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Can This Interview Be Saved?


At some point in the job search process, it happens: You have a really bad interview. Except in some instances it's not you who blows it -- it's the hiring manager.

There could be a million reasons why this person is not prepared for the job interview, from the fact that it's Monday morning to that he's out of practice. The challenge for you, the job candidate, is to try to turn the interview around, make a favorable impression and work the situation to your advantage.

It is possible to save a lackluster job interview -- it just takes a little bit of finesse mixed with some assertiveness. Here are three different problem interviewer types you may encounter and how to handle them.

The Harried Interviewer

Problem: This kind of hiring manager is late, completely unprepared, forgets your resume and maybe even spaces out that today is the interview.

Solution: "Give the person time to get settled, and express sympathy, [as in], 'I can tell that your work here is important and busy,'" says Joanne Meehl, a career coach called The Resume Queen. Also, give the interviewer a chance to reschedule.

If you cannot push the meeting back, lead the interviewer into the interview by saying something like, "Would it help if I told you about myself in relation to this job?" The key is saying this in a friendly, professional tone. "How you do it says a lot about you," Meehl says.

The Overly Chatty Interviewer

Problem: You may get a hiring manager who spends too much time talking about the job, the company or any number of other things. You know you have only about an hour to sell yourself.

Solution: "At some point, they do have to breathe," says Meehl. Wait for a pause, and then ask the hiring manager a question that you immediately follow up with an answer. For instance, you could say, "How would you describe the work systems in this department? For example, in my last job I created a backwards calendar so all team members knew what was due when and the projects were always completed on time."

Another tactic is to give the interviewer something to read, like your portfolio, and then lead that into a discussion about your skills, Meehl says.

The bottom line is to "treat the person with respect but interject to some degree, [because] if you don't, your competition will," Meehl says.

The Unskilled Interviewer

Problem: This is an interviewer who doesn't know what he's doing. Maybe the person was "roped into being there," says Meehl. "Maybe they just don't know what to do." In a way, it is you who is teaching them how to be an interviewer, she explains.

Solution: Once again, you have to take control of the interview, but in a subtle way. Ask questions about the company and the job to get the ball rolling. Show your portfolio. Keep thinking how you can convey more about you and your skills, and then turn the conversation in that direction.

Remember: You're in Control

Even if you run into one of these three types of interviewers, you have some control over the interview. Clearly communicate the points you want to make about yourself, and make sure those points "stick in their minds," Meehl say.

Lastly, realize the job search is a process, and as such, you need to continue networking. "Keep up your activity level so that this is not your only interview and there are other prospects for you," Meehl advises.

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