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How to Spot Bad Interview Signs and Questions

Image: How to Avoid a Bad Job Interview

Ideally, all interviews would follow a specific set of rules and interviewers would be well-trained masters of identifying a candidate’s true potential during the short time you have together. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. There are bad job interviews, and many times that’s no fault to the interviewee. To help you identify these hooligans, and navigate their dastardly attempts to derail your attempt at presenting yourself, below we detail the five types of bad interviewers and how to handle them.

1. The interviewer who doesn’t respect your time. This individual loves to show up late to an interview, not show up at all, or multitask during an interview.

In the case of the tardy interviewer, you can use that time to your advantage: go over your elevator pitch, review your company research, or simply go to the restroom and freshen up or re-energize.

As for the attention-deficit interviewers who feel they need to check their email, phone, or talk to their coworker at that exact time, the task will be on you to hold their attention with your elite conversational skills. Sometimes, it may be a legitimate emergency and as hard as they are trying to give you their full attention, it’s just not possible. It’s totally fine to be flexible and offer to reschedule for a better time.

2. The interviewer who asks no questions. The point of an interview is for the employer to learn more about you and you to learn more about the employer, so this exchange of information is supposed to be a two-way street. Unfortunately, this won’t always be the case. You may be ready to wow the interviewer with your eloquence and exquisite qualifications, but their plan is to sit you down and toot their own horn for the next 45 minutes.

It’s okay to be annoyed at a time like this, but don’t let that show. Since you took this time out to come and tell them about yourself, you are well within your rights to politely interject with a well-timed, “Since you mentioned … , let me tell you about how my experience in … ” Ideally, that will allow you a word in edgewise.

3. The interviewer who asks ridiculous, off-topic questions. A sign of an inept interviewer is when they ask questions that relate in no way to the position: “If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?” The only company that can get away with asking such out-of-left-field questions is Google; they’ve made an art of it.

Answer their questions and again, try to keep your composure. It’s OK to roll with the punches on this one and answer honestly while injecting a little humor into your answers, but if it gets to a point where it seems that none of the questions have anything to do with the position, feel free to ask exactly how the line of questioning pertains to the position.

4. The interviewer that asks illegal questions. Sometimes interviewers may ask questions that are just plain unlawful. If an interviewer asks about your marital status, political/ religious affiliation, family responsibilities, etc., be on guard, as you may not know exactly where they are coming from.

It could be that the interviewer is just making small talk and doesn’t mean anything malicious by it, but it would be in your best interest to make sure you are clear on their intentions. In a non-confrontational way, ask why this information is needed and plot out the best way to answer the question from there. Feel free to respectfully decline to give them that kind of information.

5. The hostile “stress” interviewer. This interviewer will pelt you with rapid fire questions and/or inundate you with excessive details about the position in an effort to knock you off your square.

Don’t let it get you flustered. Answer the questions thoughtfully and confidently. It’s likely not a personal vendetta that the interviewer has against you; they are probably just agitated from something that happened earlier that day (or maybe they’re just mean). These kinds of interviews are mostly fueled by misinterpretations or miscommunications, so make sure that you are mindful of what you are saying to avoid this and address miscommunications immediately when they arise.

Interested in more posts on job search-related topics? Check out our Career Development blog.

If you’re a current AIU student or alumnus looking for more career advice, please contact the Career Services Department at 877-221-5800 Option 5 or at