What to do When Interviews Get Hostile

What to do When Interviews Get Hostile

This is the last thing on Earth you wanted to have happen: A job interview turns hostile and you are not sure why. All of a sudden, the interviewer starts asking interview questions about past behaviors or starts acting in a manner that makes the interviewer look like an aggressive idiot. We explain why this happens and more importantly, what you can do about it as a job candidate.

Where is all this hostility coming from?

More so than ever before, companies are placing a greater emphasis on the “EQ” (emotional intelligence) of its leaders. Unlike in years past, job candidates are having their emotional intelligence tested through a series of behaviors and questions.

These behaviors may leave you thinking the interviewer is an idiot. But that is the point: They are testing how you react to such people in certain situations because, at some point, it will happen. We are all human. We all get angry and anxious at work or during interviews. But how well do you handle yourself?

Whether it be staff or customers, at some point we all deal with someone who is disgruntled or aggressive. And the company needs to see how you behave in these situations.

Hostility as an “interview tactic”

Glassdoor reviews? You cannot trust them anymore. This interview tactic is gaining popularity because it gives each company a chance to see a real-life demonstration of how a job candidate acts under pressure. This interview tactic seeks to see how job candidates behave without unrehearsed answers to questions.

And the best way to handle hostility is to know exactly what an encounter with a hostile job interview looks like. You cannot rehearse your answers. But you will be better prepared for diffusing hostility, as you would while on the job. Most importantly, you will be able to spot when this tactic is being used.

Meeting with a negative interviewer

You meet the interviewer and the person seems bothered, cold, or annoyed that they must waste his or her precious time with this interview.  

Do: Pay special attention to the negative behavior. Behave in a way that shows patience, a pleasant mindset, and keep all of your personal behaviors in an interview positive.

Don’t: Counteract the negativity with negativity. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

What are they testing: How you calm those who are upset and negative. Given negative behavior is something you rarely see in job interviews, this is a perfect way to test how you would really respond to adversity.

The clueless interviewer

In this situation, an interviewer asks a bunch of questions that are impossible to answer without more information. It may feel like the interviewer never read your resume or is interviewing you for the wrong position. This is not the case.

Do: Approach the question as you would in a traditional interview. Ask for clarification and more information. Keep cool and remember you are supposed to have the right information in order to perform the job.

Don’t: Freak out and start to panic. Don’t say things like, “I did not know I needed to know this!”

What are they testing: Your confidence and behavior when confronted with situations that require you ask for more information. They want to know if you panic and appear hopeless or if you have the humility to ask for more information.

The endlessly distracted or disrupted interview

In this case, the interviewer is constantly distracted or disruptive. For example, as you answer questions the interviewer starts chewing nails or tapping a pen on the desk. Worse, as you answer questions, they constantly cut you off or ask you to repeat yourself. The idea of this alone may drive some crazy.

Do: Focus on the question and do your best to keep answering. Change the way you think about these distracting behaviors. Find it humorous instead of stressful. Think of it as a good story to blog about later. If you are nervous, this is your icebreaker to reduce anxiety. This is funny to you. So, answer the question and keep smiling. Repeat yourself as needed when they cut you off.

Don’t: Yell at the interviewer to stop or become insulted.

What are they testing: Like most interview questions, they are testing how you respond to pressure situations. Only there are no rehearsed answers for this type of interview.

The role player

You are asked to play out certain scenarios in which work situations involve confrontational behavior. You are asked those basic, “How would you handle…” interview questions. But then, you are thrown a curveball. Suddenly, the interviewer pushes back and becomes confrontational upon hearing your answers. It is almost as if they found your answers worthy of a hostile response.

Do: Stand firm in your answers without mirroring the confrontational attitude of the interviewer. Remember the interviewer is role-playing, too. Only they took it a step further.

Don’t: Become flustered and change your answers. Certainly, do not become insulted or confrontational in return.

What are they testing? They are testing how you deal with customers, confrontation, and any other form of escalated situation. They are testing your character and if you stay true to what you believe in when pressured.

When the interview is over

Most of the time, the interviewer will never reveal how they were testing and why. But if they do, the ultimate way to fail this test is to express disgust or anger at the interview tactics. And you should never ask to change your answers or defend yourself.

The most important thing to remember about these situations is that you have to stay cool, confident, patient and true to yourself during the interview. Always give the interviewer the best version of “you” that everyone should expect to see.

You may find these interview tactics to be somewhat messed up, but that is the point. Someone who is emotionally intelligent will understand why companies prefer seeing the “real you”, more than the “rehearsed you”.

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