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I had an interview with a well known company. After completing the first round of interview, I was confident that I would be short-listed for the second round. But little did I know that my second round would be a disaster.

The second round started and the interviewer asked me to tell him about my profile. Once this was done he told me that he was going to get a pen and a paper (unfortunately I only had a pen) and he returned only after 15 minutes. Once he came back he started shooting questions at me without giving me a chance to think about the question and answer. I really mean it, 5 seconds after the first question he would shoot me another question, irrespective of whether I was answering the first question or not. I also told him politely in between to give me a chance to answer, but no luck.

After the interview was over, I felt like, he took a 15 minute break to memorise these questions and was emitting it in front of me before he forgot and ran out of questions. What can be done in such a case?

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Would you want to work with him? –  Job May 5 '11 at 15:33
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Let me put it this way: At face value, he has just shown you how much value the company puts on preparing for a meeting, and on the priority they give to interviewing. He should have brought pen and paper with him, if he was planning on needing it, and there is no way on Earth it should take him 15 minutes to go fetch pen and paper. Something is very wrong with this picture, and you probably don't want to find out what it is. –  John R. Strohm May 5 '11 at 15:34
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Also, name the company. Nothing like public shame to make them alter their behavior. –  Christopher Mahan May 5 '11 at 16:16
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He could have also just been screwing with you to see how you would react. –  Matthew Whited May 5 '11 at 16:54
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I'd bet that the second interviewer had already made up his mind about not wanting you but someone else wanted to interview you. You shouldn't want to work for this company if that's the case. –  Austin Salonen May 5 '11 at 17:44

12 Answers 12

You politely but firmly tell the interviewer that their behavior is rude and suggest that they stop. If they persist, you calmly leave. Don't think that you're powerless just because you're the interviewee. You don't need to allow bad behavior (especially from a potential future coworker or boss) just because you want the job.

Chances are you won't get the job. But chances are you wouldn't have wanted the job anyway. Win win.

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I agree that people need to stand up for themselves when put in positions like this. The OP doesn't say what kind of position this was for, but if it was something like a manager, BA, etc., then it was probably a test to see how well they handle being in front of major a-holes. Or the interviewer was just being an ass himself. Either way, don't tolerate it. –  Aaronaught May 5 '11 at 16:54
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@Aaronaught Right. If it was a test, you've just passed it. Now you can decide if you want to work for someone that puts you through such tests. –  Rein Henrichs May 5 '11 at 17:13
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"...chances are you wouldn't have wanted the job anyway." IMO, people throw this around way too much around here. Even if you don't want the job. There's no point in not doing your best to get it. Then you can continue looking after you can afford to eat again. –  Steve Evers May 5 '11 at 20:01
    
I not suggesting "doing your best not to get it", I'm suggesting that the OP respond to the situation in a professional, adult manner. I think that is the best way to get it. If that response isn't appreciated, I stand by my "chances are". –  Rein Henrichs May 5 '11 at 20:15
    
@Rein +1 for a great answer. –  loyalpenguin May 5 '11 at 20:30

He probably intended to assess you reaction to treating you that way. No other senseless objective can be achieved through that strange approach.

I personally put a downvote mentally to a company that tries psycho tricks on me. My experience shows that after that sort of thing the atmosphere of initial trust and respect is usually broken and the interview does not go anywhere.

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"Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity"--I doubt that he was actively testing the candidate; most likely, he was just not very good at giving interviews. –  Tikhon Jelvis May 5 '11 at 19:38
    
@Tikhon Jelvis: An awesome quote! Thank you! –  user8685 May 5 '11 at 19:52
    
@Tikhon Jelvis: I however have difficulty believing the described situation happened unintentionally. If one is that high in ranking that one is given authority to conduct interviews, one is bound to possess certain communication skills. I think. –  user8685 May 5 '11 at 19:55
    
Don't bet on the guy having a high ranking. I've been snagged into doing interviews (and told what my recommendation would be when I was done) just because we needed a certain number of people to say "no thanks" to an interviewee by corporate policy. –  PSU May 5 '11 at 20:58
    
+1 for hating mind games. I did a lot of debate when I was younger, so this crap doesn't really ruffle me, but I've found that, on the occasions when I took the job anyway, the company was almost always a bad place to work. If they need to test your reaction to mind games in the interview, that is because you will come into contact with mind games in your day-to-day. –  Satanicpuppy May 13 '11 at 18:36

Nothing, he is free to ask you what he likes, how he likes.

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+1: There's no rule that says interviews must be fair. –  Joel Etherton May 5 '11 at 15:14
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No rule but the interview goes both ways so no complaints are accepted if the candidate rejects the company. –  user8685 May 5 '11 at 15:16
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+1 - Maybe he was just testing that you could keep your cool in an "impossible" situation. That is an important skill in many areas, including development. –  l0b0 May 5 '11 at 15:17
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Having to deal with too much stress is a sign of a mis-managed company. –  Job May 5 '11 at 15:32
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@Joel. Is he also free to drop his pants? Free to insult the interviewee's mother? Free to tell the interviewer he's fat and ugly? No. There is such a thing as professional decency. This guy did not have any. You don't want to work with him. Note that this could also be a way to convey "We already decided we don't want you so we're going to make you think you're stupid and you'll leave". Bad all around. –  Christopher Mahan May 5 '11 at 16:15

Not much. I would forget that job and go for another one. It sounds like he was trying to belittle you.

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One bad interviewer does not a bad company make (no large company escapes having a few). Just make sure you don't report to him. –  hotpaw2 May 5 '11 at 16:56

As I understand it, the theory behind such interviews is that it doesn't give you time to formulate a lie. I don't buy it myself, but if he thinks it's effective then he has a right to use it. And if that makes you dislike him, you have a right to walk out and not come back. Or you can just answer the questions, if you want that specific job badly enough.

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I like the ideas of:

  • you probably don't want to work there, figure it's a company that isn't worth worrying about and start prepping for the next interview

  • don't put up with it - ask (politely!) during the interview why the shot fire question format? What is the interviewer trying to get out of it? perhaps you can help the interviewer be a better interviewer by showing him the behavior he's looking for in a way that is more productive.

  • follow up (politely) with a contact point. Most places I've interviewed, have some sort of HR rep overseeing the process. It's perfectly OK to mention to this person that you were somewhat put off by the rapid fire questions, and you didn't understand why you were left alone in a room for 15 minutes. There could be numerous reasons - anything from your interviewer just got really bad personal news and lost all his social savvy to some sort of unusual interview style that the company culture promotes. You'll never know why if you don't ask, and if the guy is doing something counter to company policy, then it's good to let the HR rep know via polite questions. Given that this doesn't give the company a very good public face, it might be nice for them to know about it. Could get you anything from good karma to a second shot at the interview.

  • same deal with follow up if you are using a head hunter. Recruiters often have a tight relationship with companies, and while they aren't the same as the HR department, they often have more pull than you'd think. Also, if a recruiter sent you, he'll appreciate knowing that this company takes a bizarre interview style and he may be able to prep his candidates better in the future.

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It does gives you some hints on what kind of a team you might be working with in case you got in. You can email the person who setup the interview and convey your experience.

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In my experience, what happens during the interview is always a strong portent of what the company will be like. When I've had problematic situations at a company, I almost always could look back to see hints of those problems in the interview or other pre-hire events.

May I suggest that you don't want to work with or for the interviewer, and possibly not the company either.

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Interviewers have different styles. Some like to test you under pressure but that should come after the first basic round.In all probability they had already decided not to hire you. IMO The interview was just a formality to be completed. I have been to quie a few intierviews where I felt that they had decided not to hire me and just took the interivew because they did not sort me out beforehand.

Forget it and try elsewhere.

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If you really, really want the job, and are confident that this interviewer isn't particularly representative of your working environment, wait six-months or a year, and apply again, when a position is open.

The chances of being interviewed by the same person again are small, and it is unlikely that this interview would be held against you.

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See,here's the thing. When an interviewer behaves like this, there can be one of the following two reasons -

1) He knows that you cannot POSSIBLY complete answering a question in (you said 5 seconds?)such a short amount of time. All HE wants to do is gauge how quick you are on your toes. Do you have an answer ready when he asks? Can you keep up with his pace? That could be what he's looking for.

2) He's off his rocker,or possibly has ADD/OCD or something that makes him forget he has already asked a question and move on to the next one.

All YOU need to worry about is how good the company is, how well you think you'll be treated there and if these are the same kind of people you'll have to put up with day in and day out.

If the latter is the case,I suggest you turn tail and run.

If not,better sharpen your skills to be able to answer to whatever he asks you,whenever he asks you :)

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Give his superior a phone call and tell him what happened, if this story surprise him as much as it did you, there may still be an opportunity for you. If not, you can tell him that he is bat-shit crazy.

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You want to remain professional, even when subjected to unprofessional behavior. Calling people names is unprofessional. –  Bernard May 5 '11 at 16:14
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You can't win with this. His superior couldn't possibly take the opinion of a candidate over a employee that he trusts enough to conduct interviews. And even if he could, would you want to enter into a new job as the guy that went over the interviewers head to get a second chance? –  Eric Wilson May 5 '11 at 16:23
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If someone under my supervision did this, I would want to know about it, but I would put it in the context of several other behaviors I've noticed before taking any action. It could explain why this person is not able to hire qualified people. Suggest being more professional about it. –  JeffO May 5 '11 at 16:56
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I think if you wait a month a send a very courteous letter to the head of HR or to the appropriate C?O person, it would be probably more effective. –  Christopher Mahan May 5 '11 at 17:32
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What you absolutely have to avoid, to have any impact, is any hint of sour grapes. Keep your language professional, and your descriptions terse and factual (the original question is good about this). I'd suggest a letter rather than a phone call, as it's easier to get things right that way and avoid false impressions. –  David Thornley May 5 '11 at 17:52

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