How to Know When and If an Interviewer is Bluffing

Interviews can be tricky things! You never really know what an interviewer is going to be like until you get into the meeting, so there’s no way to really "prepare" for that person. It’s all about knowing how to handle yourself once you sit down and meet your interviewer.

See Also: Asking For A Raise

Interviewers use all sorts of tactics to evaluate you and see how you handle pressure, negative feedback, and antagonistic personalities. They may do some pretty crazy things, but it’s all part of the interview.

One of the most popular tactics is "bluffing". Just like in poker, your interviewer may behave or talk in a certain way to make you think that he thinks or acts in that way, but it’s a test to see how you react. But how can you know if, or when, your interviewer is bluffing?

1. Learn to Spot the Tells

When amateur poker players bluff, they have certain "tells"--signs that they are bluffing. Unless your interviewer is VERY good, he’ll have tells as well.

Look at his body language as he talks to you. According to research out of the University of California, Berkeley, there are simple ways to tell if a person is lying or bluffing:

  • The position of their head changes quickly (either pulling back, cocked/tilted to the side, or turned away)
  • Their breathing changes, their voice gets a bit shallow, and their shoulders rise
  • They tend to repeat phrases or words
  • They offer more information than is necessary
  • They touch or cover their mouth with their hands
  • They cover the more "vulnerable" body parts
  • They don’t blink normally, but they tend to stare without blinking
  • They point a lot

These are all "tells" that could indicate that the interviewer is bluffing. Keep an eye on their body language as they talk--it will tell you a lot more than their words.

2. Think About "Why"

If you suspect that the interviewer is bluffing, think about "why" they would want to bluff:

  • Are they trying to see if you’ll back down from confrontation?
  • Do they want you to accept a lower salary than you’re asking/they’re offering?
  • Are they testing you to see how you react under pressure?

There has to be a good reason for them to bluff, so take a moment to think about it before getting angry or reacting. Understanding the reason why they would bluff could help you determine whether or not they are actually bluffing.

3. Consider their Personality

Did the interviewer change from a nice, friendly person to a mean-spirited, temperamental, confrontational jerk in the space of a few minutes? A drastic shift in personality could be a sign that they are testing you, changing up your interactions to see how you handle it.

4. Listen to their Words

What are they saying? Interviews tend to follow a fairly specific pattern:

  • Short "meet and greet" with small talk
  • Talking about professional work habits/skills
  • Personality/character evaluation
  • Questions and answers

Not all interviews follow this pattern, but most do. So if your interviewer suddenly starts talking about something way outside the scope of a regular interview, it could be a sign that they’re bluffing--testing you to see how you react. It’s a test about your personality and character, so keep in mind that it’s a bluff!

See Also: How to Interview Your Interviewer

It’s not always easy to spot a bluff, but with the tips above, you may just be able to catch your interviewer in their attempt to bluff you!

Have you ever caught an interviewer bluffing to you? What did you do?