4 Ways to Deal with a Rude Interviewer

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When we think of interview nightmares we usually lay fault with the job candidate for not being prepared, or failing important tests they didn’t even know they were taking, like Heineken’s test did in this “The Worst Job Interview Ever” video.

Yet the job candidate isn’t always to blame and it could be the employer’s fault the interview went wrong. Sometimes job candidates have the unfortunate experience of getting stuck with rude interviewers who make the experience a downright suckfest.

Blame it on a lack of coffee, egotism, or waking up on the wrong side of the bed but whatever the reason your interviewer is in a foul mood, you still need to know how to deal with it.

Here are four tips on how to deal with an interviewer who is making a miserable experience out of your interview.

1.  Talk it out

If you’re getting bad vibes from the moment you walk into the room, try making small talk with your interviewer. Doing so might help you understand what’s gotten him into his current mood and help you empathize with the situation. You might even help by talking things out. Ask about how his day is going and build some rapport before getting to the nitty-gritty interview stuff.

2.  Reevaluate

If you and your interviewer just aren’t connecting and you know this is someone you’d be working with on a daily basis, think about whether this job is worth it. You don’t want to be stuck working with a tyrant everyday, do you?

3.  See it through

If you’ve decided you don’t want the job for whatever reason, it might be a good idea to see your interview through to the very end instead of leaving early.  Here’s why: Just because you don’t want this job, doesn’t mean you won’t want to apply for another job at this company at a later time. Leaving mid-interview would only burn bridges. Despite your interviewer’s attitude, think of your staying as more of a networking opportunity or at the very least, a good story to tell later.

4.  Leave early

Listen to your gut feeling on this.  If your interviewer is truly unbearable or abusive, verbally or otherwise, it’s perfectly in your right to say something like “I’m sorry but I don’t think this position is the right fit for me. I appreciate your time, but I’m looking more for ______.” Then politely excuse yourself and leave. If you’re feeling uncomfortable and it’s not just the uneasiness of your interviewer’s voice putting you on edge, do what’s best for you and if that means leaving early then do it.

Have you ever had to deal with a rude interviewer? Share your experience in the comments.


  1. Cory says

    Good article! An interviewer should never be abusive, but the candidate needs to be a good fit for the organization. A good fit is just as much of the candidates feeling as it is the organizations. You should never take a position if you feel uncomfortable throughout the hiring process.

  2. says

    I once spit at an interviewer who was being very abusive and then I knocked his coffee over his desk. Was the best feeling ever. Needless to say I did not get the job, but I was already employed so no big issue. On LinkedIn, I see the guy is currently “persuing other opportunities”, so I guess others in his company also felt the way I did (wonder if they spit at him too?).


  3. Paul C says

    Some years ago, before HP acquired COMPAQ, I interviewed with Compaq at their HQ in Houston. It wasn’t just one interviewer, it was the entire process that was off-putting. The night before the interview, I flew into Houston and stayed at a hotel picked by Compaq and ate in their restaurant. I charged the dinner to the room and at MIDNIGHT and asleep, received a knock on the door and was told that Compaq did NOT permit candidates to charge their meals to the room and that each had to be paid separately. This pissed me off.
    The next morning as soon as I arrived, I was told that I would NOT be interviewed for the position discussed on the phone. When I asked the HR rep why, I was told that they didn’t believe I was experiencced enough or qualified to be a people manager with the organization. I told her that I though that odd since I had managed two separate procurement groups, one at GE and another at Goodrich.

    The interview was scheduled to be an all day event with me seeing 11 different people and as each stop with another person dragged on, the schedule fell apart so that when I arrived at the stop where I was to interview with my direct reporting manager, I was an hour behind. While he understood this, his interview style and questions were the straw that broke the camel’s back. We met at lunchtime and he’d ordered a box lunch that included an eggplant sandwich and sweet tea. When I pushed both aside, he asked if there was something wrong. I told him I didn’t like eggplant or sweet tea. And although I could tell by his accent that he was not a native Texan (he was from Long Island, NY), he told me I was in the South and had better develop a liking for sweet tea. He then proceeded to ask me questions that I found demeaning. Examples: why did I pick the major I picked and the college I attended? (Answer: I studied what interested me and I’d attended my alma mater on an ROTC scholarship). He then berated me for being a liberal arts major who now worked in procurement for without benefit of a business or engineering degree. He also berated my alma mater and military experience as unrelated. This went on for the better part of an hour until I decided to ask hm a few questions of my own. They included: “what did you get your degree in?” He hemmed and hawed and now, deciding I would not work for Compaq if it meant working for him, I said: “So, you’re not a college grad and yet you berate me for having a degree in Political Science and a master’s degree in it as well?”

    He then stated he was working on his degree in business. He also implied he had been an Air Force officer which I now knew could not have been true. I then told this incompetent that I was no longer interested in the position and wanted to be returned to HR so that I could leave. t that point he really got worried and told me that would get him in trouble. My response: “you should have though about that before asking such insulting questions of a candidate. I decided to stick it out and at the end of the day when I was returned to HR, the representative asked me what I thought and I told her very candidly that if working for Compaq meant I’d have to work fo so and so that she could have my answer now and that it would be “don’t bother making an offer.”

    i then flew home and after getting home (after having to fly through Chicago)called Continental Airline and asked why I had been routed the way I had and could I not have flown from Houston to Newark, NJ directly. The Continental rep told me I could have but that the Compaq travel office had inconvenced me to save $100 on the ticket.

    Three months later, I received a call from the same HR rep who asked me if I’d be interested in interviewing with Compaq for a slightly different titled position. I told her that based on the title and description it sounded like a role that was “at a lower level” than what I’d seen them on before.” She confirmed my guess. My answer was short and to the point. I told her “to lose my resume.”

    About 3 years later, HP bought Compaq and we all know how much of disaster that was.

  4. Jeanne says

    I was on a 4th interview and taken to lunch recently with a Senior Vice President. As we were halfway through lunch and he was describing the true position and what needed to be accomplished he said so when you are done we will get more technical. I thought no problem especially since I had aced the first three technical interviews. The SVP gets up to get some coffee and returns and suddenly became very boorish. His tone, demeanor etc. completely changed. He looked at me and said so describe moving 6,000 pieces of equipment. As I began describing how this would be done he abruptly looked at me and slammed my resume with “have you really done this before, the client will eat you alive” I told him I moved Infrastructure on a daily basis. He then proceeded to inform me that I was giving him the “methodology” not the “strategy”. While I was completely furious knowing I knew what I was talking about I kept my tone and facial expression of half smile the same while he ranted. Afterward, he became very quiet. I was furious, demeaned and angry at wasting my time and believing in this company. Two days later I was contacted to take the position. The motto is not all negative or bad interviews are what they seem. I was being tested to see how I would react under pressure.

  5. Elissa says

    Wow. This just happened to me yesterday. This guy was asking weird questions, kept cutting me off when I tried to answer and didn’t even look at my resume. I could tell he had an ego problem just by the way he was acting. Plus, the original appt time was 1pm (for which he had double scheduled two interviews), and the guy didn’t even show up. So I had to go back a few hours later, just to have a bad interview.

  6. Lee says

    A friend of mine, who was born in Puerto Rico (and has a Spanish name) and had lived in the states for many years had interviewed for a job with someone who was very rude. He showed a superior attitude throughout the interview. He then asked if she had a passport or if she was studying for the citizenship test. The interviewer knew that my friend was Puerto-Rican! I was floored when my friend told me about this and I encouraged her to report this incident to the Labor Department. She said she didn’t want to bother reporting the abuse and didn’t want to work with someone so stupid. Needless to say, she wasn’t offered the position.

  7. Sandy says

    We as candidates can only be held responsible for our own actions- what we do and what we don’t do. Remember that once that interviewer leaves, whether he was rude or not, he carries your name with him and you never know what he will do with it. Always be proud and respectful of who you are and don’t worry about what you can’t change. Take their attitude to heart though, because if you get the job, you may get them too.

  8. John Hildo says

    I once interviewed for a large Credit Union and was invited to give a sales presentation for upper management. I put together a great powerpoint display with handouts etc. I spoke for over 30 minutes and answered questions. Afterwards, the HR manager approached me and said “He loved my presentation and the materials I used, however, they were just trying out a new hiring system and no jobs were available at this time”. He then expected to keep all my materials and powerpoint presentation and just leave. Needless to say, I was pissed off. I went around the table collecting all my work and then popped my finger drive out of their computer, looked them in the eye and said I don’t work for free but I do charge $250.00 an hour to consult. As I was walking out I told them I would send them a bill. What a bunch of unprofessional morons.

  9. MrCead says

    I’m a fairly big guy so that never happens to me but I’m polite and pleasant regardless. People who make the job unbearable on purpose really need to get the boot. Most people would prefer to work in peace and I realize many people come from military families but leave the drill sergeant bit out of the office, it really isn’t productive.

  10. James says

    I once interviewed for a sales position where the interviewer had me sit on a barstool in a dark room, and then shined a spotlight on me while he asked questions. I couldn’t see his face at all. He asked a lot of personal and unrelated questions, and I knew right then that I had no interest in working there, whether they made an offer or not.

  11. says

    A few years back I interviewed with a man who wouldn’t look me in the eye, and kept checking his watch while I was talking. After a few minutes of this, I decided my time was too important to waste more of it with this idiot. I said, “You seem to think you have more important things going on than talking to me, so let’s just stop wasting each other’s time, shall we?” And I grabbed my coat and left. I would never have wanted to work for such an ass even if I had gotten an offer,

  12. Angus says

    I left an earlier response but I guess it was too graphic for them to include. Needless to say, I think we’ve all dealt with this. The best thing is just to get up and leave.

  13. Marsha says

    Years ago while I my late 20s, I was “interviewed” by an older man who was the owner of a company that had recently acquired my employer’s small business. I was stunned when he announced that I had been “purchased” as part of the acquisition. He told me that the current staff did not want me to come on board so I should expect them to make my life difficult, and at best ignore me, which he said was understandable. He said I would be “at the bottom of the heap” with no chance of promotion, and my salary would be less than half of the amount I had been earning. His office was in a terrible location, it was dirty, damp and smelled heavily of mold, and he said the best he could provide was a tiny desk in a storage closet away from his other employees. I was advised to never again park in their parking lot since the others might scratch my car and he didn’t want to deal with “the drama.” He then ended the interview as if my new employment had already been decided and ordered me to report to work the next day. I never said a word, I left quickly and never went back. He called my house every day for months demanding that I report to work! Right!

  14. Don Killen says

    I too have been interviewed by HP by someone who claimed to be a rep for HP but wasn’t a recruiter and discussed very detailed question my qualifications (ex.: Did you get a 4 year degree, can you tell me about what you did for your senior project, what SQL experience you have, etc. per the resume I submitted previously in December of last year, especially for SQL for a job in Pontiac, Michigan job. He wouldn’t give me a full name or an email address and said a HP recruiter would contact me or should in the future. I have yet to hear from anyone for the last two weeks. I’ve never had any luck with HP and their methods of acquiring work with them. If they can’t be direct then I won’t mess around and apply for any other job from them in the future!!! And that goes for other ruthless, unethical recruiters (head hunters) that keep calling me!!!

  15. Garlin says

    The worst interview i ever had was with a Pharmaceutical sales position on two separate occasions. These guys were straight up assholes. I think their lives were so miserable compounded by the fact that they are pretty full of themselves that they feel the need to release that tension and animosity on prospective recruits. How else can you explain such irrational behavior? If i asked a question one guy literally snapped back defensively which was uncalled for. Another guy purposefully mispronounced my name and talked down to me through the entire interview. It was two against one and no matter how I tried to alleviate the tension they created, it was to no avail. I decided to hash it out since i drove 140 miles just to speak with these pricks.

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