Dealing With A Disengaged Interviewer


I’m not the best interviewer when it comes to the straight-forward ‘pre-set questions’ competency-based type stuff. I much prefer free-flowing almost casual discussions that involve almost zero discussion around what I can find on their CV.

I can interview effectively in structured interviews, its just that it’s one of the elements of my line of work I don’t enjoy and so as a result, in an interview environment, I am quite prone to getting bored occasionally. I’m still working on it and to tell the truth, in recent years as my career has progressed, I have very rarely conducted these types of interview preferring the latter stages or trusting those who report to me to identify talent accordingly.

I thought i’d write this blog post to turn my negative trait into a positive, by developing it into advice for interviewees who come across people like me, as I can’t possibly be the only person like this, can I?

So here’s 4 things to get us started which I hope will help you if you come across people who are a little bit like me.

1) See the signs and adapt

There are a few signs that the interviewer might be disengaged and it doesn’t take a rocket-scientist to work them out. It could be any one, or a number of the following;-

  • Their body language
  • The pace at which they move on to the next question
  • Their lack of response when you expect one
  • The fact they are checking their watch/phone frequently
  • They are cutting your answers short or skipping questions.

The more disengaged the person, the more of the signs they’ll likely display although a very rude interviewer would do all five, and with gusto.

If you identify any of these signs then it’s best to change tact. The first step to turn a disengaged interviewer into an engaged one starts by recognising the fact that they are actually disengaged. You can turn the tides by asking questions to reaffirm what you have just provided in an effort to increasing the interviewers contribution to the process as after all, this should be two-way communication.

2) If you’ve said something that appears to have sparked an interested response from the interviewer, capitalise on it.

Maybe the interview hasn’t been great up until this point but you’ve just said something that has struck a chord with the interviewer. If you latch on to this and keep the interviewer engaged by letting this dialogue flow it’s possible you’ll have changed the interviewers perception of you and it will positively influence their engagement for the remainder of the process. Don’t worry about going off script and spending too much time on one topic in this type of scenario, your reinvigorated conversation might be ticking boxes previously crossed as you divulge information that might have been lacking when you responded to earlier questions.

3) Get to your most impressive skill or achievement as quickly as possible.

If you don’t think the interview is going to plan and the interviewer isn’t interested, find a way of introducing your most impressive skill or achievement as early on as possible. It’s usually feasible to navigate most questions to an answer that you want to give and I would suggest that if you can articulate your answer to professionally maximise quite how great a skill or achievement it is, along with how relevant it is to the role you are being assessed for, then its likely the disengaged interviewer will become more interested and may have a refreshed approach to the remainder of your interview.

4) Maybe, just maybe, call your interviewer out on it, as diplomatically as possible.

I’m not saying it’s fine to ask “am I boring you?” but it might be entirely reasonable for you to enquire “I’m not sure you are getting what you need from me, would you like me to approach my answers in a different way?”. This can go one of two ways. One, the interviewer might be annoyed and this could negatively affect their perception of you, but if the interview is not going great then what have you got to lose?

Two, it might make the interviewer recognise their behaviour and ‘nudge’ them into getting more involved. It might be that their lack of interest is nothing to do with you but something else thats going on around this time, and so this nudge might be helpful. There’s no hard and fast rule around this and depending on many variables, using this approach could seal your fate in this interview with this particular interviewer or could get things back on track.

There are other tips and i’m sure i’ll develop this further on time, but in the meantime, i do hope this helps.