4 Interview Curve Balls and How to Handle Them

Business executive discussing with her client

By Hannah Morgan

An interview is a conversation – an exchange of information. A company wants to learn about you, and you want to learn about the company. So why do some people get all worked up about an upcoming interview? Could fear of the unknown be the trigger that increases your anxiety level? One thing is for sure: No one likes surprises, especially when interviews are concerned.

However, there are steps you can take to prevent some scenarios from catching you off guard.

First, when the interview is scheduled, make sure you find out what the format of the interview will be, how long you should allot for the meeting, who will be attending and if there is anything you should prepare for or know about before you arrive.Next, research the company and the people you will be meeting with. Read recent press releases and the company blog (if there is one), view the LinkedIn profiles of employees (especially those you will be meeting with) and check sites such as Glassdoor and Indeed for employee reviews and interview insights. Most importantly, ask everyone in your network what they know about the company and if they can introduce you to someone who works there. The best way to learn about a company is to speak with insiders.

Taking preventative measures and prepping for an interview won't always thwart unpredictable circumstances, so here are some situations you should be aware of:

"We'd like to video interview you." During your exchange with the company's recruiter, you receive an email with details about your upcoming prescreening interview only to find out that that it's a video meeting. This could be over Skype or a video recruiting tool.

The good news is that you know what you're up against. Video interviewing requires you to both sound and look great. Plus, you have to know how to use the technology. You know to practice your answers and dress like you would for an in-person interview, but have you tested your technology?

Be sure you have the login information accessible or that you have added the person to your contacts on Skype well in advance of the conversation. If possible, do a test run with a friend, and practice looking at the camera instead of your computer screen. Update your system, and reboot the day before. There's nothing worse than waiting for your computer to update when the interview is just minutes away. Make sure you've tried logging in and testing your video and audio settings at least 30 minutes before the interview.

And a final warning: While it may be possible to use your phone, using your laptop means you won't have to worry about holding your device while speaking.

"You'll be meeting with several people today." If you've ever walked into a room with several people sitting behind a table ready to interview you, you know how intimidating that can be. The best way to prepare for a panel interview is to know it's going to happen beforehand and to know who will be attending.

However, sometimes a company may want to assess how you respond to the element of surprise, especially if the job requires this skill set. When faced with this challenge, rise to the occasion, and greet each person behind the table with a smile and a handshake as you introduce yourself.

"There's been a slight change in the schedule." Meetings run over, people get sick and emergencies occur. That's life. When there's an adjustment in the interview schedule, show empathy and accommodate the change. A subtle eye roll or the slightest sign of frustration is noticeable and very likely to get back to the interviewer.

Adapting to the scheduling changes shows your flexibility. If you are already on site when this happens, make the best use of your extra time. Ask if there is additional company literature you can look at, review your notes and questions for the interview or browse the company website for more interesting information you can reference during your conversation.

"Now it's time to take an assessment." As you check in for your interview, the person at the front desk hands you a clipboard and pen and asks you to complete an assessment. No one mentioned taking an assessment before, so you may be a little put off.

Don't sweat it. Some companies use personality assessments to evaluate your potential match with the job, team or company. Don't try and answer questions to fit the role or the way you think the company wants you to answer them. And don't overthink the questions – go with your gut answer. The assessment is likely only a part of the assessment process.

With a little heads up on some of these scenarios, you may be armed with enough warning to better handle some of the unexpected events that happen during interviews. Remember: Even the best laid plans can sometimes go off course. Show you know how to roll with the punches. That's important in today's workplace.

Hannah Morgan writes and speaks on career topics and job search trends on her blog Career Sherpa. She co-authored "Social Networking for Business Success," and has developed and delivered programs to help job seekers understand how to look for work better.
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