If you’ve ever listened to a recruiter’s advice, you’ll know that preparation is crucial to a successful interview. But what happens if your interviewer hasn’t extended the same courtesy in their preparation? What happens if you turn up to the interview and it’s quite clear that they simply haven’t completed their homework?
This is unlikely to be due to disinterest – it’s more probable that they’re time-poor and suffering the stress of being one team member down. Remember too that interviewing probably doesn’t form the bulk of their normal workload, so they might be completely unaware of the ‘normal’ protocol.
We think this is an opportunity rather than a setback: it’s an opening for you to steer the direction and offer information which will help them understand why you’d be the best fit for the job at hand. Here’s how:
1. Ask targeted questions
An unprepared interviewer may well try to make up for their discomfort by talking all the way through the meeting rather than ask you any questions. If this happens, listen attentively, make mental notes (or real ones if you remembered a notepad), and when the time comes to ask questions you can shine. Having listened patiently to this chatterbox for 30 minutes, you will have hopefully picked up on the key requirements for their hire.
You can then address these requirements in your questions. For example, if cultural fit is a concern (or has been), try a query along the lines of, ‘I’ve seen employees struggle to fit in within a new team before so I understand how difficult it can be for both parties. It’s so important to make an effort in those first few months. What would your recommendations be to a newcomer wanting to make a good impression with this team?’.
2. Volunteer relevant information
If your interviewer is at a loss for questions (as they clearly haven’t seen your CV), offer to take them through the highlights of your career to date. Let them know that if they’d like you to elaborate on anything that they may feel free to stop you and ask questions. This method should form a favourable interview experience since you’re leading it (!), and can direct the interviewer’s attention to your career highpoints.
3. Keep focussed
Sadly, there are interviewers out there who may not be aware of the legal restrictions imposed on them. They may not realise that they’re not allowed to ask questions about family life, race, national origin, gender identity and so on. If this does happen, try and change the course of the conversation – they should get the hint! If they persist, inform them you’d like to change the subject.
4. Stay positive
If you’re someone who wears their heart on their sleeve, you might struggle to not show your disappointment at your poorly-prepared interviewer. Try not to let them know of your annoyance. Keep smiling, maintain open body language and don’t give them any reason to believe you wouldn’t be 100% enthusiastic about joining their company.
5. Reiterate your suitability for the role before you leave
Your poorly-prepared interviewer probably means you’ve suffered through a highly unstructured meeting. If they waxed lyrical about the business and role, or you suffered in extended silences, don’t worry: you have one final shot to impress. When the time comes to wrap up, thank them for their time, reiterate your understanding of what they need, and finally summarise why your experience would be the perfect fit.
We wish you the best of luck in your job search!