The Chaos Interview


If you have ever sat down with a professional to conduct a mock interview, it probably ran pretty smoothly on the side of the person playing the role of interviewer. I mean after all, if they are trying to build your confidence, they don’t want to make the interview itself go anything but well.

So given this kind of practice situation, now imagine yourself showing up ten minutes early for the interview as coached, and immediately finding the company appears to be in turmoil. Perhaps there’s extensive renovations going on, power tools are being used nearby, workman talking back and forth as they work, the reception area has been temporarily relocated to another area, and when you do get greeted for an interview, the interview is interrupted three times by various people who apologize but, “just need a word” with the interviewer. That one-on-one nice chat you envisioned is not happening.

This kind of interview can be unsettling for sure, and it may be hard to get any real flow going. You might feel that the interviewer isn’t really giving you much attention, or that you are really being seriously considered. I would caution anyone who finds themselves in this situation from getting testy and annoyed and saying something about it. This could be a wonderful way for you to demonstrate your patience, ability to deal with unexpected challenges, and of course your performance under stressful situations. If the job calls for those qualities, you can even remark on the state of things and how you are willing and capable of rising above the noise and distractions.

Interviewers, like any other occupation, have their share of good ones and poor performers. At the moment, you might not be in a position to really evaluate whether you are being interviewed by which, and in the end, you really should be focused more on being the best interviewee anyhow, not judging the interviewer.

Realize too that the interview situation I’ve described above might seem to fantastic to you personally, but it really has happened. I could also have told you about a job interview that was conducted in a janitor’s closet – that too had to do with office renovations when no other space was available in a school setting. The interviewer is responsible for choosing the location of the interview, and if you find yourself in some unusual setting or its being conducted under trying circumstances, you might also be given a little leeway that otherwise would not be extended to you.

I recall personally being in situations where the person asking me questions didn’t really seem all that prepared or quite frankly know what to ask. My strategy then changed from what I’d normally do. I ended up actually providing the information I wanted the interviewer to know based on my best guesses as to what they should want to know from an applicant. And of course I played to my strengths. The interviewer was young, didn’t seem really confident, and only had two questions ready and then actually looked lost. How grateful they were that I took control of the interview. What I wasn’t sure of right up until the moment I was offered the job, was whether the strategy I took was appreciated in truth or not.

We all hope for the traditional interview where we are greeted upon arrival, welcomed into the interview, have a pleasant conversation and the question and answer portion goes pretty much as we hoped, and we leave on good terms with a friendly handshake. When arriving at home, we hope to get that positive call within anywhere from the same day to a few days. That’s your typical and predictable interview. But it doesn’t always go as we planned.

So what can you do to relieve any extra stress that can come from something unexpected? For starters avoid making judgements and pronouncing them aloud. Saying something like, “Do you conduct all your interviews like this? This is nuts and you’re crazy if you think I’m going to sit through this!” may be exactly what you’re thinking, but unless the job calls for you to be a take charge, no-nonsense kind of person, best you not express your true thoughts and play along. Could be that the interviewer has to be accessible to others and there is no other area truly available, and rescheduling just isn’t an option.

Secondly, remember what you are totally in charge of; yourself. You control what you say, how you say it, your body language and your prior research into the company and the role should tell you what strengths you have that fit the job. What you aren’t in control of is what is controlled by the interviewer, such as interruptions, the location and the interviewers experience with interviews. Don’t sweat what you have no control over.

Summarizing why you are a great fit near the end of the interview for the interviewer may be something you wish to consider. This way, you leave feeling that although the interview may have been rocky and full of chaos, you’ve left the person with a good summary of who you are and why you are THE person to hire. Not only can this summary be verbally given, but if you really want to impress, instead of a short thank you note for the interview, think about writing an actually letter summarizing yourself so nothing gets lost.

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One thought on “The Chaos Interview

  1. I would be grateful to the interviewer for taking the time to interview me in the midst of all the confusion. In most cases there would be say five or six other people they would be interviewing and they could easily cancel my interview and then go on the next person when things become more orderly.

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