Hi. My name is Michelle Edith Jones and I’m the author of Corporate Games: Outthink the Competition and Take It All.
I want to thank you for showing interest in my work by sharing a section of the book that was inadvertently left out. I’d like to call, How to Properly End the Interview and Get the Hell out of Dodge in One Piece, but instead have simply named it, Saving Face. Enjoy.
When we go to an interview, we are not usually thinking about making new friends. We’re thinking about getting a job. We try to present ourselves in the best manner we can, and show a prospective employer the stuff we’re made of: our intelligence, our experience, and even sometimes our wit. We may not expect to get an offer, but we do expect the interview to go well.
Unfortunately, that is not always the case. Even the most enjoyable interviews still contain an underlying adversarial component. Your prospective employer may be interested in you and wants to offer you a fair form of compensation once you take the job, but they also don’t want to pay a small fortune for your services. On the other hand, you want that small fortune. And so, like the players sitting on opposite sides of a chess board, the two of you play a game over benefits, and usually the outcome is not so much a victory for one side as it is a compromise for both.
This is how a great interview ends. But this is not the scenario we are concerned with now. We are going to talk about the interviews that start badly and implode at some point and what you need to do to get the hell out of Dodge in one piece.
Let’s say that you have been getting a cold vibe from the interviewer from the moment you met. You are willing to shrug it off and accept the fact that she may just be having a bad day and her thoughts are elsewhere. That’s mistake number one. Bad day or not, that interviewer should be focused on you. You’ve taken time out of your busy schedule to be there, and her job at this moment is to quiz you and listen to your responses to determine if you are a good fit for the available position. How is she going to do that if she doesn’t pay attention? Besides, when an interviewer is having a bad day, she will usually offer this information to you so you are not left there thinking that there’s something wrong with you as a candidate. She could be concerned with a sick relative, or just had to inform an employee she’s being laid-off. I once had an interview with a supervisor who came in with a migraine. I asked her if she wanted to reschedule for another day, but she said that the job needed to be filled and she was up for it if I was.
Ok. So ten minutes go by and the interviewer seems quite distracted. Or is she… uninterested? You were told that the interview would take about an hour and you have fifty minutes left with someone who doesn’t want to interview you. But you need this job and are willing to do anything to get it. So you decide to suck it up and patiently go through the entire process. This is mistake number two. You cannot afford to be this passive and expect to get this job. You’ve got to get this woman’s attention. If you think she’s having a bad day, call her on it. “Except me Ms. Winthrop. Sorry to interrupt, but are you feeling well? You seem a little… out of sorts.” This is the polite way of saying, “Hey bitch, I’m over here. Notice me?”
If she’s indeed having a bad day, your comment may snap her back to reality long enough to change the mood she’s setting in your interview. But, if she’s just not interested in you as a candidate, you pointing out that you notice something is wrong will probably only make her angry. That’s ok, because if this person is standing between you and the job you want, sadly that’s not a hurdle your likely to get over. It’s just good to know what kind of people work in the HR department or the department you’re interviewing for. Let’s face it; this may not be the person you want to call Boss.
But let’s say you still decide to remain quiet and stick it out in the hopes that the interview will improve with time – mistake number 3. You reach the halfway point with thirty minutes to go, and know in your heart that there is something personal going on here, at least from the interviewer’s point of view. Maybe she thinks this job would be perfect – for her eighteen year old son. Or maybe her best friend already works at the company in another department and she wants the job. If you are interviewing with the department head, it may be that she feels that the position is unnecessary and her role as a supervisor is being undermined by upper management.
I’ve experienced all of these scenarios and more. Trust me, none of them are fun. In these examples, the reason the supervisor doesn’t want to interview you has nothing to do with you or your work experience. But you won’t know that. If this kind of interview is allowed to continue, the result can negatively affect your self esteem and/or the demeanor you use to present yourself in subsequent interviews. You have the right to stop such an interview before it gets to that point and should exercise that right to protect yourself from the emotional scars this interviewer is trying to give you as a parting gift.
During an interview for an underwriting assistant position, the woman interviewing me actually started to look at the walls and the ceiling, checked her watch several times, avoided eye contact with me, and drummed her fingers on the table between sighs. What the hell was that? I got anger. Decorum went out the door. I stood up, swept up my resume and notes, shoved them into my briefcase and slammed it shut. That got her attention. Then I said, “I’m sorry, but I have reconsidered applying for this job”. And then I added through clenched teeth, “Sorry to have wasted your time”, as I shot out my hand to shake hers. I accidentally aimed a little high and almost slapped her in the face. Her jaw dropped. “Bu… bu… bu…” was all she could get out. On my way out I wished her well and hoped she found a suitable candidate for the job. Not a perfect or stellar candidate, but a mediocre one who would do. Then I left. A few days later I received a call from that company asking me to come back for a second interview with a different person. I still needed a job, but I didn’t want to go back, not after the experience I had the first time around. But after a bit of prodding and the promise of a free lunch, I agreed to come in for interview round two. As promised, I met with the supervisor I’d be working for, instead of the HR representative I saw the last time. This new person listened to everything I said and expressed genuine interest in me as a person. By the time I left the office, I had a new job. If I let the original interview end on any other note, I would not have gotten a callback.
When you know an interview is going south, and you are pretty sure you are not going to be given proper consideration for the job you’re trying to get, end it as fast as you can. Be as courteous as you can, but get up and, well… get the hell out of Dodge.