awkward interview

Normally you know what to expect from a job interview – you turn up with a suit and a smile, talk about your passion for the company, and try not to fall down the stairs on your way out. Sometimes however you arrive at an interview that really throws you for a loop, and none of the experience you have can help you out. What are you supposed to do?

Interviews would be much easier if they were all straightforward and the same – but the upside to that not being the case is that you’re forced to think on your feet, approach the problem in a new way and maybe find out a little more about the company you’re visiting. Plus the experience should help you out in future!

The free trial

It’s quite common to have a second interview. Sometimes there’ll  be a presentation. Then a work assignment. Then another project. Before long you’ve basically just done a week’s work and not got paid. Unfortunately, a few unscrupulous employers will take advantage of desperate candidates and get them to contribute their hard work for free.

Some legitimate employers do set a project to assess your skills, but the task shouldn’t be something the company actually makes use of, otherwise they’re just using you without cost. If you suspect you’re been exploited like this, it’s best to just walk away – you probably don’t want to work for a company that does this, even if they do end up offering you the job.

The bored employer

Every employer should be deeply invested in getting the best staff onboard, so it’s especially mystifying when you get an interviewer who just doesn’t seem to care. They don’t want to hear about your skills and experiences – from their bored look and pointless questions, it seems they’d actually just rather be somewhere else.

It’s hard to know what this means – have they already picked someone for the job? Do they think you can’t possibly be the chosen candidate? Or is it some kind of bizarre test to see how you respond? From your side of the desk, it’s impossible to know, but your best option is to not question it, not to let it faze you and to plough on as best you can. Maybe you’ll impress them after all.

The no-show

Equally as rude, if not more rude, than the bored employer is the one who just doesn’t show up. When you’ve made the effort to apply, clear your schedule, research the company, get dressed up and travel to the interview location, it seems more than a little cheeky for your would-be interviewer to stand you up.

The employer may want to reschedule – it’s really up to you. An absent interviewer may be full of apologies and have a really good reason for missing out, but on the other hand they might just not have wanted to bother seeing you. Make your decision based on their attitude.

The boozy interview

It’s hardly unheard of for an interview to take place over a spot of lunch or a cup of coffee. But occasionally job seekers are asked to present themselves at a hotel bar, or even the local pub, for a drink and a chat. Unless you’re actually interviewing to work in a pub, this can be quite perplexing as you don’t necessarily know where the boundaries lie.

Are you allowed to drink? Should you stop at one glass of wine? You might get away with a single drink, especially if this helps calm your nerves. But the best call is simply to order a soft drink, even if your interviewer is knocking back pint after pint or glugging down cocktails. If you don’t order alcohol, you don’t have to worry about drinking too much and you can keep your mind clear. And since your interviewer will be paying your way, it’d be best not to charge pricey bottles of champagne to the company account.

Though you’ll rarely see it from the best employers, candidates are occasionally thrust into difficult situations deliberately in order to test their reactions. Whatever the situation, aim to remain cool, polite and professional. If nothing else, you may have a good story to tell!

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