Job interviews are pretty stressful things. Even if you’re confident about your skills, and extroverted enough to enjoy meeting new people, there’s still plenty to worry about. Whether you need the role because you’re out of work, or you just want to take the next step on the ladder, there’s plenty at stake.

And then there’s the worries. Will you get there on time? Will you forget the interviewers name? Will you trip, or spill your coffee, or do something else toe-curlingly embarrassing?

While we hate to add to those worries, there is something else you need to be aware of. Some interviewers will put you in awkward situations deliberately, to see how you cope with pressure.


Wait, really?

Yes, really. UK based job’s site TotalJobs recently carried out a survey of employers. Almost 50% said that they had deliberately asked difficult questions to see how a candidate responded under pressure.

20% said they’d changed their body language so it seemed they disapproved of the candidate. Almost as many admitted to acting as though they weren’t interested to throw the interviewee.

Whilst it may not be the way you’d like to be treated, you can see why it might be useful for an employer to know how well you handle pressure. If you’re going into sales, or customer service, then continuing to be polite in the face of disinterest or even rudeness and aggression is a really useful skill. Many jobs have a pressurised element, and knowing you can keep a cool head is a big plus for many employees.

So, how can you help yourself prepare for this kind of interview?


Forewarned is forearmed

Just by reading this article, you’ve helped yourself! You can now immediately reframe any negative body language or disinterest from your interviewer as a sign that they actually really like you, and are just taking your interview to the next level!

Make sure that you do your research ahead of any job interview. Find out as much as you can about the company and the role. Look critically at your own experience and try to find ways you can demonstrate that you’re a good fit.

Have those answers semi-rehearsed – you don’t want to sound like you’re reading from a script but being able to answer confidently is an advantage.

It’s a great idea if you can get a friend or family member to help you rehearse by throwing some difficult interview questions at you. Let them challenge you a bit, and practice handling tricky questions. Here are our top tips for doing that:

  • Allow yourself a brief pause before you answer. Take a breath – don’t fill the silence with an ‘um,’ or similar. A thoughtful pause is quite natural when you’re thinking of an answer.
  • If that gap isn’t enough, the start by repeating the question. This buys you a little more time, and helps your brain engage with the question in a slightly different way.
  • Ask them to repeat the question, or clarify it if you haven’t heard or understood it properly. Make sure that you’re answering the question they asked.
  • Don’t be afraid to say you don’t know. It’s better to admit to a gap in your knowledge (shows honesty) that to try and blag your way, showing the opposite. Phrases like, ‘I haven’t considered that,’ or ‘I’m afraid I’m not familiar with that,’ are useful.

Chilling Out

It’s also useful to come up with some tactics for staying calm in stressful situations. This can be something as simple as taking a deep breath, or making a conscious effort to relax your muscles.

It can help to feel grounded, so making sure your feet are flat on the floor, or take a sip of a drink if you’ve been offered one.

It can also help to have a small memento with you from a friend or loved one. A tie pin or enamel badge that reminds you of someone, or a positive experience, can help you feel more grounded and positive and doesn’t tip the interviewer off to any insecurity.

Whilst it may not be encouraging news for candidates to hear that employers are getting stricter in how they put you through your paces, it’s not all bad news. All you need to do is take a leaf out of the Boy Scout’s book and ‘be prepared’.

Stay positive, and do your best to stay in control during the interview. Using the tips we’ve outlined in this article, you should do just fine.

Sarah Dixon writes for Inspiring Interns, which help career starters and internssucceed in the workplace. To browse their graduate jobs visit their website.


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