27 Aug 2016
One of the main factors causing apprehension in the job selection process is our fear of the interviewer’s relative power in comparison to ours in an interview situation. Many job applicants see the interviewer as a powerful figure who has the ability to influence their future. The knowledge that the interviewer influences our chances of obtaining
a sought after position, transforms them into a powerful and at times threatening figure.
In addition, if the interviewer is also a trained psychologist our feelings of stress and concern increase even more. As a psychologist, we feel as though the interviewer has the ability to spot our weaknesses and ‘read our mind and soul’ like an x-ray machine.
This assumption often causes stress and creates a negative emotional reaction that limits our ability to handle the
situation in a practical manner.
Some job seekers when faced with an interview situation can be introverted, defensive, avoid eye contact, and speak softly. They are quite often overly modest as if trying to prevent the interviewer from ‘revealing’ their weaknesses. Deep down they hope that the interviewer will appreciate their modesty, subtlety, gentleness and human side, viewing these traits as positives. This model of behaviour is commonly practiced by job applicants
who assume the interviewer will avoid recommending applicants that are too dominant (or perhaps even have the potential of threatening their own status were they to be colleagues)
On the other side of the spectrum there are job applicants who adopt an opposing stance.
To overcome their stress, anticipation, and the knowledge that the interviewer can influence their future career, they are often disrespectful and try to undermine the interviewer.
They often think along the lines of:
“Who do they think they are anyway?”
“How can they possibly know how suitable I am for this position?”
Some job applicants even go as far as adopting an aggressive approach. They tend to repeat the interviewers’ questions, are sarcastic and are defiant as if the interviewer’s questions are illegitimate. They are sceptical of the interviewer’s ability to assess their suitability for the position. Such job applicants presume that if they fail to obtain the required position it is due to the interviewer’s inability to assess their skills rather than genuine lack of skills on their part. They often do not comprehend that their emotional reactions are a direct result of the power they attribute to the interviewer over themselves and their future.
The patterns of behaviour on both sides of this spectrum, introvert vs. dominant and controlling, are typical of job applicants who feel a lack of confidence and are insecure in an interview situation.
For example, a 43 year old man with an MBA and currently working as Sales & Marketing executive at a big firm, is applying for a new post. He is invited for an interview at a recruitment agency acting on behalf of the recruiting organisation.
Upon arrival he is informed that he will be interviewed by a 24 year old woman. His gut reaction (which he kept to himself!) was "what does she know?! I find it odd that such a young woman can interview such an experienced person like myself".
This initial reaction resulted in critical, sarcastic and disrespectful behaviour demonstrated on his part. The interviewer felt his hostile attitude and concluded that the job applicant is aggressive. She may also conclude that his reaction is a direct result of his inability to accept her authority as an interviewer. In conclusion, his behaviour reduces his chances of succeeding at the interview.
His demeaning attitude is interpreted by the interviewer as inadequate and is recognised as a consequence of his lack of self-confidence. One of the main purposes of preparing for an interview is to learn how to deal with the power the interviewer exerts – to let yourself, the interviewee, feel confident and secure when facing the interviewer. A mock interview can help you gain this confidence.
Who is the interviewer?
In an attempt to overcome the anxiety and anticipation accompanying the interviewing process, the interviewee often tries to discover who the interviewer is. By accessing information on the interviewer prior to the interviewer, the applicant may think that they can adapt their behaviour and responses to suit the expectations of the interviewer thereby increasing their chances of success.
The sort of questions that may pre-occupy the interviewee are:
– Who is the interviewer?
– How does he/ she think?
– What interests them?
– What will impress them?
In fact, some consultants advocate this sort of preparation. At JobTestPrep we hold the exact opposite to be true. Not only does finding out information on the interviewer not assist but rather it increases the potential anxiety prior to the interview.
When you are pre-occupied with the interviewer’s character and their potential preferences you actually magnify the interviewer’s power in your own mind and turn their image into a powerful and threatening one. When the interviewer’s power is perceived as such your ability to answer questions concisely and effectively is compromised. This issue is often a major cause of concern for many applicants.
We recommend you focus your energy and thoughts instead on answering the questions presented to you in an interview accurately and comprehensively. Voice your skills and add value as a potential employee rather than pre-occupy yourself with irrelevant information regarding the interviewer’s character and their personal preferences and expectations.
On that note, we must add that gaining knowledge and information about the organisation (rather than the interviewer) and its culture is important simply because you may find out that certain types of organisations do not appeal to you. In addition, the interview offers you an excellent opportunity to ask and find out more about the organisation you are apply ing for. To be able to ask questions it is most helpful if you have some prior knowledge on the organisation.
What is the interviewer’s impression of me?
The authoritative image you attribute to the interviewer results in increased apprehension on your part and may divert your attention thus compromising your ability to concentrate on what is being asked in the interview. The intimidating aura the interviewer has in your mind increases your concerns regarding the quality of the answers you give. Instead of responding concisely to the questions asked you attempt to please the interviewer by responding in a way that you think the interviewer expects.
The example below demonstrates the issue:
A self-confident, direct and dominant applicant is invited to an interview. During the interview the applicant is pre-occupied with the possibility that his dominant traits may compromise his chances to succeed in the interview. As a result the candidate tries to project submissive behaviour which in fact damages his image as a professional candidate.
This preoccupation with the interviewer, their expectations and their thoughts compromises your ability to provide targeted answers in the interview. It is impossible to envisage what the interviewer is thinking during an interview and it is even counter-productive. Just as you have no idea as to what the interviewer is thinking, the interviewer cannot read your thoughts.
Focus on the questions asked, the matter at heart, and don’t make any assumptions and presumptions – they are not useful in any way.
You can also prepare in advance the impression that you want to give over in the interview. Rehearsing your answers including your delivery tone, or thinking about what clothes you will wear the day or more in advance will help you create the image you present.
Dominating the interview
Concern about your interviewer, worrying about their thoughts and their impression of you and the urge to avoid and confront some of the questions in the interview – all these may result in domineering behaviour on the part of the interviewee. Such behaviour may be manifested by objecting and attempting to minimise the importance of some o
f the questions asked by the interviewer thereby hoping to influence the course of the interview (to their advantage). The interviewee may even try to show latent aggression and in that manner send a message to the interviewer that their questions are irrelevant. This manipulation is caused by the interviewee in the hope that it will assist them to stand the pressure of the interview with greater ease.
Contrarily, such behaviour may put pressure on the interviewer, raise doubts regarding their ability to co-work in the future and consequently conclude that such manipulative behaviour in the interview may predict similar behaviour in the working environment. Domineering behaviour may cause the interviewer to recoil and fail the interviewee.
Domineering behaviour in an interview is characterised in the following manner:
– Lengthy answers : when an applicant chooses to answer in a lengthy manner they are in effect controlling the interview. For example, if an interviewer asks an applicant to introduce themselves and the applicant takes up 20 minutes of the interview time do so, intentionally or due to lack of confidence, there may be very little time left f
or other questions. Therefore, in effect the applicant has controlled the interview. However, this ‘technique’ may raise objections on the part of the interviewer.
– Short answers : replying in a very short and brief manner may also cause the same effect. When asked questions an applicant may answer in a very brief manner forcing the interviewer to ask a lot of questions to elicit the information they require. This behaviour may irritate the interviewer and consequently lead to a decision to disqualify
– ‘Blocking’ the interviewer : some applicants try to control the interview by asking too many questions and talking about issues that are not directly related. By doing so they hope that they will be able to avoid some of the questions the interviewer could still ask. However, what happens in effect is that if the interviewer cannot obtain the information
they wish they may disqualify the job applicant.
Important! The interviewer sets the agenda for the interview and asks the questions. The interviewee contemplates the way to answer. As a job applicant you must avoid trying to manipulate the questions asked but rather answer them concisely, thoroughly and in a respectful manner.
The hostile interviewer
We generally expect the interviewer to be friendly and well mannered. However, there are occasions in which the interviewer turns out to be hostile, impatient, inconsiderate and even aggressive. This may be due to their lack of experience, unprofessional behaviour or simply because they have an unpleasant personal nature. An interview conducted by such a person may induce apprehension or even anger on the applicant’s part. In addition it
may even compromise their self-confidence. The higher the sense of insecurity and sensitivity is on the applicant’s part, the greater the negative effect it will have. This may man ifest itself in unwillingness to cooperate with the interviewer and subsequently disqualify the applicant.
The job applicant may also think:
“If the interviewer is so hostile this may be indicative of the atmosphere at work and I have no wish to work with such colleagues or in such atmosphere”
This attitude is counter-productive. First and foremost it may inhibit the applicant’s ability to effectively cope with the interview; and second, the conclusion drawn may be wrong altogether. Perhaps the interviewer’s behaviour is not indicative of anything – just of their own inappropriate behaviour and you may lose out on a wonderful opportunity. Moreover, perhaps the interviewer has deliberately acted in such a way to assess your ability to handle unpleasant
Remember! Regardless of who the interviewer is you must always be well mannered and respond in a concise and
professional manner. Your goal is to prove that even when you face an unpleasant interviewer you can face up to the challenge and be professional. If you have faith in yourself, avoid trying to please the interviewer. Believe in your abilities and you will be able to cope with any interviewer.
Important! You must act in a professional manner even when facing a hostile interviewer. If you are concise and well-mannered despite the interviewer’s aggression you will be respected. The interviewer will know that you are a person that is easy to get along with, a person that can withstand pressure and deal with unpleasant situations.
The friendly interviewer
In some cases you will meet a friendly, calm and welcoming interviewer. This may come as a relief to some a
nd lead them to act enthusiastically and at times in a careless and perhaps unmeasured manner. Some interviewees could be voluntarily open to a degree in which they disclose information that is not necessarily required. The job applicant may think: “Since the interviewer is so friendly I have nothing to be concerned about, I presume they really like me and I can tell them anything”.
Disclosing unnecessary information may be damaging and may even lead to disqualification.
For example: An applicant for a financial and administrative position is interviewed by an informal and friendly interviewer. She asks the applicant if in his current position in a financial and administrative position the bulk of the work is financial or administrative. Since the applicant feels comfortable he shares with the interviewer the fact that most of the work he does is in effect administrative by nature (even though there is a financial aspect to it).
This kind of response has in effect compromised his chances of succeeding in the interview since the impression made is that he does not have the kind of experience they are looking for.
In fact, the applicant may have all the skills and experience required but since he decided to disclose information in an uncalculated manner he has made an unbalanced impression. In most cases, a friendly and informal interviewer is an experienced one that ‘seduces’ the job applicant to act freely. Some applicants may feel overly comfortable in such situations and disclose their weaknesses to an extent that could lead to their disqualification.
An interview is an opportunity for you to exhibit your qualifications and skills rather than an opportunity to engage in friendly conversation and gain sympathy. Just as there is no reason for you to be offended or defensive when
meeting a hostile interviewer, you must not celebrate and ‘let your guard down’ when meeting a friendly and informal interviewer. In both cases you must be concise, well-mannered and answer adequately to the questions asked – nothing more or less.
Important! We recommend you focus on giving a concise presentation of your professional abilities. There is no need to disclose unnecessary private information and/or weaknesses to reciprocate the interviewer for his good natured behaviour.