Interview 101


It’s surprising how difficult the interview process can be. We always counsel our candidates and clients to strive for a dialogue in your interview versus a question and answer session. This is not always possible when your interviewer is inexperienced, nervous or just in a bad mood. Here are some suggestions for dealing with poor interviewers.

1. The Interviewer Who Rarely Speaks – Ever been in an interview where the first and only question is tell me about yourself? You can shine in this sort of interview. Use your resume as the outline for how you will answer this question but try to highlight projects where you performed particularly well, or talk about positions that best prepared you for the job you are interviewing for. Try to draw the interviewer into the discussion with questions like, Has this sort of analysis/marketing/process been an issue for your group? Or, did you find this particular software/tool as challenging as we did? If all of that fails to involve your interviewer, try to ask them about their background and their goals for the position. The assumption is everyone likes to talk about themselves, even the strong, silent types.

2. The Interviewer Who Talks Too Much – This is the most difficult problem to combat. Sit passively and chances are your interviewer won’t even remember you but interrupt too often and you will be interpreted as rude. The key things to remember here are wait for the interviewer to take a breath and then first compliment what they have been saying. It has to be about them first and then give a short synopsis of how your experience affirms their point. Don’t talk too long. One or two sentences at each interruption will get your point across. Keep using this method until you feel like you have gotten your main strengths for the position across, or, until your interviewer starts to engage with you in a dialogue. Sometimes big talkers are just nervous and engaging them in what they want to talk about will calm them down and start a better interview process.

3. The Interviewer Who is Just Going Through the Motions – These are the interviewers who follow a script, don’t react to anything you say or, worse, are distracted by their email or phone. They are probably someone the hiring manager has asked to be included in the process so their feedback will count. You must find a way to impact them! Don’t act annoyed and don’t take it personally. Getting them to talk about themselves can work, as can asking a provocative question about the company or some program/product this person is working on. Selling yourself is not the goal here. Trying to find out what this person is interested in and talking about it is the goal. Once you have them engaged you can slip in more information about yourself but without capturing their attention first it will be a failed interview.

Executive Recruiters, Smith Hanley Associates, can help you with all of your job search needs including advising you on your interview process. Contact any of our team members at

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