Have you ever left an interview with a bad taste in your mouth because it seemed more like an interrogation?

What was the general attitude of the person interviewing you? Was anything specific said that made you feel defensive or uneasy? An example might be questions asked about a gap in your employment.

Well, there is a good chance those questions were asked for a reason. I will tell you a story:

I am an interview coach, and sometimes unexpected things happen during coaching sessions. I was working with someone who was retiring from the FBI. He was an expert in working with polygraphs, otherwise known as lie detectors. He was returning from Afghanistan and didn’t want to interrogate people like the Taliban anymore.

At the end of the interview coaching, I asked a question. “What is the difference between an interrogation and an interview?” He gave a very clear answer on who is guiding the conversation.

  • For an interrogation, the interrogator is talking 80% of the time, and the person being interrogated talks 20% of the time.
  • For an interview, it is the reverse: The interviewer will talk 20% of the time, and the person being interviewed will talk 80% of the time.

Then I had a memorable experience. My client taught polygraph skills to junior FBI agents, so he quickly slipped into role-playing, which I was not expecting. He made some comment about my mother, who I had briefly mentioned in the prior coaching session.

I actually had an unexpected physical response in my chest! I was in my office, which is my turf. And I hadn’t done anything wrong that would merit an FBI interrogation! But suddenly, I felt defensive and nervous. I knew that somehow the dynamics of the communication between us had changed. I wasn’t sure how to answer his questions. It was a weird experience.

You can’t change the way that an interviewer conducts the interview. Everyone has a different style and level of training. But you can at least have an awareness of what is happening. If it seemed more like an interrogation, who was doing most of the talking? Something as basic as that might give interesting insights into how well you think the interview went.

As a job search and interview coach, I help people deal with these issues every single day. If you’ve ever felt caught out by an interviewer, you might benefit from some coaching! Book a free consultation, and we can get started prepping you to land the job of your dreams!