What to do when an interviewer’s mood stands between you and the job:
Sometimes as a job candidate, no matter how much you prepare for the interview, no matter what you do, the odds are already stacked against you before you walk into the room, without you even knowing it.
Research over the past few decades has repeatedly shown that an interviewer’s mood has a direct impact on their decisions about a candidate regardless of a candidate’s performance in the interview.
So what if this is your dream job and you lose out on it simply because the hiring manager is having a bad day? Do you have any recourse? Or is it just not your lucky day?
First, remember that we all have the ability to affect change. And, as helpless as you may feel, changing your own attitude towards the interviewer’s could be the catalyst needed to change the outcome of the interview.
Thing about how your own body language can affect others. If you immediately allow their mood to overtake you and get turned off, hesitant, or uncomfortable, the situation may not get any better and continue a downhill cycle.
Remember to smile! (They can be contagious.) Shake hands with confidence and stay positive and personable no matter what. Sometimes all another person needs is positive energy around them to influence their mood and get things on the right track.
Second, know your audience.
Psychologist Robert A. Baron suggests that male interviewers are more strongly affected by mood than women are. “Women are more in touch with their feelings and can separate them from what they are doing objectively,” Baron speculates. “In a job interview you want to separate personal reactions from your judgments of that person. Women seem better at it,” he says.
So, you may not need to be worried at all, but if you’re gut tells you things are not going the right way and the interviewer seems to have already made up their mind about you, figure out ways to help your situation. Try some old sales tactics to ‘change their mood, not their mind.’
Observe your interviewer’s reactions and body language as the interview progresses. Are they easing up and engaging in conversation or are questions becoming more trite and matter of fact? Does their mood seem to be triggered by stress, anger, or sadness?
Being able to identify what type of bad mood they’re in can help you to deal more readily with the situation.
For example, if they’re mood is triggered by sadness, you might try incorporating a funny situation or story that they can relate to into your discussion to provide a laugh and ease the tension, but if they’re angry, you don’t want to set off any other triggers.
If they seem stressed, make sure you are talking in a calm, clear tone that may help relax their mood and that you’re not letting your nerves cause you to speak a hundred miles an hour that can raise anxiety levels in the room.
Never let their mood change your positive attitude and stick to providing thoughtful responses that clearly articulate your prior successes and your fit for the position at hand. Sometimes if spoken to in a curt manner, we adapt and provide curt answers–don’t let this be the case. Focus on why you’re there and make sure you are still providing the strongest responses possible.
Sometimes, you can bring a person up to your level when you don’t let them drag you down to theirs. And, giving an interviewer a chance to hear your experience might snap them back into the interview and away from their problems for a few minutes.
Ask questions that can get the interviewer in a positive frame of mind, such as:
What do they like about working at the company?
Who are some of the people they consider mentors or thought leaders working in the organization?
What’s the most exciting project they’ve worked on or their greatest success story there?
You might not only get them in a better frame of mind but show that you are highly interested and engaged in the company.
Baron goes on to express that interviewers in high spirits rate applicants more favorably than interviewers who are down in the dumps. “They were more likely to say they would hire the applicants, to regard them as highly motivated and even to give them promotions. Also, interviewers who were in a good mood remembered more of the applicants’ positive traits, while those in a bad mood recalled more of the negative information.”
If you really feel like you’ve tried everything, and the interviewer is still stone walling you, get creative–but only if you feel you have nothing left to lose and you feel like you are able to read the situation well and act on it.
In extreme circumstances, you might suggest that it’s a beautiful day outside, you both take the remainder of the interview to take a short walk to talk and further discuss the position and the company. Sometimes the act of getting outside and away from the office can lift their mood. But, again, this is an extreme last resort interview tactic.
Another extreme interview tactic might be to address the white elephant in the room directly. Stating, “I noticed you seem distracted/upset/’fill in the blank’ today. Is it something I did or is there anything I can do to remedy the situation?”
This tactic can occasionally work because it can make the interviewer aware of emotions or baggage they may not realize they are carrying into the interview and help them to actively change their attitude. It also shows your ability to read a situation and react positively, but again, proceed with caution when using any tactic that switches the power dynamic in the room.
The point of extreme interview tactics is to really assess your situation and try to come up with a creative solution to salvage your last chance at possibly getting the interviewer to see what a great candidate you are. Read the situation carefully and figure out if there is a solution that might work based on who you have sitting across from you.
Sometimes, you’re just out of luck when it comes to the interview. But, don’t forget to follow-up with a note, thanking the interviewer for their time, addressing any concerns, and giving them something positive to hold on to about you. Every now and then, getting that follow-up note is all a hiring manager needs to give you a second chance.
And for the interviewers, it’s a two-way street. You’re there to make the best hires for your company and if you’re letting your personal attitude get in the way of seeing great talent that could be in front of you, you’re doing everyone a disservice.
If you’re not up for the interview, it may be best to reschedule. Otherwise, take a few minutes before the interview to re-center yourself, meditate, focus solely on reviewing resumes, breathing, or whatever it is you need to do to change your attitude and put yours (and the company’s) best face on when you go into the interview.
The interview shouldn’t be a game of chance or an unlucky coincidence. The interview should be an assessment of a job seeker’s fit for the position. With that said, we all have bad days here and there, so let’s all take some accountability where we can to make it a great interview for everyone involved.
Baron, Robert. Interviewer`s Mood Affects Job Chances. Psychology Today. April 5, 1989
Briks, Jeffrey. The Influence of Emotions on Interviewer’s Information Search Behaviors. Dissertation. University of Akron. 2009