What do you do when your interview goes from stressful to scary?

Let’s face it, job interviews can be hard. No matter your level of experience, chances are that you still get a flutter of nerves in your tummy before you have one. However, if the person asking the question turns out to be hostile, your interview may be a nightmare.

Recently, British jobseeker Olivia Bland underwent a horrendous ordeal. She claims that the CEO of Web Applications U.K., who conducted her recent job interview, used tactics to intimidate and assert power over her. After tweeting about the experience, Bland’s tale went viral and was quickly reported by the BBC.

Sadly, her story is not an exception. This aggressive tactic is a commonly used gimmick in modern business known as the ‘stress interview’. The underlying idea is to sort the weak candidates from the strong by putting them in a high-pressure environment ‒ not fun at all. Should you find yourself in one of these awful situations, here’s how to handle it with grace.

Take deep breaths and stay calm

It’s natural to feel overwhelmed or emotional ‒ nobody enjoys confrontation. Should you feel that the interviewer is being hostile or rude, give yourself a moment. Take a couple of deep breaths and try to remain as calm as possible.

You could even ask to leave the room for a second to get a glass of water or perhaps use the bathroom. Giving yourself a little headspace is a smart move. Letting the interviewer’s bad attitude affect you emotionally will only exacerbate the problem.

Don’t answer questions too fast

When you’re under pressure, you might feel the urge to react quickly and answer questions as fast as you can. Don’t make that mistake. Rushing through the interview to get it over and done with won’t score you any brownie points. What’s more, in the heat of the moment, you may say things that you later regret.

For instance, if it feels as though the hostile interviewer is attacking your achievements or character, you might feel defensive ‒ you’re only human. Pause for a second to collect your thoughts. Giving a considered answer is the only way to go when it comes to any interview situation, and this is no different. Speak from your head, not from your heart.

Stay as confident as possible

Confidence is key. The point of this ‘stress interview’ is likely to test your mettle. The hostile interviewer may well be trying to see how mentally strong you are and whether you can handle pressure. As ridiculous as that tactic is, you mustn’t let it break you. Don’t let them win! Smile and relax, and remember that you are a qualified and experienced professional. With every answer you give, do your best to exude nothing short of sheer confidence.

Ask your own questions too

When you’re faced with a stressful interview, you may feel as though things are entirely out of your hands. Take back control by asking some questions. After all, an interview is not simply an opportunity for a business to find out whether you’re a good fit. It’s also a chance for you to see whether you actually want to join the ranks. When there’s a lull in the conversation, take the time to ask the following types of questions:

  • Questions about the interviewer: Find out who they are and where they sit within the company. For example, you could ask them about their career path or role.

  • Questions about the role: Should you be offered the job, what tasks will you face on a daily basis? What targets will you be expected to meet?

  • Questions about the department: Who will you report to within your department? How much contact will you have with the hostile interviewer?

  • Questions about the company culture: Where does the company stand on promoting a healthy culture and well-being? How does the business support its staff members?

These questions will allow you to gain a deeper insight into the role, as well as take back some control. Needless to say, the first impression you’ve got from the interviewer is likely to be unpleasant. Asking some choice questions will help you determine what to do next.

Leave the interview politely

Should you feel anxious or intimidated by the interviewer, you are under absolutely no obligation to stay for the entirety of the interview ‒ it’s perfectly acceptable for you to leave. Of course, you want to be as polite and professional as possible when exiting. Tell the interviewer that you don’t believe that you’re a good fit for the role and end the interview. Leave with dignity and confidence, knowing that you took control of the situation.

Go with your gut (and say no)

‘Stress interviews’ are gimmicks employed by companies to find the strongest person for the job. However, they are by no means a professional way of dealing with candidates. When you come face to face with this type of interview, remember that you are not to blame. This has no reflection on you or your skills.

Regardless of the reason that an interviewer acts in a hostile manner, their behaviour is unacceptable. This interaction tells you a great deal about the company culture and could well be a sign of a toxic workplace. With that in mind, if your gut tells you that this position is not right for you, stand your ground. You don’t have to settle for a role in which you will be treated disrespectfully. So, if a job offer does come your way, just say no.

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