I'd like some input on how hiring managers would handle the situation described below. Should I have answered the interviewee's question or responded in a better way than I did?

In an interview last week for a professional position I asked the candidate to describe how he communicates with his current supervisor and to explain how he would do so if he were located in a different office from his supervisor. Rather than answer the question he said "I'm going to turn that question around and ask you what your preferred communication style is". I was more than a little put off by this, but kept my cool and told him that I wanted to hear about his methods rather than discuss mine. He proceeded to give a satisfactory answer after that.

I think I've heard Mark and Mike discuss that turning a question back to an interviewer is a technique that some are recommending now to allow the interviewee take control of the interview. It only served to annoy me and question whether I want to hire this individual. Am I being overly sensitive on this?

tplummer's picture

Should it give you pause? Absolutely. If you aren't sure that this is the right person, then pass. As Mark says, an interview is about saying no. Looks like he gave you a good reason.


mattpalmer's picture

I'm yet to hit this particular one (at least in such an egregious fashion), but I have had a few instances of interviewees trying to do something they read about online that sounded like a great idea.  I give them a half a point for wanting the job enough to try and find something to improve their chances.  I then take away a whole bunch of points for not having the analytical ability to realise how clueless they sound when they do it.  I don't think you're being overly sensitive, and if you've got another good candidate, I'd give them the nod.  The only saving grace is that this is likely to be an "interview only" behaviour, and it is unlikely that they'd do it on the job.  You can also assess the candidate's ability to take a "no" gracefully when you say "I'd appreciate it if you'd answer the question given, please" or whatever.  Someone who can take the hint will be better than someone who tries to press on with their ill-guided technique.

pucciot's picture

Breach of etiquette.

I believe that what he did was rude; not because he asked you the same question, but because he asked at a most inappropriate time in an inappropriate way.

Yes, it should give you pause.  He probably thought he was being clever (or at least too informal).

Except to ask for points of clarification, the usual interview etiquette is to wait for the interviewer to hand over the questions to the interviewee.

"Do you have any questions for us(me) ? "

This behavior shows cultural insensitivity, he isn't careful with what he says and who he says it too.  He didn't wait for his turn. 

Sure - you might want to hire someone who is willing to try and change the way things are done.  However, you may not want someone who starts off like that.  

Ask yourself if this is how he behaved with me in our first interview - "How would he act the first time he meets a client or the CEO ?"


Good luck

pucciot's picture

Sorry I didn't address your whole question...

A good reposnse may have been :

"Sure, I'd like to talk about my management and communication style with you a little later.  I'd like to hear what your answer is first."


manager252's picture

 Thanks for the input. This helped. I spoke with several colleagues and my boss today about this and they all agreed that at a minimum this was a stumble on the candidate's part. At the end of the interview the candidate chose not pursue the question of my communication style, perhaps because he realized it was after 5 pm on a Friday and the panel wanted to head home. If there had been time and he brought it up I'd have given him a brief explanation of my style.