5 Challenging Interview Scenarios: How to Act Like A Pro

By Robert Half March 21, 2014 at 7:00am

You’re in the market for a new job. You search and submit resumes to openings that are the best match to your background and qualifications. You get the call from an HR representative, who schedules time for you to meet the hiring manager, and you begin to think about the nuts and bolts: how to dress for your meeting, the directions and time to arrive, how many resumes you should bring and on which kind of paper stock? Then comes the part of the job search process that can conjure up thoughts of uncertainty and maybe a little trepidation – the interview.

Common questions that keep candidates up at night include: What will the interviewer be like? Will the questions be difficult? Can I fit into the work environment? How will I stack up against other applicants?

While searching for a new career opportunity can bring on feelings of anticipation and pressure, there is no need to overstress yourself before the meeting. With confidence, planning, and thoughtful preparation, you can master the most challenging of interactions with the interviewer.

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Here are five challenging interview scenarios and how to handle them like a pro:

1. You’re asked an unexpected question

Don’t be alarmed if the hiring manager asks you a question that seems to test your IQ instead of your job knowledge. These questions are intentional and help reveal a candidate’s ability to think and solve problems creatively. If an interviewer poses an unconventional question, don’t respond with, “I don’t know.” Pause and take a moment to think about what’s being asked. Request more information to soundly formulate your response, and answer the question as honestly and thoroughly as you can.

2. The interviewer appears distracted or unprepared

Consider that the hiring manager may have a very full and demanding workload for the day. As you communicate, listen for cues and pick up on any opportunity to demonstrate how you could help the interviewer manage schedules or coordinate projects. Just be sure that if you do this, it's in the context of the conversation.

3. You feel you aren’t making an impact

If an interviewer asks you a question and in turn is emotionless and aloof, don’t take it personally and let the reaction throw you off. Remain focused, stay on point in your responses and be positive. Don’t allow any negative impulses to take over your demeanor and be respectful of his/her interviewing style.

4. You feel a pessimistic vibe from the interviewer

Sometimes it appears that the hiring manager has sized you up the moment you met and you feel as if your interview is taking a turn for the worst with every question. Stay calm as you offer a response and, when applicable, make sure to include examples of your accomplishments and success. Additionally, ask relevant questions to assure the interviewer that you are engaged and interested in the position.

5. The interviewer wants you to meet additional team members

If the hiring manager changes up the structure of your interview and decides to allow other employees to meet you, this could be an encouraging sign that the interviewer is interested in you and would like additional reinforcement to help make a decision. Take the opportunity to learn what others do on the team and relate your contributions to their roles in the company.

Final note: Preparation and poise will leave a positive impression

Challenging interviews don’t have to be intimidating. If you’re prepared for the unexpected, you have a great chance of turning a difficult situation in your favor and being in control. Your sincerity and purposeful thought processes can help set you apart from other candidates in the running. On the other hand, this is your chance to evaluate your potential manager and determine if the position, the company and the manager’s personality is a complete fit for you as well.

Read How Job Seekers Can Evaluate Organizational Culture.

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