What was the interviewer trying to accomplish with the offensive question or comment? The interviewer’s behaviour may have been very deliberate. Since most job seekers are well rehearsed, the interviewer may have been trying to surprise you in order to get a natural reaction. Think about what the interviewer said and try to determine what they may have been trying to accomplish. Were they trying to see how you respond to stress or confrontation? Were they trying to push you to see how well you can handle a challenge? If you can determine the motivation behind the question or comment, you may find that it was actually not offensive at all.
Was the question legal? Did the employer ask a question that reveals discrimination within the company based on prohibited grounds such as gender, race, ethnic origin, religion, age or sexual orientation? This could be a red flag if it truly reflects the values of the organization. While the attitude of one person may not be reflective of those of the organization, it is troubling if that individual’s discriminatory behaviour is tolerated. However, don’t be automatically offended if a company asks you if you consider yourself to be a visible minority; they may be asking because they have an affirmative action program in place.
Are you being too sensitive? Being interviewed for a job is a unique experience. There are few other times in your daily life when you have to defend your skills and justify the decisions that you have made in your career. Since most us are not used to being challenged in this way, we may overreact to the things that the employer says during the interview. It is likely that the employer intended no offense and that it was simply a miscommunication.
Can you learn something from the interview? Sure, the interviewer may have been rude and insensitive, but what can you take from the interview? Did they point out a potential weakness that you have that you weren’t aware of? Perhaps it is something that you can work on. Sometimes the most useful feedback can come out of unpleasant circumstances.
Since we all go into interviews with so much hope, if the interviewer is offensive, it can be very disappointing. Try not to take it too personally. It may still be an amazing opportunity, and even if it isn’t, another one will come along soon.
(Written by: Karen Bivand)