As any exceptional salesperson will testify, knowing not only your client’s needs but also his idiosyncrasies (and tailoring your behavior accordingly) considerably enhances your chances of getting the deal. The same applies when you’re talking to potential employers. Below are three common types of interviewers and my tips on coping with them.
1. “Tick the box” type
This school of interviewers usually germinates from a corporate department such as HR. A “tick the box” type conducts meetings in a highly structured format, comprised of asking a carefully devised list of questions and then carefully transcribing the corresponding answers. These responses are then painstakingly analyzed across all the candidates and ranked according to the number of appropriate “bingo” words (teamwork, creativity, initiative, etc.).
The window into the mind of this interviewer is the written job advertisement. So study it like you are preparing for the SAT. Crucially, pay particular attention to the bingo words used, because their astute recitation during the interview is the key to impressing the “tick the box” type.
2. “Love my own voice” type
Some may find this incredulous, but there are interviewers who prefer to perform soliloquies rather than interview candidates. Whether a “love my own voice” type does this to impress you with her charisma or to embark on a power trip, the result is that, by the end of the interview, she would have told you vastly more about herself than you have told her about yourself.
Ironically, this type of interviewer is the easiest to deal with, as long as you remember some important rules. One: don’t ever interrupt her speech, even if she interjects during one of her questions. Two: flatter her at every opportunity by highlighting any relevant skills and experiences from your resume which support her views. Three: your aim is to leave the interview with her feeling better about herself than about you.
3. “Silent” type
This species of interviewer is the most dangerous of all. A “silent” type is typically an unnervingly active listener. He tends to pursue a line of questioning to the nth degree, with probing queries, waxing and waning depending on your responses. Your disorientating experience is often exacerbated by his unsettling tendency for long pauses after your answers, forcing you to ramble on to break the uncomfortable silence. For these reasons, an interview with a silent type often means you come out of the encounter not knowing how you really did.
The key to dealing with such a difficult interviewer is to answer the questions as succinctly as possible and never embellish anything that you are not confident of backing up. The corollary is that if you don’t know the answer to a question, just say so right up front, instead of trying to improvise your way out of the predicament. Most importantly, after you believe you have adequately answered a question, don’t ever feel the need to fill in any subsequent awkward silence. Take the risk that he may think you’re a fool rather than open your mouth and leave no doubt.
A final word
Your aim in any interview is to sell your achievements and attributes in the best way possible, irrespective of who the interviewer may be. However, establishing early in the meeting what “type” he is, and subtly adjusting your demeanor to suit, can only increase your chances of rapport and ultimate success. After all, it is considerably easier to do this than to try to win over a seemingly incompatible interviewer in just one hour by the sheer force of your personality.
The author is a financial services professional in Australia. The views expressed are his and not those of eFinancialCareers.