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How to approach “bad cop”/aggressive style interviewer?

Anonymous A asked on Feb 21, 2018 - 5 answers

Sometimes the interviewers have a “bad cop” role to play or have a bit aggressive interviewing style, maybe trying to stress test you, not giving hints to guide you through the case, etc.

How is it best to approach such interviewers? Try to get them engaged? Behave also cold/strictly professional? And how to best stay calm in such circumstances and not overly stressed?

(edited)

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Vlad
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replied on Feb 21, 2018
McKinsey / Accenture / Got all BIG3 offers / More than 300 real MBB cases / Harvard Business School
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Hi,

This happens and sometimes they do it on purpose. Of course, it's not the guidelines but rather the personal interviewer's style. I think you should:

  1. Stay calm whatever situation you have. Keep in mind that it's a game and he may be doing that on purpose.
  2. Remember that the person may be just tired or have personal problems. And it does not necessarily mean that he doesn't like you. My worst interviewers gave me the best feedback later.
  3. In case keep structuring and asking the right questions. If you are structured the way you think, even if it is a common sense logic - it's very hard to give you a bad feedback
  4. Try to engage the interviewer. If you take a minute - make a new structure on paper and present it. If you are doing the calculations - present your approach first and come with intermediate numbers. Don't let him start checking his e-mails!
  5. Keep smiling, it's important. I know it's hard, but you should be polite and friendly no matter what.
  6. Ask the right questions in the end of the interview. It's not ok to ask:
  • Questions that can cause negative emotions (e.g. work hours)
  • Information you should learn before the interview (e.g. typical career path)
  • Questions that may show that you are unfamiliar with consulting work (Like are you specialized in strategy or operations?

It is ok to ask:

  • Questions that cause positive emotions and highlight consulting pros (e.g. Mck people)
  • Questions on the topics you are excited about (e.g. data science)
  • Non-business questions (e.g. team retreats)

Best!

Andrea
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replied on Feb 21, 2018
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I think is very rare in too consultancies to find this as a purposeful interviewing style. I would say is more just due to the nature of the interviewer. That said, I think you should just behave professionally, a way to stay calm is to keep reminding yourself that they are in front of you because they invited you (or the firm that pays their check did) with the hope to hire you, not with the hope for you to fail and incur in all the expenses of fly you out, accomodate in hotel and use up consulting staff time to interview you. If you keep reminding yourself that: that they want you to succeed, than I hope it gives you enough mental peace.

Hope it helps,

Andrea

Hemant
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replied on Feb 22, 2018
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I've had one of those and it was very uncomfortable. These interviews are rare but happen. Think of them as a trial by fire.

What to do:

- stay in control of the situation. You cannot react to his aggression. You can only respond. Imagine as if you read his question off a book.

- take a few seconds to think through your responses. Make sure you aren't getting defensive (using lots of "but", "you", "why", or other accusatory or confrontational words)

- try to use reconciliatory words, 'ok, I see where you're coming from . The reason I think differently is ...'. or 'that's a fair point. Another way to look at it in my opinion is...".

Most important is not to mirror the aggression.

Anonymous replied on Feb 24, 2018

Hey anonymous,

I think the best trick for approaching this type of interview styles is to mentalize yourself that it's simply a style (where they want to see how do you reach under stressful situations) and it's nothing against yourself, so you should react and progress your interview as normally as possible. And keep trying to engage your interviewer :)

Best

Bruno

Anonymous B replied on Jan 03, 2019

I've had one of those at one of the smaller MBB offices in Europe with an associate partner. It was extremely uncomfortable and I ultimately did not get an offer. I perceived him as very rude (he started the interview by semi-mocking my educational background). Example things the interviewer would say / do (it what was supposed to be an interviewer-led case):

- "I don't know, you tell me"

- "Really? [with raised eyebrows] And you're sure that's correct?" [in a condescending tone about something that was correct]

- If I asked a question and we were meant to explore a different issue, not providing any guidance about the next step whatsoever (so, treating it like it was purely candidate-led and just giving me dead ends)

- If I asked a clarifying question, he would give me an annoyed answer and basically tell me to hurry up

I had to muster all the self restraint I was capable of not to stop the interview, keep calm and barrel through. By the end, all I could think of was how rude this man was being to me. I actually work in consulting now and would never consider a job at this particular firm because of the impression he left on me. Do not want to work in a place that would hire people like that.

Bottom line: try to keep calm and answer the questions. But, if the experience was really bad, think about what that says about the kind of people at that firm :) The fact that you are an interviewer is not an excuse for being an asshole

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