10 Infuriating Habits of Evil Interviewers

10 Infuriating Habits of Evil Interviewers

Have you ever felt disrespected, ignored, insulted, or even abused during the job interview process? Unfortunately, bad interview behavior is common, especially in today’s intensely competitive job market. If you have been interviewing lately, you know what I’m talking about.

Not all interviewers are evil, of course. I know plenty of hiring managers and HR professionals who are respectful and capable interviewers. Some of them even reply to candidates’ emails.

But evil interviewers are out there. I put together the following list of infuriating interviewer habits so that you can be prepared and respond appropriately.

I put them in chronological order based on the timeline of the interview process.

1. Not responding to resumes and applications

This habit is understandable, though still infuriating for job seekers. In the current job market, it is impossible for hiring companies to respond to every application. There are just too many to sift through, especially for positions posted publicly. Meanwhile, many applicants don’t take the time to read the job description, customize their cover letter, or even run spell check. This is why some hiring managers and HR people get cranky and act out (see Habits 2-10).

From the candidate’s persepctive, it’s incredibly frustrating to apply for a job that’s a perfect match (you have all of the right skills and qualifications and then some) and never hear back. In fact, your perfectly qualified resume may never be reviewed by a human due to the company’s filtering process or just plain bad timing (they already hired someone or put the position on hold).

Did they see your impressive resume? Should you apply again or try to reach out directly to someone at the company? Is the job even still open? Was it ever?

2. Keeping you waiting

The interviewer has the power in this relationship and some interviewers abuse it. Evil Interviewer is horrified if a candidate shows up late, even with a good reason (seriously, though, don’t be late and give them a justification to be more cranky). However, Evil Interviewer thinks nothing of keeping you waiting. I’ve heard about candidates waiting for more than an hour with no explanation or sincere apology.

All of that waiting can affect your performance, especially if you tend to get nervous before an interview. You sit there on the edge of your seat, wondering when and if the interview will begin, fidgeting and perspiring as your suit wilts and your confidence fades. Then, when Evil Interviewer shows up, he wonders why you don’t seem fresh and full of enthusiasm.

It doesn’t have to be that way. If you get stuck waiting for a tardy interviewer, use the time to your advantage. Bring along copies of your STAR stories, you company research, and any other notes and review them discreetly. Visit the rest room to freshen up and re-energize if you need to.

3. Asking stupid questions

Evil InterviewBe prepared to answer your share of stupid questions during the job interview process. Sometimes these seemingly stupid questions are asked for a good reason — for example, nobody really knows where they will be in five years, but hiring managers ask the question to try to get a sense of your long-term career goals.

Usually, however, stupid questions are asked because the interviewer is untrained, inexperienced, or just plain lazy. The questions may be overly confrontational (see Habit #4) or just boring and/or irrelevant. In any case, it will be up to you to turn stupid questions into an engaging dialogue. Answer with enthusiasm and avoid rolling your eyes.

4. Getting aggressive

Some interviewers pride themselves on being tough. I respect an interviewer that asks challenging but fair questions to see how a candidate responds under pressure. However, some “tough” interviewers use insults, confrontation, and other aggressive techniques to try to rattle candidates. This isn’t productive, but the Evil Interviewer doesn’t care.

Do your best to keep your cool. Sometimes you have to get past a few jerks before landing a job offer. If the behavior crosses the line into verbally abusive or illegal, you don’t have to stick around and put up with it.

5. Multitasking

Evil Interviewer is SO very important that she can’t spend an entire 20 minutes focusing solely on the likes of you. Oh no, she must check her email, take phone calls, eat lunch, yell insults at passing coworkers, etc.  This behavior can really throw you off your interview game because it’s difficult to establish a connection with someone who won’t even listen to you.

Do what you can to get your interviewer’s full attention (I’m talking about engaging conversation, not tap dance routines or air horns). If the interviewer seems to be in the midst of a legitimate emergency, offer to reschedule for another day/time. Yes, it stinks to have to reschedule, but it’s better to have your interviewer’s full attention and you can win points for being considerate and flexible.

If there is no real emergency, it’s likely that Evil Interviewer is just self-absorbed and/or easily distracted. You can try asking her questions about herself: How did you get into the business? What do you like best about working for this company? What’s your take on Industry Trend X? This can sometimes pull her attention back from her email or tuna sandwich and get the interview back on track.

6. Talking too much

Some hiring managers seem to misunderstand the purpose of a job interview (you know, learning about the candidate and whether she’s a good fit for the position) and babble on and on about the company and the job, giving the candidate few openings to speak.

If you hate interviewing, this may sound like a dream come true. You can sit back and nod and let him talk. Unfortunately, this can lead to rejection because you’re “not memorable enough” or the interviewer thinks you don’t have some skill that you actually possess but didn’t get an opportunity to discuss. Yes, Evil Interviewer should have read your resume but he was too busy blathering to some unlucky coworker. Besides, who has time to read resumes and retain facts about applicants when there are so many awesome stories to tell?

If you find yourself interviewing with a chatterbox, make a concerted effort to join the conversation. Avoid rude interruptions, but look for openings to talk about your strongest qualifications for the job. If all else fails, wait for the end of the interview and “Do you have any questions for me?” Here you can politely ask a question like: Can I tell you more about my work at Company X? I think it’s very relevant for this position.

7. Lack of feedback

Trained interviewers try not to provide too much feedback — positive or negative — during the interview itself. Some interviewers take it way too far and adopt a poker face for the entire interview. You won’t get a nod, smile, or laugh out of this guy. Occasionally, he may pause to scrawl a note or two, though it’s impossible to tell if he is writing “Great fit!” or “Pompous jerk!”

This can understandably mess with your head during the interview. Do what you can to get Mr. Excitement to crack a smile. But if he refuses to engage, press on and pretend you’re dealing with a real, animated human. Avoid the temptation to second guess every answer and/or rattle on to fill the silences.

And don’t assume the worst. I’ve heard stories about nightmare interviews with poker faces that led to job offers. Some people just don’t show a lot of emotion even when they like you.

8. Leading you on

Evil InterviewerInterviewing is a process. There’s no guarantee that a fantastic first interview will lead to a job offer.  After all, there may be other, equally fantastic candidates up for the same position. Remember not to assume you’re hired until you’ve got a signed offer letter.

That being said, there are some organizations that cruelly and unnecessarily lead candidates on when there is little or no chance of getting hired. Why would a company do this? The most common reason is that they already have a candidate (often internal) in mind but feel they still have to conduct an official search and “consider” other applicants. In other cases, a decision is all but made early in the process, but they still want to send three finalists through to meet with all stakeholders before making an offer.

This can be heartbreaking. You get your hopes up as you keep advancing from round to round. They may even fly you to another city to meet with people. Everything goes well, you make it through the sixth round and interview with a senior manager. Then, it’s suddenly all over and you’re left with a vague statement like “We went in a different direction.” (Or maybe you never hear anything at all — see Habit #10).

You can’t do much to avoid this scenario. You have to treat every interview like an opportunity to impress and get hired. If you get burned by an Evil Interviewer leading you on and dumping you without explanation, try not to let it destroy your confidence. Focus on what you have control over: interviewing like a rock star.

9. Being ridiculously picky

I think this is the #1 most infuriating habit of evil interviewers. Even non-evil hiring managers are guilty of being selective beyond reason these days.

It’s a buyer’s market right now. For every job opening (even crappy ones), it seems there are hundreds of applications (many of them from people who are actually qualified).

After meeting with a few awesome candidates, the hiring manager starts to get cocky. If these great people are available, maybe I could find someone even better…and for less money.

Soon enough, nobody is good enough for this hiring manager. She is determined to find the magical unicorn candidate who has tons of experience doing exactly that job (but is not overqualified), possesses every skill on a long list of obscure capabilities, is ambitious (but not threatening), brilliant (but still not threatening), confident (but willing to work for cheap), and fun to hang out with during happy hour (but prefers to work until midnight even on weekends).

If there is no pressing deadline to hire, this search can go on forever.  Instead of hiring someone great with most of the requirements and training them, Evil Interviewer would rather hold out for the unicorn.

You may be able to cut through the unrealistic expectations with a great interview. Make sure you thoroughly analyze the job description as it relates to your background. Is there anything that could be perceived as a gap or weakness on your part? Be prepared to address this and explain why it’s not an issue and why your amazing strengths more than make up for it.

10. Not getting back to you after the interview(s)

The interview went well and you were told you’d hear back by Friday. Then Friday comes and goes with no response. You send a brief email asking politely if there have been any new developments. No response. A week later, you follow up again. Once again, crickets. After a month, you realize that you are probably never going to get a reply.

This little scenario is frustrating after a good first interview. It is infuriating after multiple rounds, personality tests, and promises.

The blatant disregard adds insult to the injury of the rejection. Most applicants would be happy with a short email explaining that they were not selected. And to be fair, many HR professionals and hiring managers DO let candidates know, especially after multiple interviews.

Some don’t bother. Look, I know that hiring managers are busy. I understand being too busy to reply to every resume and application (see Habit #1). However, when candidates have invested time and energy in a long interview process, it seems like only good manners to take a minute to respond to a follow-up email. To be fair, sometimes the issue is that the candidate’s contact doesn’t KNOW what the status is and can’t respond.

All you can do is manage your expectations and try not to take blow-offs personally. Even in the best of situations, don’t anticipate more than a quick email status update (“The position has been filled. We will keep your information on file.”) Don’t expect to get detailed feedback or an explanation of why the decision was made. Most companies don’t allow employees to provide that information. It’s up to you to figure out what you did wrong in the interview (if anything) and make a better impression next time.

Which of the 10 infuriating habits of evil interviewers is the MOST infuriating? Did we forget your biggest pet peeve? Share your thoughts in the comments.

And for your enjoyment: Silly Job Interview – Monty Python

Photo Credit: Darwin Bell

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About the Author

Pamela Skillings is co-founder of Big Interview. As an interview coach, she has helped her clients land dream jobs at companies including Google, Microsoft, Goldman Sachs, and JP Morgan Chase.She also has more than 15 years of experience training and advising managers at organizations from American Express to the City of New York.She is an adjunct professor at New York University and an instructor at the American Management Association.

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10 Comment to 10 Infuriating Habits of Evil Interviewers

  • Stephanie Vega

    Pamela, I’ve been experiencing that a lot lately! I’ve been especially frustrated with not ever hearing from anyone even though job description look like they were tailor-made for me. Then I found out many companies use software that looks for keywords in your resume. If your resume doesn’t have those words – or enough of them – the software rejects your resume. So frustrating!

  • Jennifer D.

    I’ve not personally encountered questions I think are stupid but a friend of mine told me last night she had an interviewer ask her how she approached making grilled cheese sandwiches! Seriously. I guess there was some underlying meaning to be processed from the order in which she did make the sandwich. Just bizarre.

  • Emily Dillingham

    “Leading you on.” I’ve seen this happen in the company I work for. One manager makes applicants think they have the job – or are close to it – to keep them from accepting another position elsewhere while the manager conducts other interviews. This is a terrible practice. I often want to reach out to the applicant and tell him/her to keep their options open but I have no way of knowing who the applicants are.

  • Yasser El batal

    Best terrible practice i found in this blog ,Thanks to you

  • http://www.biginterview.com Pamela Skillings

    @stephanie – yes – you have to be extra careful with the resume formatting too. A lot of resume processing software can mess up how your nicely formatted resume shows up in their internal systems.

  • http://www.biginterview.com Pamela Skillings

    @Jennifer – do not discount a grilled-cheese skills :)

    They can be crucial for powering through all-nighters at work – as well as fostering peace and camaraderie.

    Many a company was brought down by poor sandwich skills – just look at Lehman Bros – LOL

  • winterheat

    This is good to know. Sometimes you just feel like, is it something that you do that is inappropriate that leads to this. But now I know, they just do it to everybody. It is the classical “Don’t care if you live or die. All they care is money, their promotion, their status, their position, and mainly, making a lot of money. And secondary is to satisfy their own ego.”

  • Mike B

    #10 is definitely the most infuriating! Had personal experience with it, met with 3 different people on different occasions all pointing to getting a job offer and then suddenly everything went dead… even calling did not work. After about a month I finally learned that the company had undergone some changes and the persons I met with were no longer with the company or were moved to a different department so I ended up losing out big time.

  • Hill

    I went to an interview for an accounting position to find the interviewer didn’t look at my resume, only talked about the company and the position, didn’t ask me once about my experience. I ended up having to force talking about myself, because she wouldn’t. Trying to engage her a bit more, I asked “What are you looking for in a candidate?” She said,”Oh, you know, just someone that can do the job.”

    It was right then and there I realized she wasn’t taking me seriously, which p**sed me off because, as a job seeker, we put a lot of time beforehand getting our suits to the cleaners, getting a hair trim, fixing our resumes, researching the company and the position, practicing answering interview questions etc.etc………for this?

    The Evil HR interviewer must realize us job seekers’ time is precious too. We’d rather use our time interviewing for positions in which we have a chance of getting hiring

  • Robert

    #10 seems so unethical to me. I’ve experienced this more often than not lately, from some very seemingly professional companies. Would prefer a simple form response that many companies provide, such as “we are pursuing other candidates” is perfectly fine, at least after 4 to 6 rounds of interviews, Never assume anything, just keep applying until you see the rare offer.

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