Dubai: For many people, being prepared for a job interview may involve doing a thorough research about the prospective employer, being clear about the job requirements and their own goals and having some scripts to answer common questions. What many may miss in their preparation, however, is how to respond to an aggressive interviewer.

Although it may be uncommon to come across a hiring manager who either decides to be grill you by getting personal or very close to being personal, having a plan as to how to deal with the situation can be helpful. When you go into an interview with a clear strategy on how you’d respond if the situation takes an unexpected turn, you’d save yourself improvising, which is often not a good strategy for anything related to job interviewing.

To be prepared for an aggressive interviewer, keep these points in mind:

True or test

First of all, you should be quick to realise whether the interviewer is being aggressive because it is part of the interview – testing your ability to respond to pressure or function under pressure – or if the person is actually rude. This is essential first step to your decision on how to proceed.

Most of us won’t want to work for someone who is aggressive by nature and doesn’t even care to hide it so early on in the process. So if this is the case, your decision perhaps will be to withdraw your application. But if you figure out that it is all part of the interview, now you must demonstrate your abilities – that you may have bragged about in your resume – in handling this tough situation just as you’d handle an unsatisfied customer, for example, in a work environment.


When pulling out of the process is the right choice in your view, how to get it right can be tricky. If you’re under a personal attack or your interviewer is being unnecessarily offensive, you may be tempted to be aggressive in return and make a scene on your way out.

For several reasons, this is not a good idea. First, there is a slight possibility that it is part of the interview and you either misunderstood or missed the point.

Second, people often change but impressions hardly do. If you’ve a problem with an interviewer, you don’t want to burn bridges with the employer permanently.

Third, when you decide to act immediately, you leave yourself little room for escalating a complaint to someone else within the organisation who doesn’t feel obliged to side with the staff. That is why it is important to take a deep breath, go through the interview to the end and act later.

Email can be the best way to document what happened and why you’ve decided to withdraw your application. However, if you decide, after you cool off, that you don’t really want to initiate a discussion, you can just send a concise email withdrawing your application and don’t volunteer reasons unless asked.

Fight back

When you realise that your interviewer is intentionally testing you, your ability to handle the pressure can be critical. First, separate facts from emotions before you respond to any arguments.

For example, if you’re applying for a manager position, and after you’ve introduced yourself and explained why you think the company should hire you, the response is, “These aren’t skills for a management position.”

If you realise that the comment is meant to rattle you, and see how you can handle pressure, you should proceed with explaining what experience and qualifications that make you a good fit for a senior position. In short, take a negative comment in a stride, ignore the tone and stay on subject. The more you demonstrate your ability to keep your composure, the more you communicate that you’re confident of your skills that are put in play right there and now.

One more point

When the aggression is just part of the interview, you still should keep in mind that this can reflect the management style of the interview – which matters to you if this interviewer will be your boss.

Having a rough interview like that can mean that the corporate culture encourages pushing people out of their comfort zone. So if you decide to proceed with the hiring process, keep an eye on signs and indication of this management style and take your time to decide whether you’ll be comfortable with it or not. For many, this can be the way that helps them reach heights they never thought they would, but for other this can be discouraging to deal with in the long run.

Rania Oteify, a former Gulf News Business Features Editor, is currently an editor based in Seattle.