How To Handle Challenging Interviewees

Question:
I am the hiring manager for my company and I recently encountered some challenging interview candidates. One didn’t dare to make eye contact with me throughout the interview, while another made excessive hand gestures as he was talking enthusiastically about something completely irrelevant. How should I handle such candidates in the future?

Answer:
An interview can be a nerve-wracking experience for the interviewee, so perhaps it’s no wonder that some candidates tend to exhibit quirky behaviors because they’re stressed, or they’re attempting to (futilely) impress you, the interviewer, by being memorable.

Showmanship notwithstanding, the main purpose of an interview is for you to get to know whether a candidate would be a good fit in your company. While the candidate should naturally put in their best foot in preparing for the interview, as the interviewer, you also have an important role to play in ensuring that the interview goes on smoothly and achieves this basic objective.

Here are three tips to help both you and the interviewee get the best out of the entire interview process:

1. Be prepared

It takes two hands to clap. As the interviewer, you should also do your homework before an interview. You need to fully understand the requirements of the position they are applying for (even if it’s in a department you’re wholly unfamiliar with) and what qualities they should exhibit in order to be considered a right fit for the job.

Review the candidates’ resumes to gain a basic understanding of their educational qualifications, job experience (if any) and craft your questions accordingly.

2. Control the flow of the interview

Different candidates may react differently when placed in a stressful environment like an interview, and it really is a good opportunity to see how the candidate holds up under pressure – do they adapt, or fold?

Some candidates may end up talking too much, while others may clam up and hardly speak at all. As the interviewer, you have to keep a close eye on your candidate and moderate the conversation accordingly, giving helpful prompts where necessary.

If the candidate is saying too much or acting inappropriately, politely interrupt him or her by thanking them and moving on to your next question. It may seem harsh to have to cut an interviewee off in his or her rendition of a popular hit song, but you have to be able to maintain control of the situation at all times during an interview.

If the candidate is instead talking too little, gently probe them for a response by asking easy, open-ended questions and encouraging them to speak up – some candidates are naturally shy (not that this is a bad thing per se, unless they’re applying for a customer-oriented position).

Ensure that the conversation is kept on track so that the interview does not end up being a waste.

3. Maintain a comfortable atmosphere

Continuously referring to your prepared questions may make the interview excessively rigid and formal (let’s be honest - wouldn’t you respond in a similar fashion?).

If possible, ditch the questions and opt to make the interview resemble a comfortable conversation, as the interviewee will probably be mirroring your attitude and tone of voice, consciously or otherwise.

At the end of the day, an interviewee is a little like going on a blind date. Both you and the candidate will do a better job during the interview if you’re all relaxed and at ease – remember, this isn’t the Spanish Inquisition!

How else can you handle a challenging interviewee? Share with us in the comment box below!

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