How to handle the unprepared interviewer

March 5, 2010 at 12:08 pm Leave a comment

When preparing for an interview, job candidates usually worry that they won’t be prepared enough, will be nervous or won’t know what questions to ask. Sometimes, though, the proverbial shoe is on the other foot — and  it’s the interviewer who hasn’t read your resume or materials, stammers because of nervousness or doesn’t seem to know how to appropriately question the job candidate!

One email correspondent put it this way: “I recently went to a job interview with an editor who is new to the position. It was obvious she had never done a job interview before and actually appeared more nervous than I was. But the biggest problem I had was that it did not appear from our conversation that she had read my resume or clips at all. I don’t expect the hiring manager to have everything memorized, but if you take the time to bring someone in, I would think you would have some familiarity with that person ahead of time.”

You would think that, wouldn’t you? But you’d be surprised how often interviewers are unprepared. Sometimes it’s because — as in the case of my email correspondent’s experience — the interviewer is inexperienced, other times they are overwhelmed with candidates and sometimes (especially with job cuts that mean fewer actual experienced recruiters at many organizations!) they are wearing several hats in their company and shoe-horning in interviews between other duties. While this is hardly an ideal situation for a job candidate, there are some strategies for coping with it and even for trying to turn it to your advantage. Here are some tips:

*Be extra prepared yourself. While you don’t want to show up an interviewer, the fact that you have prepared well if they haven’t can make you look good (and like the adult in the room!) and help your cause. Always, always bring extra copies (as many as a half-dozen more, why not??) of your resume and a few extra copies of materials like clips. Be polite in handing them the extras and empathize if it looks like they misplaced yours — “I don’t know how you keep track of all the resumes you must get these days!”  At the start of the interview, reiterate your relevant experience and why you would be a good fit for the position — this will give the unprepared hiring manager time to remember why they liked you enough to bring you in. While they are reading your resume, though, don’t blabber on — give them time to review your qualifications. Handled well, you may gain an additional measure of respect from them.

*If an interviewer is nervous, you may be in luck — you can look like the calm one. This can be a tricky situation, though, and you need to handle it delicately. First, try hard not to let their nervousness make you more nervous. Take deep breathes and slow down your speech — that could have a calming effect on both of you. Also, be very careful not to call attention to the interviewer’s nervousness or in any way to make them feel ineffective (even if they are in this case). This also gives you an opportunity to guide the interview toward your strengths and abilities, so make good use of it. Be friendly, polite, conversational and smile when appropriate — again, they may gain respect for you for the way you handled a less-than-ideal situation.

*Ask a lot of questions that show you have prepared for the interview. Just because the interviewer may not be up to speed on your qualifications doesn’t mean you shouldn’t display your knowledge of the company and questions that result from it. Showcase your preparation and familiarity with the organization and its goals, but don’t be arrogant about it in comparison to their lack of preparation.

*Keep it friendly but focused on your skills. Sometimes inexperienced interviewers (often new managers) will be quite chatty, trying to fill the time and also sometimes (as inappropriate as it might be) sharing their own lack of skill in doing interviews with  you. In this case, without rudely interrupting, keep steering the conversation back to your abilities and why your resume makes you a great fit for this company and especially for this position.

*Never be critical or dismissive of an unprepared interviewer. They may be new at this and this could be a learning experience for them. If the hiring process progresses and you’re worried about what kind of boss or manager they would be based on this experience, do your research. Just because they were unprepared for an interview doesn’t necessarily mean they would be a bad manager, though it could raise some red flags — so extra questioning and research is required. In your thank-you note after, don’t mention anything negative but politely thank them for meeting with you and for the opportunity they granted  you.

*And here are some good leads to pursue at the end of this work week (or perhaps at the beginning of next week) — and thanks to all those who have been sending leads along, please keep it up! Today’s include some communications, digital media and editing positions:

*DynCorp in Falls Church has an opening for a senior director of media communications:

Senior Director, Media Communications
DynCorp International LLC. – Falls Church, VA
Communications field.Candidates with both US Government and industry communications experience strongly preferred.Education:Bachelor’s degree in Communications
From DynCorp International LLC.

*The Treasury Department’s Office of Financial Stability in D.C. has an opening for a senior communications officer — whoever gets this job will be in the thick of the big financial story in Washington:

Senior Communications Officer, Office of Financial Stability
Treasury, Departmental Offices – Washington, DC
DC The Senior Communications Officer serves in the… Communications Officer, you will be responsible for the following duties: – Conducting the communications… $105,211 – $136,771 a year

*HomeFront Communications in D.C. has an opening for a senior digital media manager:

Senior Digital Media Manager
Home Front Communications – Washington, DC
FRONT COMMUNICATIONS is seeking a full-time Senior Digital Media Manager to develop, implement and execute digital media strategies and communications efforts…

*The Magazine Group (TMG) in D.C. needs a digital director:

Digital Director
demonstrated experience in new media and digital communications plus a thorough understanding of on-line… oral and written communications skills. Bachelor’s…

*With a hat tip to (for the final two positions), McClatchy-Tribune has an opening in its D.C. bureau for an entry-level assistant news editor. This could be a good position for someone wanting to get some editing experience. But you better get busy — they need materials by the close of business Tuesday (3/9):

Company: McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Seeking Assistant News Editor
Washington, District of Columbia
Job Status: Full-time
Salary: $45,000 to $50,000
Ad Expires:
April 2, 2010
Job ID: 1152391

Full-Time Assistant News Editor

McClatchy-Tribune Regional News is developing an exciting new product offering rules-based classification of news content, and we are looking for an editor with a willingness to learn new technologies to join our team.

Our assistant news editors use their skills for light editing — reading, coding and writing headlines for spot news and feature stories from more than 550 daily U.S. and foreign newspapers — as well as tracking copy flow and dealing with editors at contributing publications. They also use specialized software to help capture and pull stories from Web sites, and they will begin helping build a classification system for our content.

Suitable candidates will have at least one year of newspaper editing experience or its equivalent and must have a familiarity with HTML or XML. A facility with other computer software and an ability to move among programs with ease is essential, as is keen attention to detail, good problem solving skills and knowledge of current events.

We particularly want a candidate with the ability to work independently and efficiently in a fast-paced environment.

Local candidates are preferred. We are located above Metro Center in Washington, D.C., so commuting by Metro is easy. The salary range is $45,000 to $50,000, depending on experience.

Please note that there is no reporting or writing of stories. This is an entry level position.

Interested candidates should send a cover letter and resume to MCT Regional Managing Editor Georganne Coco at by close of business on March 9, 2010.

*And last but not least today, has an opening in D.C. for an editor to oversee political coverage for the site:

Politics Editor
Washington, District of Columbia
Job Status: Full-time
Salary: Not Specified
Ad Expires:
April 5, 2010
Job ID: 1153192

Description: is looking for an experienced editor to oversee political coverage. This person will manage a small team of editors in D.C. while working closely with NBC News’ political team as well as other partners to deliver the most comprehensive and innovative political coverage on the Web.

This is not a job for the inexperienced. We have an award-winning news site with a broad reach. The right candidate will be an editor-diplomat, who can bring our journalists and partners together in a common goal. We want the highest ethics and a sense of fairness. We want someone who knows America, not just D.C.

The ideal candidate will have five-plus years of experience with a top-tier news organization; hands-on experience with web technology; a record of content innovation; demonstrated news judgment; ability to lead; good communication skills and a track record for collaboration. BA/BS degree or equivalent required. Production experience also an asset.

To apply for positions on our team, respond by email to Please include the name of the position you are applying for in the subject line.

Happy hunting and have a fun, relaxing weekend!! Hope you win your Oscar pool! I’ll be back with you Monday.



Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

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