Maxwell Stephens

How to Manage a Tough Interviewer

top interview

I am sure most of us have been there, you are anxiously waiting for your name to be called for interview. You get into the windowless room, hoping that all of fears will be allayed and the interviewer will make things comfortable and be willing us to answer well. However this particular interviewer is playing bad cop all of the way; but instead of going into instant meltdown and dreaming of running for the door, these are our top tips to not only survive, but succeed.


Don’t take to the bait


At this stage you are probably wondering why the interviewer is trying to be difficult/unpleasant/awkward etc. Perhaps this is characteristic of their true personality, and may be somebody you choose you would not like to work for. However, they may be looking to see how you cope in the face of adversity. Whatever the reason for the approach, bite your tongue, keep calm, and maintain your professionalism at all times.


Be prepared


A tough interviewer will often look to unsettle you by exploiting any gaps or ‘issues’ in your CV. They will often question you on date gaps, or inconsistencies in anything that has been written. Therefore it is of prime importance to have considered this in advance and be prepared to answer these sorts of questions. A typical question might be, “I can see here that you were not working between 2001 and 2002, is that because you were unable to secure a role?” A good answer would be, “I had been working full time for 10 years and when redundancy came around I was keen to take it. I took a year out to spend with my family to take stock of where I wanted to take my career next. I undertook a number of courses including Prince 2, before starting a job search in the latter part of the year.”


Turn it around


Have you ever tried to take a consistent negative stance with someone who is being very positive and friendly towards you? If you have you will know it is incredibly difficult. If you keep calm, friendly, positive, and unflustered, it should defuse the situation. Another great technique is to ask the interviewer about themselves and their role in the company. Most people are quite fond of talking about themselves, so this is another great trick to get them to open up.  


Don’t forget it’s a two way process


I alluded to this at the beginning, but at all stages of an interview process you should keep front of mind that you are interviewing them too. Of course you are unlikely to be leading the meeting, but you also need to be confident that this is a person and a firm you want to work for. Therefore if you feel that the interviewer was disrespectful, or rude in an unwarranted way, it is 100% your decision to choose not to work for that company.  




Interviews are mildly to extremely daunting for most, and having a tough interviewer only increases the fear. Being prepared is the best tip I can give you. Know your CV inside out and consider in advance where the gaps are in your CV that could be exposed. Stay calm, positive, and professional. Being successful in a tough interview will invariably feel far more of an achievement than sailing through a walk in the park interview.


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