How to Rescue a Bad Interview to Find a Diamond in the Rough

By Robert Half on May 16, 2017 at 9:03pm

It's not unusual for hiring managers to meet job seekers who present interview challenges. But just because someone is a bad interview doesn't mean the meeting is a waste of time. Following are examples of hard-to-interview personality types and advice to help you elicit the information you need to evaluate candidates effectively. Use the tips below to turn bad interviews around — and potentially uncover a diamond in the rough.

Bad interview type 1: The Clam

We’ve all encountered the candidate who looks good on paper, but isn't much of a conversationalist. You feel as if you have to pry information out of the applicant.

Although you may be tempted to pepper them with more questions, try slowing the pace of the interview instead. The candidate may simply be shy and need more time to warm up and begin to offer the information you need. Don't worry — it's possible to get past this bad interview and actually get to know the candidate. Just be sure that the questions you're asking are the open-ended type and designed to prompt more than one-sentence replies.

Bad interview type 2: The Motormouth

This type of interviewee is the polar opposite of The Clam. His bad interview habit is babbling on.

Like quiet applicants, those who are overly talkative may suffer from interview anxiety, only it manifests itself in a tsunami of words and possibly a nervous tic of some sort, such as foot tapping. Try not to accelerate your speech in response, as if you're expecting to be cut off. Rather, be deliberate and calm when you speak. The candidate may pick up on your cue and downshift his delivery a bit. On the other hand, if the candidate seems incapable of engaging in conversational give-and-take, it could be a sign that he's either not very perceptive or someone who is more interested in talking than listening.

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Bad interview type 3: The Sensitive Type

This applicant seems to internalize her work to an extreme. In discussing her current position, you get the impression that she takes suggestions or procedural changes personally, as if they were a judgment of her competence.

It could be that she's simply a perfectionist who feels disappointed by any less-than-glowing feedback. On the other hand, she may be someone who has an overly fragile or inflated ego. When bad interviews like this come around, delve further to determine if difficulty taking direction is the issue.

Bad interview type 4: The Smooth Talker

At first glance, this person may seem like the dream candidate. He makes a strong first impression and goes on to answer every question with exacting precision — in fact, his answers sound like carefully scripted talking points.

The best approach for dealing with this candidate type is to depart from more predictable interview questions and throw a few curveballs. For instance, you might ask, "Tell me about a challenge you faced at work that you weren't able to overcome and why?" By challenging The Smooth Talker to veer from well-rehearsed answers, you should be able to gain a better sense of his personality and how he would fit in with your firm.

A bad interview isn't always a red flag

It's not surprising that some job seekers find interviews stressful and have difficulty relaxing and letting their real personalities come through. They recognize that there's a lot on the line during these brief meetings. When you find yourself stuck in a bad interview, try to make the candidate feel comfortable enough to reveal what he or she would be like as an employee. Just as you wouldn't want to hire someone on the basis of a single factor, you also don't want to eliminate the person too hastily because of a less-than-ideal interview demeanor.

Learn from Robert Half’s expert recruiters so you can build a talented team of employees or advance your career. Operating in over 300 locations worldwide, our Fairfield staffing agency can provide you with assistance where and when you need it.

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