Understanding how to handle objections from the interviewer will truly increase your success rate in interviews.


One key to becoming great at interviewing is to handle whatever objections may come up -- and to do it in a way that is comfortable for you. With today's competition, if you fumble or stumble... there are too many others than every employer can turn to. So, why play it by ear when you are thrown some objections? Here is an easy-to-use process that will work every time.

The "Iceberg" Approach

Many of us are more conscious of our liabilities than our strengths. When confronted with a liability, we may become defensive, argumentative, or worst of all, acquiescent.

When dealing with sensitive issues, you want to remain atop the iceberg, well removed from the possibility of drowning! If challenged, relinquish as little information as possible -- just small slices off the top. The key to making this approach work is projection: positive, non-defensive and non-evasive.

For example, consider the case in which you had been terminated. The sequence might proceed as follows:

Employer: Are you unemployed?

You: (1st slice) Why, yes I am. I left ABC in June.

Employer: Why? Were you terminated?

You: (2nd slice) My position was eliminated in a corporate reorganization.

Employer: Why were you let go?

You: (3rd slice) In today's economy, good jobs in retrenchment situations are difficult to find. In my case, I was offered a position, but since I'd like to move forward, rather than laterally, I elected to seek a new challenge outside the firm.

Please note that all the statements are brief, positive with no recriminations and responsive to the question asked.

The "ARTS" Approach

As mentioned, when faced with objections, the tendency of many people is to become defensive. However, no one ever sells anything to people while they are arguing with them.

It is important to have a valid answer when an objection is raised, but jumping to the answer may seem defensive. To avoid that trap you can use a simple process called ARTS. It can frequently convert a liability into a perceived asset. The letters stand for the following.

  • A - Acknowledge the objection
  • R - Redirect the person's concern
  • T - Test to be sure you've removed their concern
  • S - Use a story to make your point

(1) Acknowledge the Interviewer's Objection

"I thought you might be concerned about that... and frankly, if I were in your position, I'd be asking the same question."

Whenever someone raises an objection, the tension level rises. What you want to achieve in step one is to reduce the tension level. Here's how it might work. "I can understand your concern. It is certainly something we should discuss, and I would like to address it directly for you." Or... "You're very perceptive and you've raised an interesting point. It deserves some frank discussion, and I'd like to address it for you."

The phrases you might use are not so important. Instead, it's the feeling you impart. You haven't gotten flustered. You have acted in a friendly and reassuring way, and that implies you feel secure about your abilities in the area under question.

(2) Redirect the Intent of the Conversation

"What positive qualities are you looking for in the ideal candidate that prompted you to bring this up?"

Let's say the interviewer raised the objection that your experience was in a different industry.

Now, you can't do too much about the fact that your experience was in a different industry, but you probably can show that you are someone who contributes quickly, so that is where you want to direct the conversation.

For example, "When you raise that question, I understand that you want to be sure the person you put in this job is someone who will contribute quickly. Isn't that it?" This gives the interviewer the opportunity to positively reaffirm that you are indeed correct.

Also, in case you did misinterpret, it will give the interviewer the chance to tell you so. In the unlikely event that this were to happen, you could always say something such as, "Oh, I must have made the wrong assumption. Tell me, what kind of positive qualities are you looking for that prompted you to bring this up?"

With just a little thought, it is very easy to refocus the conversation toward the positive qualities that are really on the interviewer's mind.

(3) Ask a Testing Question

"If I could show that I could contribute quickly... even when it comes to learning a great deal of new information... would that help?"

After you get a positive response, you have the option of going directly to your answer, or you can introduce one of your key strengths. You might say: "If I could show you that I work well under pressure, might that ease your concern somewhat?" If possible, use a supporting story as part of your answer, ending it with a feedback question that will keep the conversation on the positive side.

(4) Tell a Story to Answer the Objection

"I'd like to tell you a story that relates very closely to your problem."

Remember, what really counts is the fact that you did not get flustered. Instead, you had a friendly exchange in which you built positive feelings. If you've done it right, interviewers won't be all that concerned about whether your answer is exactly correct. Instead, they'll be thinking, "This person handled that situation very well." Learn how to use this process, and for every concern, you should, of course, have your answer ready.