HOW TO DEAL WITH THE TYPES YOU'LL ENCOUNTER
Here are some of the more common interviewer types to familiarise yourself with.
‘Too much’ sums this interviewer up. The handshake is just a little too enthusiastic, the smile too wide (and it doesn’t slip during the whole interview), the conversation too personal and relaxed. They treat you like you’re a good friend they haven’t seen in a while. It can feel nice to breathe a sigh of relief that it’s all so friendly, but therein lies the problem – you forget that you’re in a professional environment applying for a professional position. You relax and lose some of the starch that makes you so impressive. And you make a mistake.
I was once in a group interview where a bunch of us has this type of interviewer. I called her ‘good cop’. She smiled a genuine smile the entire time we were there, and at the end of each ‘round’ of questions or activities, she would hand out little letters with a smile, and the candidates dropped like flies. After an entire day of doing the interview only 10 of us (out of 30) remained. When we did the one-on-one interviews only 3 of us were offered the job.
She didn’t show when she was displeased that a candidate was slouching or rocking in her chair. She didn’t frown when a candidate would check their phone or whisper to another about something. She didn’t blink when someone asked about the company’s alcohol policy. But not one of those candidates made it through to the next round – they had relaxed too much and slipped from ‘professional mode’ to ‘this is my buddy’ mode, which was a mistake.
These interviewers are excellent at keeping a poker face and exuding charm. They’re like a cheerleader holding your hand through this ‘ordeal’ and are likely to crack some jokes. They make you feel comfortable and want the position even more than you had initially. The problem is that you won’t know if you did or said anything wrong until you’re not given the job. You’re also liable to come across as over confident or to not be taking the interview seriously. Making you feel at ease is an excellent way of getting you to reveal more than what you ordinarily would – like your expected salary range.
What to Do
Don’t let your guard down and don’t turn your professionalism off. Remind yourself that the interviewer is allowed to be more relaxed than you because they’re not in the interviewee position. Be friendly and personable, alert to opportunities to relate the conversation to your job qualifications and how you’d be an asset to the company. Even though you will not be able to see what they’re thinking, don’t start doubting yourself.
You can show that you’re relaxed, but don’t act like you’re good friends – stories of your drinking escapades and relationship issues are not appropriate.
If the first one was ‘Good Cop’ then this one is definitely ‘Bad Cop’. This interviewer won’t crack a smile even if you hire a professional comedian to accompany you to the interview. Every answer you give will be met with a blank, emotionless, unimpressed stare. No eyelid flicker or mouth twitch will give away what this interviewer is thinking, which, again, gives you no clear indication of whether the interview is going well or not. There will be no feedback whatsoever.
Some interviewers believe that this type of stress in an interview unearths qualities that would be otherwise hidden. The more impressive your résumé, the more likely you’ll encounter this type.
What to Do
Looking for clues the whole interview will just make you miserable. Don’t try break their façade – instead concentrate on staying composed and not over-analysing the situation. Stay cool and project respect and confidence.
When joining an amazing team, it’s no surprise that the people in the team are… amazing. Therefore, in this type of interview you’ll need to elevate your emotional intelligence and soft skills. They already know that you’re great, what they now need to know is how you’ll handle not being the only great one in a team. Be honest, transparent and show humility – how you recover from showing vulnerability is what will get you this job.
Don’t get in your own way – it’s natural to feel deflated when they’re not bowled over by your awesomeness. Don’t show your annoyance or uncertainty. Give credit to your current/former team mates and mention a time you received tough feedback that helped you grow.
The interviewer that seems to be doing a million other things rather than paying attention to you. They might be taking a call, sending an email, scrolling through their smart phone, perusing their schedule, they might even have been late for the interview itself… You get the picture.
They’re generally pleasant and polite, but don’t seem to be attentive or engaged during the interview. This could be a tactic, or simply be a case of them being forced to do an interview which they have absolutely no interest in doing (so don’t take it personally). Another reason is that they could just genuinely be mentally struggling with a new project at work or the like, or could be unprepared for the interview.
They may make a fair amount of small talk, and won’t ask terribly challenging questions. It’s almost like they’ve already given the job to someone else, which can often be the case.
What to Do
Although this is a case of “it’s not you, it’s him/her”, you’ll still need to impress them. Answer the questions and be friendly. Don’t focus on connecting with your interviewer; rather aim to show how you can keep moving forward even when someone isn’t engaged. This person either already made up their mind when walking into the interview, or don’t intend on giving much feedback. Either way, convince them why you are the best person for the role. Try get your most important message across ASAP.
Ask questions. Although they might not be interested in hearing about you, most people are willing to talk about their own wins. You can also ask the more aggressive closing questions like ‘is there anything I can share to convince you that I’m the best person for this position?’
Don’t be put off by their inattention. If you feel you aren’t getting anywhere ask if they’d like to reschedule to a better time.
The Traditional One
Basically the one that all interview tips and tricks are talking about. They ask all the typical questions and rarely derail from their notes. They can’t really imagine deviating from the norm and try remain as objective as possible. Likely they’re quite stoic and try refrain from making any subjective connections with the interviewee.
What to Do
Don’t break the pace set by the interviewer and try deviate from the questions they are asking. By forcing them out of their comfort zone you would likely leave a bad impression.
They’re by the books, so you yourself should be by the books. Likely the questions asked will be the ones you’ve prepared for, so answer professionally as you’d planned.
The Pragmatist/No-Nonsense One
With no thought to your feelings, this interviewer won’t waste your time or their own. They will give you honest feedback, which may come across as tough love.
What to Do
Be firm. You won’t get any respect if you cower. Brace yourself - likely they’ll tell you that you aren’t suited for the position or that you will not fit in with the rest of the team. You need to prove them wrong with examples of the opposite being true, and evidence of how you’re a perfect candidate for the job.
The interviewer that seems better suited to a career in law, this one is prepared with question after question which is fired off in a rapid fashion. Their tone and manner are usually more than a little intimidating, and feedback isn’t usually top on their list of priorities – only the next question is.
They have a job to do and aren’t going to waste time doing it. They’re not there to make friends, but rather determine quickly whether you’re the one for the job or not.
What to Do
Prepare your answers ahead of time and don’t obsess over looking for the interviewers reactions. They’re going to pepper you with questions so just focus on answering them as calmly, completely and professionally as possible. They’re trying to ruffle you, so keep your composure at all times and remain pleasant.
Try pace the interview by pausing before answering each question, in a calm even tone. Be personable but avoid being too sociable, too friendly or overly enthusiastic.
The Resume Reader
As the name suggests, this interviewer is one you’ll come across quite often. They’ll basically read through your résumé while asking questions. They’re quite direct in their attempt to gain information about you without trying to trip you up.
What to Do
Prepare for questions regarding your skill set and to explain more about your past experiences and duties.
When you walk into the interview room and it’s not just one person, but a whole intimidating group waiting for you. Each and every experience like this is a challenge as the group can contain more than one interview style which is employed when the various interviewers ask you questions. They can be either nice or rotten as a group, but either way you have a bunch of eyes staring at you.
On two occasions I have arrived at an interview expecting to see only one person and instead have been confronted with a group of 4 or more. Each time I had to give a presentation, and the head interviewer would be lovely while the others in the room would make snarky comments or inside jokes and laugh. Although my experiences were unpleasant, I have heard of others who have had wonderful experiences in a group interview setting. It’s very much luck of the draw.
What to Do
In this setting it will be difficult to please everyone, so just try relax and go with it. Find the interviewers most responsive to you and just be yourself. Once you start seeing people nodding or smiling at what you have to say, you’ll find it easier to relax and be at ease with the situation.
Another interviewer that doesn’t really seem to be paying attention. There are high chances that they’ll be late for the interview, and they seem mentally preoccupied with other things. They’re generally not in charge of their own desk, diary, life… you get the picture.
Chances are, they haven’t really had time to notice any gaps in your résumé and are often more nervous and unprepared that what you are. The negative to that is that they probably have no idea who they’re talking to and are too busy to remember details of your résumé and application.
What to Do
Very similar to the ‘Busy-Bee/Multitasker’, you can offer to reschedule to a different time if it will suit them better.
Alternatively, it isn’t easy to make a strong impression when someone is so distracted, so keep it simple while getting your most important message across quickly.
If they’re ‘winging it’ they’ll gladly let you do the talking, so make sure to be engaging and expansive without overloading them with information they may or may not remember. Being well-mannered, patient, positive and understanding will go a long way with this type of interviewer.
The Unicorn Hunter/Entrepreneur
They know what kind of candidate they want – which is usually an impossibly skilled and qualified person that may not even exist. They will keep looking and looking, determined to find this magical being that will be the answer to their candidate-prayers. Due to this impossible ideal, they’re likely to nit-pick.
This interviewer could also possibly be a founder and sole owner of their company, seeing themselves as a combination of Richard Branson and Mark Zuckerberg, with an above average IQ and energy drive. The problem with these interviewers is their ego; it may cloud their own judgement and expectations.
What to Do
Get them to state which specific skills they require, then show how you provide them. Using real examples of past experiences and duties will help demonstrate your suitability for the position.
When being interviewed by an entrepreneur, play up your work ethic, loyalty and flexibility. They’re looking for someone with the same drive, passion and proactivity that they have – if you can’t provide that then you probably shouldn’t work for them.
When you’re expecting an experienced interviewer it can be quite unnerving to be faced with someone who hasn’t conducted an interview before or who is new to the whole experience. They may be new to the company or new to hiring, or just a nervous interviewer in general.
What to Do
As much as it may feel like the logical course of action, do not assume the upper hand. Maintain your professionalism and enthusiasm, and try not to be distracted by the haphazard interview style. Stick to your planned talking points and maintain a poised, calm and professional manner.
Although it is bad form to make any reference to an interviewer’s lack of training or preparation, if they repeatedly deflect or cannot answer your questions you may need to seek someone else who can answer them.
A relatively easy interview to get through, you basically sit there and listen to a lecture. They’ll read your résumé to you, without pausing for input, then talk about the position, company, their place in the company, your possible place in the company, etc, etc.
What to Do
Pay attention, take down notes, nod appropriately and don’t interrupt. If you get the opportunity then engage and provide great answers or insight, but otherwise follow those basic instructions and the interview will be over quickly and everyone will be happy.
The Trickster/Behavioural Scientist
These interviewers are more interested in how you respond to certain situations and questions. They will ask you questions that seem to have no ‘right’ answer, questions that seem pretty straight forward but once answered they’ll seem almost disappointed. Sometimes they’ll ask questions that seem completely unrelated to the industry or position you’re applying for (‘tell me, how do you tie your shoes?’) – how you respond is important here, not the question itself.
Can you think out the box? Can you think on your feet? How do you handle an unknown and stressful situation? That is what they’re looking for.
What to Do
Try not to get flustered. Use real-life examples where possible, with details, and answer honestly. Be yourself and show personality.
If you need a moment to think, then ask for it. These interviewers know they’re tripping you up, so they won’t mind.
Some people are so naturally humorous that they find it difficult to switch off, even in professional situations. Expect sarcastic responses and non-stop jokes. You’ll relax pretty quickly, but may be confused about when the interview has actually begun.
For these interviewers your résumé has proved your qualification, so the interview is an opportunity to see if you’ll fit with the team.
What to Do
If all the joking bothers you, you probably won’t enjoy working for the company. If it doesn’t, then play along and enjoy! Joke back and show your personality
Sometimes there are those interviewers that are just… odd. They have pasta hanging as wall art, and might be folding origami during the interview. We all know some odd people, and I think we tend to forget that those people have jobs.
What to Do
Unless they’re being creepy, just go with it. Focus on the interview at hand and remain professional. Answer the questions and ignore the oddities – sometimes they have no idea that what they’re doing would seem strange to you.
The Jackass/Creeper/Inappropriate One
It’s in the name. This interviewer will make you feel uncomfortable. They don’t understand limits and will ask you inappropriate questions about your relationship status, age, citizenship or religion. They may make inappropriate jokes or offer stories that seem better suited to a psychologist.
This can either be deliberate (they’re just a creepy person) or perhaps they genuinely have no concept of boundaries and have no idea they could be making you uncomfortable.
What to Do
Stay focused on the interview and keep to your comfort zone. Answer what you want to answer and try steer the interview towards topics pertinent to the position, like your qualifications and the job requirements you’d fill.
When asked personal questions (they’re actually illegal), politely respond with ‘may I ask how that question relates to duties required for this position?’ This should take the interviewer back to job-related questions. If they persist, respond with a gentle request to stay on work-related topics.
If the questions are way out of line, then get out of there. Immediately.
You step into a position of power when you can recognize the interviewer style and adjust your response accordingly. The more you show your emotional intelligence by understanding the interviewer’s objective for the interview, the more likely they’ll be to listen to you.
Some interviewers may start off with one style and slowly merge into another as the interview progresses. This may be unintentional, or a way for them to see how you manage with different styles, personalities and situations.
If you encounter an interview style which you aren’t familiar with, experts recommend subtly adopting some of their behaviours and speech patterns, whilst still maintaining professionalism and poise. Research shows that people are more likely to hire someone that reminds them of themselves.
What other styles do you think should be addressed? Which would you add?