Grow your career on

Advanced Search

How to Deal with a Grumpy / Hostile / Serious Interviewer.


During the hiring process, the interview can be stressful for employers and job candidates alike. There is a certain pressure on both sides to either secure a job or find the perfect fit for the company. An interview is a high-stakes environment; this makes it important for you as the interviewee to be confident, prepared, and congenial every time. However, even the most experienced candidates can be thrown for a loop when dealing with grumpy, hostile, or serious interviewers. If this unfortunate situation arises, remember these five tips.

1. Stay Calm – Breathe

Most people do not enjoy negative confrontation – it can be uncomfortable and overwhelming. It is important to remember to keep your cool. Responding to an interviewer in the same way they address you may only exacerbate the situation. If how an interviewer acts throws you off guard, take a few deep breaths and a sip of water. Give yourself a moment to accept what happened and move on.

2. Remember the Interviewer is Human

Even the most easy-going people have bad days. Bad days are just a part of life. They are caused by everything from personal issues to bad sleep to the weather. While it is important as a professional to try to overcome the bad days, this is certainly easier said than done. If you have anunfavorable experience with an interviewer, don’t take it personally. Your interaction with that person may not be representative of who they really are, and their attitude probably has absolutely nothing to do with you. Sometimes you may just get caught in the crossfire of someone battling negative emotions. Try to remember that everyone has off days and show them empathy; you never know what someone may be going through.

3. Emulate Energy Level

Bonnie Johnson, marketing specialist for, has experienced serious interviewers over the course of her professional career. She said the best advice she can give is to emulate your interviewer – match their energy.               

“Take a few minutes to watch, listen, and measure you interviewer’s energy level including body language and volume,” Johnson said.

4. Keep in Mind – It May Be Test

Some companies may use a hostile interviewer to weed out candidates and find those with the thickest skin. These types of interviews act as a behavioral assessment to gauge how you may react if a similar situation happened on the job. While it is true companies can conduct interviews in whatever (legal) way they see fit, this interaction might tell you a lot about the values and culture of the company. It is okay to say no to a job offer if your gut tells you the company may not be right for you. Interviews are a great way tofeel out a company to find the best fit for you. 

5. You Can Walk Away

There is always a line. In everything, there is a line that should not be crossed. If the interviewer makes you feel unsafe or personally attacked, you have a right to remove yourself from that situation. A few rude comments or a serious tone of voice may be unprofessional but manageable. However, if an interviewer’s actions are more in line with harassment than tough tactics, this is not acceptable in any place of work. Use your best judgement and never stay in a threatening situation; there will be other jobs.

When it comes to an interview, it is common to prepare by practicing questions, eye contact, and posture. However, it is just as important to prepare yourself to be flexible in unexpected and sometimes unfortunate situations. Nobody wants to deal with a grumpy, hostile, or serious interviewer but learning how to adjust in the face of adversity will make you not only a better interviewee but a better employee and human being. The behavior of others may be out of your control but how you react is entirely up to you. Keep these five tips in mind to boost your professionalism and make the most of any situation.