighten the tone.
The second type of question includes searching queries that distract the interviewer and put them on the spot. For example, “What’s the biggest challenge that your team will face over the next six months?” Asking this type of question can momentarily disarm the interviewer by putting them in the spotlight, which will at least give you a chance to breathe.
5. Answer Confidently
Start your sentences strongly, enunciate, and project your voice. These are great ways to create and project confidence. Do this consistently throughout the interview, and the interviewer will soon get the message that their hostile method is not working. That message could encourage them to lighten their tone.
Finally, it’s worth mentioning that the hostile interview may indeed be a test to see how you operate under pressure, but it may also simply be the result of a bad interview technique. If you face a hostile interviewer and you feel they cross the line of acceptability, try discussing the situation with your recruiter and/or speaking with trusted colleagues before deciding on what to do next.