Good Cop, Bad Cop! Look out for the Nice Guy!

  | James Innes

A classic interview style that some candidates face when interviewed by two people is the old good cop, bad cop routine. In this, the bad cop will take the lead and try and pin the candidate down, asking a series of tough and searching questions, usually in a direct and aggressive manner. The good cop will then intervene, in a friendly, non-threatening manner, encouraging the candidate to relax and open up.

What’s the point of this? Have they been watching too many cop shows and movies?

Whilst the answer to the question is probably yes (!), there are actually sound reasons why interviewers might adopt such an approach, which is aimed principally to try and catch candidates off their guard. The bad cop part of the routine is designed to be challenging and tough. They want to see if you can handle the pressure and stress, answer their questions firmly without losing your temper, and can maintain control of yourself and the interview.

For the well-prepared candidate, although they may find the bad cop difficult and aggressive, strangely they can be the interviewer easier to impress, especially if you have prepared answers beforehand for tough interview questions – such as can be found in “The Interview Book” by James Innes.

The real danger in such an interview can, in fact, come in the form of the good cop who will try and befriend the candidate and encourage them to talk more freely. Having survived the grilling at the hands of the bad cop, the temptation often is to relax when talking to the good cop, and let down your guard. That is when you are at risk of making a mistake – saying too much or the wrong thing. Their questions may be expressed more subtly or gently, but they are often loaded, and need to be answered as carefully as those posed by their more aggressive partner.

If you do find yourself in a good cop, bad cop interview, recognise it for what it is, and remember to treat all questions on their merit. And watch out for the nice guy!

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