In a time when unemployment rates are at an all-time high, it’s an employer’s market. In many industries, it might feel like you need this job more than the employer needs you—and maybe that’s true. This can make any interview seem like a huge hurdle, and it’s much worse when you feel like the interviewer is hostile. Keep in mind that they might not be actually hostile towards you, but rather stressed about any number of circumstances.
Still, this doesn’t mean that you can’t take some steps to ease the hostility. Even if it’s not your fault or even actually directed towards you, you can still take an active part in dismantling it.
For starters, make sure you arrive prepared. Have a hard copy of your resume available, and make sure the resume format is easy to scan and read. Other best practices of interviews can also help deflate hostility, such as arriving just a couple of minutes early and presenting yourself professionally.
When we feel like we don’t have any control (such as in the middle of a pandemic), simply having someone listen can make a huge difference. The person interviewing you has probably gone through dozens or maybe hundreds of these interviews and they’re burned out. Actively listening, showing interest, and asking engaging questions or inputting comments that show you’re digesting what’s being said can help the interviewer see you as a person rather than a number.
Ultimately, a lot of people try to follow the golden rule, but there’s a new platinum rule that’s worth considering. Instead of treating others how you’d like to be treated, treat them how they’d like to be treated.
What is it an interviewer wants? They want to find a suitable candidate for a position, someone who fits the company culture, and ideally someone they truly like. You can only do so much to control these factors but showing your personality and highlighting why you’re the best candidate is a start.
Show an Interest in Them
We are living in a time and a hiring culture where making genuine connections is a challenge. The interview isn’t about the interviewer, but it is somewhat about the company. When it’s time to ask your questions, ask them what they like about working there or their job.
Show that you did your homework and ask about recent events or projects the company has taken on. If you’re a woman being interviewed by a woman, design your questions around how the company addresses issues that are primarily faced by women, such as childcare options.
Being the “best” candidate for the position isn’t enough. You need to make sure that translates while also making a connection. Compliments can also go a long way if they’re curated correctly. For example, if you notice an award or plaque that the interviewer has won that’s within view of your Zoom call or in-person, that’s a great segue to open a related discussion. After all, it’s placed in view for a reason.
It’s not your job to put your interviewer in a good mood (and oftentimes you can’t) but it’s still in your best interest to try. Always follow up with a thank you email or handwritten note to stay at “top of mind” for them. Remember that with female interviewers, they’re often put in the position of having to be superwoman and do it all—anything you can do to ease their stress is to your advantage.