Even the most well-prepared candidates face unexpected hurdles when interviewing for a new job. The savvy candidate, an unforeseen interview challenge can be a great opportunity to show a company your ability to navigate any situation gracefully.
“Think about the process from the company’s point of view,” she told. “Hiring the right person is incredibly hard, which is why companies try to get beyond the standard Q&A by using all sorts of ‘techniques.’”
Welch says there are three common traps every job seeker should know how to find their way out of:
1. The long wait
Some employers will intentionally test your patience and emotions before the interview even begins by having you wait in the lobby for an unexpected period of time.
“The intent is twofold,” she says. “They want to see how you handle anxiety. Stay calm.” The other objective, says Welch, may be less obvious: “They want to see how you treat the receptionist.”
Remember, your interview begins as soon as you arrive. Greet the receptionist with a warm, polite introduction and a smile, just as you would the hiring manager.
2. The awkward silence
It’s not uncommon for there to be a gap in conversation during an interview. You’re waiting for the hiring manager to introduce the next topic, and instead, they say nothing.
While a brief silence might feel awkward, Welch says it’s sometimes a deliberate effort to force the interviewee to speak up and take control.
“The first time this happened to me was when I was an MBA,” she says. “I almost fainted, it was so bizarre. But then I remembered a tip I’d once heard: Smile like nothing is the matter, and ask, ‘What else can I tell you about myself and my work experiences?’ I tried it, and on we went.”
3. The multi-person interview
Welch says one of the most common interview traps is having a candidate meet with multiple people at once.
“It’s intended to put you in an awkward position,” she says, “especially when it’s a surprise, or a good-cop, bad-cop set-up.”
In this situation, Welch says you want to be sure not to fold under pressure.
“That’s the whole point,” she says. “Stay poised, and make absolutely sure you give each person in the room equal eye contact and attention. When you say goodbye, say goodbye to everyone, using their names.”
Job interviews can be difficult even without the unexpected traps that might be laid for you. That’s why, Welch says, you need to “be ready to side-step these three like your dream job depends on it — it just might.”