How to handle weird questions at the interview

Friday March 6 2020

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A job seeker being interviewed. PHOTO | FILE | NMG 

By Daily Nation

Imagine you have been called to an interview and have prepared adequately, only to encounter a hostile, confrontational and rude panel. Do you get up and leave? Do you match their snide remarks with even more loutish responses? Can one leave a good impression and get a job under such circumstances?

Mercy Mwirigi, a human resource manager, shares tips on how to behave in a hostile interview environment.

1. Stay calm

“Being level-headed is the best way to deal with a hostile interviewer,” Mercy says, adding that being polite can change the course of the interview and make the environment more habitable for everyone present.

‘‘Remain in charge of your emotions and focus on displaying resilience, independence and confidence. If you appear nervous or frightened, your antagonist may be empowered to continue harassing you.

‘‘Also, remember not to lose your temper and yell back. Different people have different personalities, so factor this in when preparing for an interview,’’ she adds.

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2. Address the issues

‘‘Focus on talking about your knowledge, skills and expertise, essential qualifications, and behavioural competencies. Every candidate should keep in mind that as they are selling themselves to the employer, they are also endorsing the organisation’s culture,’’ Mercy advises.

She however observes that the interviewers’ behaviour can either attract or repel a candidate.

3. Take time to reflect

Mercy advises against hurriedly answering provocative questions.

‘‘Pause before you respond to any question. This allows you to understand it fully and to prepare a wise response.

‘‘By blurting out a response in the heat of the moment, you may end up being just as rude as the interviewer, and this could jeopardise your chances,’’ she says.

4. Flip the question

Where possible, re-structure the question in a way that will allow you to provide a rational response.

‘‘You are allowed to frame the question in a format that eliminates bias and hostility, and which allows you to respond objectively,” she says.

5. It could be a stress test

Sometimes interviewers deliberately frustrate candidates to assess their ability to cope with pressure, which may be a requirement for the job in question. Although it may be difficult, staying calm in a hostile environment puts you in good stead to clinch the post you’re gunning for. To achieve that, one must desist from offering curt responses that may be construed as rudeness. Offer complete responses, whatever the case.

‘‘Once you start talking, you take charge of the interview. In cases where the subject at hand is controversial, use phrases such as “in my view” or “from where I stand” and then offer practical examples of your experiences in similar scenarios,’’ she proposes.

6. Decline to answer

Questions around sex, race, disability or religion should be avoided. It is offensive, for instance, for an interviewer to delve into your religion, as faith and belief have nothing to do with your ability to perform.

“It is OK not to answer if you feel the question is too contentious, subjective or irrelevant. Explain why you are unwilling to answer the question and do so briefly without justifying your position. Remain composed as you wait for the next set of questions,’’ she says.

7. Ask back

While interviewers have no business probing interviewers, you are free to put intrusive questions back at the interviewer. This will allow you to understand the interviewer’s perspective, which will be useful in crafting a fitting response.

8. Personal questions

‘‘If they want to know who will look after your children as you are working, for instance, ask them how engaging the role is, and if there’s enough time to tend to your personal business,’’ Mercy advises.

Avoid being confrontational while putting the question to the interviewer.

9. Just Exit

“No one wants to work with individuals who constantly make offensive remarks and bad jokes, or those who cannot control their temper. It is OK to state that you are no longer interested in the position.

‘‘If they don’t end the interview, do it and then leave the room quietly,’’ she says.

Mercy advises job seekers to be well prepared for an interview and to expect any scenario. Being on top of your game, she says, will boost your confidence and help you manage any challenges.

“Being ill-prepared will only give them more reasons to humiliate you,’’ she says.