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10 types of interviewers and how to deal with them

By Anthony Balderrama,
When you're interviewed by several people at the same time, you may not be able to please all of them.
When you're interviewed by several people at the same time, you may not be able to please all of them.
  • If an interviewer treats you like a best friend it may mean they don't want an uptight employee
  • Don't expect to receive helpful feedback if you're interviewer acts as an interrogator
  • Every once in awhile you will encounter an interviewer who doesn't understand limits

( -- Interviewing for a job comes with several question marks. What do I wear? How should I answer this question? How long will this take?

A good job seeker prepares. Take your suit to the cleaners. Think about your answers. Arrive for the interview in plenty of time.

But the one factor that can throw everything off is the type of interviewer you get. When you sit down at that table, the interviewer's line of questioning and attitude will change what you say and how.

To give you a little extra help, here is a list of 10 types of interviewers you might encounter and how to deal with them.

Your best friend

What to expect: Too much of everything.
You walk in the door and the handshake is a little too enthusiastic. The smile is too wide. The conversation is too personal. It's all just too much.

This interviewer treats you like a best friend, which is nice, but this style is unnerving because you want to be relaxed without forgetting that you are still on an interview.

What to do: Take this approach as a cue that you can be a little less rigid in the interview because the best friend doesn't want an uptight employee.
Just remind yourself that the interviewer can be more casual than you because he isn't the one interviewing for the job.

Show the interviewer that you're relaxed, but stay professional and don't act like you're actually good friends -- stories about wild parties and your personal life don't belong in the conversation.

The interrogator

What to expect: Question after question after question.
The interrogator doesn't come to the interview ready for conversation. He has a list of questions to fire off and you had better be ready to answer them.

Don't expect to receive a lot of helpful feedback to gauge how you're doing. Just expect more questions.

What to do: Watch episodes of "Law & Order" to prepare.
You're going to feel defensive the entire time and might walk away from the interview feeling as if you did something wrong. Once you realize that your interviewer is going to lambaste you with questions, just focus on answering them and don't obsess over reading his reaction.

You can try to initiate conversation with a few of your answers, but don't be surprised if those efforts fail. This interviewer wants to hear your answers and see how you handle yourself, so staying calm is the best approach you can take.

The one who has better things to do

What to expect: An interviewer checking her e-mail, looking at you but not paying any attention to what you say.
Some people are forced to participate in the interview process even if they have no interest in doing it, so don't take it personally.

What to do: Answer the questions and be friendly.
Try to hold conversations with this distracted interviewer and hope you can win her over -- hey, it can't hurt to have someone who likes you. But this interviewer either made up her mind before she walked into the room or doesn't intend to give much feedback about you, so do your best but don't take her disinterest personally.

The inappropriate one

What to expect: Cold sweats because you don't know what to do or say.
Every once in awhile you will encounter an interviewer who doesn't understand limits. You might hear an inappropriate joke, a personal story that should be reserved for a therapist or a question that delves too deeply into your life.

This interviewer probably isn't trying to be inappropriate; he just has no concept of boundaries.

What to do: Stay in your comfort zone.
Just because this interviewer is ready to cry on your shoulder, don't feel pressured into doing the same. Answer what you want to answer and try to steer the conversation back to pertinent topics, such as the job requirements or your qualifications.

The interviewer probably won't realize how off track he is and will follow your lead. Of course, if you think the questions cross a line, then you want to get out of there ASAP.

The rule follower

What to expect: Every interviewing tip you've ever been told.
Just like some students never imagine skipping a day of school or not doing homework, some interviewers can't imagine going outside of traditional business interviewing protocol.

Boring questions and a stoic demeanor are this interviewer's best friend.

What to do: Be the best interviewee you can be.
Do you know what your biggest weakness is? Do you know how to give the perfect handshake? Do you plan on wearing a conservative shirt under your jacket? You had better, because these by-the-book practices will earn you high marks.

The joker

What to expect: A comedy routine.
Some interviewers have such a good sense of humor that they can't shut it off even when they need to. You'll answer a question and you'll receive a sarcastic comment or a funny aside. This approach isn't inherently bad, but it can confuse you because you're not sure if the interview has even begun.

What to do: After a few minutes, you'll realize that your interviewer is a joker.
If this personality bugs you, you probably won't like working for the company. If it doesn't bother you too much, then try to play along.

Joke back and show that you have a personality. For some interviewers, your résumé proved your qualification; the interview is their chance to see if you fit in with the gang.

The weirdo

What to expect: Strange behavior.
We all know odd people, but we often forget that these odd people hold day jobs. And some of them are bosses or hiring managers who conduct interviews. Therefore we shouldn't be surprised when we're interviewed by a peculiar person who has macaroni art hanging in her office or who asks, "Who is your favorite member of the A-Team?"

What to do: Just go with it.
Unless the weird factor transitions into creepy or offensive, you should just answer the questions and ignore oddities.

If the questions and rapport are professional, but the interviewer is working on her origami, stay focused on the interview. She probably has no idea she's doing anything strange and is paying attention to you.

The no-nonsense one

What to expect: Tough love.
This interviewer doesn't believe in sparing your feelings. He's honest and will waste neither his nor your time.

What to do: Brace yourself.
This interviewer will say that he's not sure you're qualified or that he fears you won't fit in with everyone. Prove him wrong with evidence that you are perfect for the job. He won't respect someone who cowers, so be just as firm with him.

The blank slate

What to expect: No feedback.
The blank slate is an interviewer whose face remains unchanged for the duration of the meeting. You won't see any hint that the interview is going well or badly.

What to do: Don't try to break the interviewer's façade.
If you spend the interview looking for clues that you said the right or wrong thing, you'll be miserable.

Answer the questions, be yourself and stay composed. Your instinct will be to think that you're bombing, but you never know with the blank slate, so don't let yourself analyze the situation too much.

The mafia

What to expect: An intimidating group.
Every group interview is an ordeal. The interviewers might be lovely, horrible or a mix, but you still have several sets of eyes staring at you.

What to do: Try to relax.
That seems like impossible advice, but it's the best approach. When you have multiple interviewers, you will see several types of interviewers, so you can't try to please everyone.

Try to be yourself and find the interviewers that seem the most responsive to you. When you see someone nodding in agreement or maintaining eye contact, you'll feel more at ease and the nerves will begin to disappear.

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