How to Handle a “Bad” Interviewer

It seems to be a universal assumption among most candidates that any interviewer they are going to meet will be good at conducting an interview!

Yet just as most of Spectrum 360’s candidates are trained account handlers rather than professional interviewees, the same is true of most interviewers.

In fact although we train our candidates to be match fit for an interview, the interviewers seem happy to conduct an interview on the hoof with little preparation and often no formal training.

What does this mean for a candidate and how can they manage a “bad” interviewer?



If you ask most candidates to describe their pre-conceived idea of a “bad” interviewer they will probably picture a caricature image of someone with an aggressive manner barking questions and metaphorically pinning them against a wall.

This stereotype couldn’t be further from the truth!

The interviewer who comes into the room to play “Bad Cop” usually offers a fairly structured interview with a clear line of questioning. You may decide that you don’t wish to work for such a person but you have a clear idea as to what kind of response their questions are looking for.

Ironically enough, it is the friendly interviewer with the cosy style who sits you down and chats through your experience that is the one to be feared. There is no structure to the interview and seemingly very little is asked of you. You leave the room thinking it all went swimmingly because you “got on”. Yet the interviewer still has clear expectations and will have made a judgement if they weren’t met. In this scenario he interviewer was hoping to see much more from you, even though they didn’t push back



At Spectrum 360 we encourage our candidates to handle an interview in the same way they would a client meeting. Just as you would have clear set of objectives for what you want to get out of a client meeting, the same is true for what you want to put across at an interview.

It is a mistake to let the interviewer take the driving seat under the false illusion that you are in the hands of a professional. You aren’t a passenger with your clients and in the same way you need to manage the interviewer.

Preparation is key! In addition to researching the agency/company you are interviewing with, you should also have your six key achievements ready at your fingertips. These six examples are what place you above your peers. You need to be able to drop them into the conversation EVEN IF YOU AREN’T ASKED FOR THEM.



The dreaded “informal chat” tends to come at the end of a lengthy and, to date, highly successful interview process. The client is on the cusp of offering the candidate the job but as an afterthought suddenly asks the candidate to come back and meet the MD or another senior body with the ominous words “It’s nothing to worry about. It’s just an “informal chat”.

I am here to tell you that there is no such thing as an “informal chat”.

This is in fact code for another interview but in an informal setting such as a bar or a noisy café ie somewhere completely inappropriate for an interview!

This is a tricky situation to handle but it is important that you try to take some control. If possible steer the interviewer to a quiet corner and where you can sit with your back to the wall so there are no distractions behind you. If this isn’t possible, just position yourself as best you can to avoid any shoulder hanging by the interviewer.

In order to succeed at an interview in this scenario you need to realise that the expectations of the interviewer have changed and that they now want to see that you can be an engaging companion as well as a future employee. You will need to duck and dive between being entertaining and being professional.

Overall, having an interview is a bit like speed dating – there are seemingly no overt rules but you are being judged all the time.

Good luck and enjoy the interview process.

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