Bad Onsite Interview

The summer after I graduated from high school, I applied for a job as a housekeeper. The position was for a large hotel chain in my area, and I needed the job in order to save money for college that fall. I did everything I was supposed to do to prepare for the interview. I practiced with friends and family, bought my first suit, and arrived on time. However, the woman who interviewed me was very shy and didn’t really know what she was doing. She ended up not asking me any questions at all but instead just asked if I had questions for her. It was a very awkward meeting, and at the end of the interview I left the room unsure about my performance.

~Jennifer

How to Handle Bad Onsite Interviews

There are many ways an onsite interview can go badly. In the above example, Jennifer had prepared for a standard interview, only to discover that the person in charge wasn’t going to conduct the interview in a very structured way. Jennifer felt confused, because she wasn’t sure how to present information without being asked interview questions. While this can be a very difficult situation to be in, there are certain things you can do to try to work past it:

  • Turn anything you were planning to answer into a question. For instance, you can ask the interviewer what traits she looks for in an employee.

  • Once you get an answer from the interviewer, let her know how you fit the description of what she’s looking for.

  • Ask about the company structure. Who is in charge? What’s the chain of command?

  • Ask her to confirm things that you think you know, such as the duties that come with the position and that they are seeking someone long term, etc.

  • You can ask whose place you’d be taking and why he or she left the position.

  • Ask about specific procedures, like how the company handles processing on a daily basis.

    These types of questions can show the interviewer that you are genuinely interested in the job. Taking a reverse interview tactic can put the pressure back on the interviewer if she seems unsure of how to move the meeting forward. This could also put the interviewer at ease, because it could help her know which questions to ask back to you and would subsequently relieve any uncomfortable silence. You won’t want to lead the interview, however, if the hiring manager is comfortable conducting it.

    Other Types of Bad Onsite Interviews

    Interviews can go wrong for a number of reasons. Perhaps you weren’t able to answer a particular question or answered in a way that you later regretted. Maybe you arrived late or the interview was rushed. Maybe you were told upon arrival that they had already chosen someone for the job but would interview you anyway, “just in case.”

    Oftentimes, bad onsite interviews can be saved from hindering you from getting the job. If there is something you wish you had said, you can often bring it up later in the interview by saying something like, “I’d like to go back to the question you asked me a bit ago.” If they say they’ve already selected someone for the job, it could be a tactic to put you off your game or a sincere statement. If it is sincere, they may not have drafted an award letter to the applicant yet, and if nothing else, you can use the interview as practice for your next one.

    It can also be helpful to address anything you feel that you need to when you send your “thank you” letter or email. You don’t want to seem wishy washy or overly concerned about making everyone happy; however, stating something in writing, in a positive and confident way, can help you feel like you’ve done all you can to let the company know who you are and what your bring to the table.

    It’s impossible to completely prepare for a bad onsite interview, just as it’s impossible to prepare fully for any type. Applicants never know exactly what they are walking into when they step through the doors. However, if you’re prepared to overcome certain bumps in the interview process by employing tactics that you considered ahead of time, you’ll be much more likely to leave the room confident that you did the best you could given the situation.

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