6 Ways to Nail an Interview with a Terrible Interviewer

Today's post comes from our own Emma Pattee, resume writer and content producer extraordinaire.

It’s hard to be a good interviewer. 

Creating a friendly, comfortable and effective interview environment is a true art form, so if you find yourself being interviewed by someone exceptional, thank your lucky stars. 

But what if you don’t? 

What if you find yourself sitting across from the bumbled professor type, the interviewer who is clearly annoyed to be there, or the cat (not a real cat) who just can't seem to provide any clear information about the company or the position? 

Can you salvage the interview, and still come across looking like a superstar? 

Possibly, but you're going to have to take command. 

Here are 6 simple ways to make sure you’re memorable in a good way, even when the interviewer is memorable in a bad way. 

1. Have original answers to cliché questions

An inexperienced or uninterested interviewer will often stick to the clichéd “interview questions” script. Then, as soon as you answer, she’ll move on to the next question without reacting much to what you just said. 

When faced with this situation, here’s what you do: make her pause. The interviewer is expecting rote answers to her rote questions. So consider penetrating the haze and making a genuine impression on your interviewer with an honest answer.

If you feel comfortable, turn the tables back on her. Ask her what kind of strengths she thinks would thrive in this role, or what she thinks is the biggest challenge the department is facing.

Key here is to break the motonony and shift this thing into a genuine, engaging conversation.

2). Got a talker? Get him talking about his job

People love talking about themselves, pretty much more than anything. 

In an interview, this can be both a blessing and a curse. If you’re not careful, small talk can turn into time wasted on irrelevant information. 

If you’re in this situation, keep him talking (because he’s going to either way) but try to steer the interviewer towards information that is actually related to the open position. Ask your interviewer how he ended up in his field, how long he’s worked for the company, or where he worked before and why he changed companies. 

You’re looking for insights into the company culture, the kinds of people who thrive there, and if there are any actual growth opportunities.

3). Let your body do the talking

While arguably not quite as powerful as the actual words exchanged at the interview, don’t discount the vital importance of body language in leaving a good impression on your interviewer.

Lean towards your interviewer, nod along while her speaks, make eye contact, have a confident handshake, and keep an open body posiiton and engaged facial expression.

(And if you're truly inspired to make sure body language works in your favor, do not miss Harvard social psychologist Amy Cuddy's TED talk on Power Posing. It's worth it.)

4). Don’t be afraid to step up to the plate

Nervous interviewers can be your toughest challenge. 

Think about it from their perspective. They’ve typically got 30-60 minutes to evaluate if you’re the right person for the position, and if you’ll be happy at their company for the long-haul, if you’re worth the six figures you’re asking for, and, if your resume is so awesome, why you haven’t already been hired elsewhere. 

That’s a lot of pressure. 

Sometimes, when you’re faced with a Timid Tina (distant cousin of Chatty Cathy), you've gotta just grab the bull by the horns and lead the interview. 

Walk her through how your experience directly prepared you for this position, and what about the company you are especially interested in. Point out details from your resume, and ask pointed, specific questions. 

5). Go for the laugh

In the words of Michael Scott from The Office, “There is no such thing as an appropriate joke. That’s why it’s a joke.” 

Laughter creates an emotional bond between you and the interviewer, and allows her to see how well you’d fit into the company culture. You don’t have to be a stand-up comedian (In fact, please don't). Try a little self-deprecating humor, or make a jab at your city’s crazy traffic jams. If you can’t make a professional connection, a personal connection can have just as much effect. 

Just keep it dinner-party appropriate: no religion, no politics, and absolutely nothing Michael Scott would say.

6). Don't freak if she didn’t read your resume

When the interviewer hasn’t read your resume, it gives you opportunity to highlight the most significant and exciting parts, customized specifically to this role, right off the bat. 

Point to the page, and say, "You’ll see right here that I was actually the only financial analyst in the entire company who was given level 3 security clearance, and that was directly based on some security training that I took the initiative to pursue."

Try phrasing like, "You’ll see that while I worked for ABC Company," or "I did a project that is closely related to what your company does," or "I think what’s most significant about my resume is that you’ll see that in each of my previous positions, I’ve been promoted within a year of hire."

Of course, having a killer resume doesn't hurt, either. (Gives you something great to walk through at that interview.)

Got an interview horror story? Ever have an interviewer make you cry, walk out, or totally lose your cool? Share your tale, already!