I have experienced this situation a couple of times when a candidate is giving an interview in front a panel (in some cases, they are senior but not boss, and other times, they are colleagues of same rank), and someone from the panel goes hard at the poor candidate (which is a nervous creature to me for most of the cases) and shakes his/her confidence a great deal. They ask some unnecessary/too difficult questions in a technical interview, when the candidate needs some basic questions to let him calm down and feel at ease.

I (and some of the other co-interviewers) have often found it pretty up-setting as it ruins the whole purpose of an interview. Once I tried to interject during an interview to calm things down, but was immediately shushed and told "Don't say any such word in front of the candidate." The interviewer (being senior than me) agreed with me but asked me to shush as it would leave a bad impression in front of candidate. I did raise this issue in private with that interviewer later on and despite agreeing, I didn't see any change I am afraid (hence this question) .

How can I address the co-interviewer's attitude during the interview so that the candidate is treated more respectfully?

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    can you give an example of aggressive? do you mean it's an interrogation type interview? or verbally aggressive? or something else? Sep 7, 2017 at 14:57
  • Could you add some information about your location? I've found that norms around hiring tend to vary depending where you are?
    – user288
    Sep 7, 2017 at 15:00
  • @BradleyWilson Like asking some unnecessary/too difficult questions in a technical interview. A fission reaction of questions in the very start of interview when candidate needs some basic questions to let him calm down and feel at ease Sep 7, 2017 at 15:00
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    @Hamlet Hybrid: In some cases, they are senior (but not boss) and other times, they are colleagues (of same rank). Sep 7, 2017 at 15:05
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    Please: before you suggest, edit or approve (see timeline of edits), make sure you read what's just been added/edited. At this time, we have twice the same information about seniority/colleagues, and it starts to be ... confusing?
    – OldPadawan
    Sep 7, 2017 at 16:25

2 Answers 2


Plan an interview strategy with the whole panel. Your whole team should meet before you start interviewing candidates, and discuss how you want to approach it.

This is the perfect venue for expressing your concerns about the difficulty of some of the questions, and the pacing.

I'd start by asking if you can schedule a brief meeting to coordinate how you want to approach interviewing. State that you think it would help the interviewing process if there was planning for who leads, what the agenda would look like, how the questions should work, etc..

From your comment, I'm not clear if you discussed this before during an interview, or outside of the interview and were cautioned to not bring that up during the actual interview. Either way, it is good advice not to question or make suggestions about the interview process while a candidate is present.

Remember: you want to impress the candidates, so that when you find ones that you want to work with, they're more likely to want to work with you. Coming across as an organized team that handles the interview smoothly will provide a good impression. Having members of the interviewing panel engage in sidebar discussion or asking questions about how they should proceed will provide a negative impression.

If you're concerned that you may be overstepping your bounds, phrase it as requesting guidance for what you should be doing during the interview, such as when you should ask questions, what areas you should focus on, how many questions you should plan on asking, etc..

You should try and avoid singling out the individual coworker that you feel is too aggressive. Make it about how to work best as a team, and not about concerns you have with members of the team.

I would caution against suggesting that no difficult questions be asked. There is a lot to be learned about a candidate from how they approach difficult problems; even problems beyond their abilities.

It is not uncommon to start with some easy questions, to, as you say, calm the candidate down and make them feel at ease. Once the candidate is feeling comfortable, though, there's no problem with asking some more difficult questions.

  • Thanks for nice solution! I would love to see some strategy during interview as well. Off course I have no issues with hard questions but only once candidate is in the perfect/best position to answer them. Sep 7, 2017 at 15:22
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    "This is the perfect venue for expressing your concerns about the difficulty of some of the questions, and the pacing." Could you elaborate with some advice on the best way for the OP, and other readers of this question, to do that?
    – user288
    Sep 7, 2017 at 15:25
  • @Hamlet Fair point. I've edited to add some discussion about approaches for initiating the discussion.
    – Beofett
    Sep 7, 2017 at 15:38
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    Plan an interview strategy with the whole panel. this right here is the most important part for addressing your concerns. Sep 7, 2017 at 16:10

It's worth noting that in an interview situation the person being interviewed is also using this opportunity to see the people they will be working for.

By dealing with the 'issues' you mention in your post you might not be helping the candidate but hiding a potential issue that might effect their choice toward the role.

Job interviews are not simply about whether a person can do a job, but how well they will fit in with the particular workplace culture. We all sometimes have to work with people we have difficulty relating to. However it seems from your question that this person is in a position of authority, and is well aware of it. A candidate who has difficulty in an interview with this person is unlikely to have greater success working regularly for that person.

  • I agree! That's another way to look at it. I remember 4 years ago, I was being interviewed and one of the interviewer was pretty rude in attitude and I took an oath to myself to never enter the gate of that university again! Sep 7, 2017 at 15:57
  • @TalhaIrfan I was involved in a similar scenario once where we interviewed a guy and had to turn him down despite excellent credentials because our workplace was so raucous and profane that we knew that it'd drive him crazy!
    – akaioi
    Sep 28, 2017 at 18:21

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