Dealing with an Unprofessional Interview

Dealing with an Unprofessional Interview

By Melanie Joy Douglas
Monster Contributing Writer

While there are many different types of interviews – behavioural or case interviews held over lunch, on the phone, in a group setting, or one-on-one – they all have a common denominator: professionalism. Above all, interviews are professional meetings. Every once in a while, an interview may not go as smoothly as you envisioned.

What do you do when your interview goes sour?

Some Monster readers share what their potential employers said during their interview:

  • Too personal: “Why don’t you tell me something about yourself that you’ve never told anyone before.”
  • Nearing on ridiculous: “Should you eat stew with a fork or spoon?”
  • Completely inappropriate: “Would you like to have dinner tomorrow night?”
  • Simply unethical: [compares Monster reader’s resume point by point with his competition’s] “Well, your competition has HTML skills. Do you? She also less education than you, so she’ll probably stick around longer than you and can work for less money. How much do you want? Hmmm, she also lives in Quebec, so she’s used to being around French people, which is good because our head office is in Montreal. Hmmm, I don’t know. It’s tough…”

The most popular form of unprofessional interviews are unstructured ones, where the interviewer is clearly unprepared, has barely read your resume, spontaneously asks random and irrelevant questions, and doesn’t write anything down. Quite often these interviewers are proud of their “off the cuff” style, but it never makes for a fair interview because the questions will be entirely subjective and geared completely towards an in-the-moment feeling based on the interview’s first impressions of the interviewee.

What to do?

Here are some common sense pointers:

  • Stay relaxed (or at least appear to be).
  • Be professional no matter what is said to you.
  • Have a sense of humour.
  • Don’t be intimidated into answering a question with which you’re not comfortable. Smile, acknowledge and comment on the question, and then if possible, find another way to segue the question into a positive statement with which you’re at ease.
  • Be aware that some shrewd employers will set a very casual tone for the interview, in order for you to feel very comfortable and let down your guard. This is a test to see how professional you are. Never relax too much.

If you haven’t already, at some point in your life you’ll likely experience an unprofessional interview. At the very least, let it be a test of your ability to carry yourself with professionalism and grace in the face of amateur (if not incompetent) interviewers.

Think Twice about Joining The Team

Even if you diffuse awkward, embarrassing, or unethical situations in your interview, you have to think twice about taking the job if you get it. An unprofessional interview is a sign of an unprofessional organization. This is your giant, waving, red flag. Don’t ignore it. All you need to know about an organization is found in the interview.