How to Handle a Rude Interviewer — Careers Done Write

Mailbag time! I had an interesting question in my inbox this week. A reader wrote:

What is the best way to handle a rude interviewer? I went through three rounds of interviews with a company and was invited for a fourth with the person who would have been the main internal client for the role. The first 3 interviews were great; the recruiter was amazingly responsive and communicative throughout the process. But this guy was straight-up obnoxious—he interrupted me multiple times, asked me specific hypothetical questions, which I could not answer, and generally subjected me to a condescending grilling. He even argued with me about how I would approach A/B testing! With five minutes left in the interview, I cut it short, telling him I needed to prepare for another meeting. It was untenable. I now know that I do NOT want this job. My question is twofold: What is the best way to handle a rude interviewer, and should I let the hiring manager and recruiter know about my experience?

This is the way to look at aggravations in an interview process: What do they reveal about the employer and what it might be like to work for them? If this interviewer was rude and obnoxious to a potential hire, what is he like with co-workers? It is perfectly fine to call out the interviewer on his bad behavior—you don’t want to work there anyway. You could have said, “You continue interrupting me. We can end this discussion now if you aren’t interested in hearing what I have to say.” My brother did this many years ago during a similar interview. I know he found it liberating!

The interview process should be a free-flowing discussion between two parties on ways to solve a business problem. This did not happen. It is incumbent upon the hiring team to sell candidates on the job, team, and company. This also did not occur. This interviewer failed at the task of participating in the interview process. Unfortunately, there are many bad managers out there and many, many people who have not received training on how to interview. This guy was clearly one of them. From what you’ve told me, it seems that he approached the interview as an opportunity to disqualify candidates and ask them “gotcha” kinds of questions rather than getting to understand how working together might be mutually beneficial. 

To the second part of your question—should you let the recruiter and hiring manager know about your experience? There are two schools of thought here. The first says not to bother, that they probably know this guy is a jerk, and they put up with him anyway. However, if I were the hiring manager and someone involved in my interview process behaved like that, I would want to know. This behavior does not merely sour candidates on certain companies, but it will impact the company’s brand. 

Debra Wheatman

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