You’re Conducting the Interview from Hell: Now What?


A BuzzFeed listicleOpens a new window has been making the rounds lately, prompted by a question that was posed to hiring managers in an online forum: What are the craziest moments you’ve had in a candidate interview?

The answers range from hilarious to semi-tragic, and for job seekers, they could provide a basic roadmap for interview etiquette, since most are just extreme versions of mistakes that many candidates make.

But if you’re in the hiring chair, how do you deal with situations like these? Consider a few of the scenarios posed by the list of worst experiences:

— A candidate who interviewed over video feed naked
— A candidate who showed up for his interview with his entire family in tow
— A candidate who cried multiple times about a current position
— A candidate who talked about himself for 35 minutes straight

Those are all pretty bad interviews. But every hiring manager has faced some version of inappropriate behavior from an interviewee.

The switch can come in the middle of an otherwise normal interview — sometimes it can happen when you try to push the interview past the run-of-the-mill questionsOpens a new window (which you should continue doing!), or when a candidate hasn’t sufficiently prepared by becoming familiar with basic interview etiquetteOpens a new window .

No matter the reason, here are some ways to cope when an interview goes south:

Shift the focus

Rather than letting the interview go off the rails or cutting it off so early as to open up a new line of questioning from the candidate, shift the focus of the conversation from the candidate to the company.

Even if it’s abundantly clear that the candidate isn’t right for the position at this moment, you have a chance to hone your description of company goals and values. This will allow you to leave the candidate with a good impression of the company and of the conversation that you didn’t blow off.

Keep it brief

You don’t want to cut the candidate off — unless he’s been speaking about himself for 35 minutes straight. But you do want to value your time and the time of your company.

As soon as it becomes clear that the candidate is not the right fit, do some mental math and halve the amount of time you have budgeted for the rest of the conversation.

That will allow you to shift the focus and wrap things up, but it will also save you precious time.

Bring someone else in

If you have a candidate going off the rails or melting down, have a few of your colleagues come in and join you during the interview process. If you’re already interviewing as part of a panel, have a few more people come into the room.

The benefit is that it ruptures a sense of false intimacy that the interviewee may have accidentally developed and it signals a transition — in most cases, to the end of the interview.

You can introduce them as colleagues who are joining for the final part of the interview, shift your focus for a few minutes, thank the candidate for her time and usher her out.