5 Types of Interviewers and How To Handle Them

Like it or not, job interviews are about character. It’s about your character, the character of the company, and the character of the person interviewing you. Unfortunately, this is an irrefutable truth. Even though standardised interviews and psychometric tests are increasingly recognised as objective, fair methods of selecting new employees, you are usually in some way at the mercy of the person doing the interviewing.

You can’t always control who you’ll interview with, but you can be prepared for any type of interviewer and question. Just as you research the company and practice your answers, you should also familiarise yourself with the different types of interviewers. This way, you can be prepared for anything on the day of the interview.

Your “new best friend”

This seems like a walk in the park: the interviewer who is cheerful, gregarious and relaxed throughout the interview. They’ll thank you for coming to the interview, asking personal questions, maybe telling a few anecdotes of their own, laughing at your jokes, and even cracking a few. They will likely remain upbeat throughout the interview and even comment positively on issues or shortcomings on your resume. You may get along splendidly during the interview, but wonder afterwards if you really talked much about the job or about yourself.

How to handle the interview: 

In a way, this is the easiest of interviewer types to deal with provided you remain conscious of the fact that you’re in a job interview and not having coffee with your bestie. Remember that your interviewer is judging you the entire time. Treat them with charm and build rapport, but try to steer the conversation toward what makes you the best hire. Even open-ended questions like “Tell me about yourself” can be answered in a way that illustrates your personal or professional qualifications for the job.

The disorganised interviewer

You may have prepared thoroughly for your interview, but that doesn’t necessarily mean your interviewer has. This type of interviewer may have papers lying all over the place, may not seem to know what to ask you, or may not have even read your CV. Perhaps they’re really busy, filling in for someone else, or just lazy. In any case, be prepared to do a little extra lifting.

How to handle the interview:

The possibility of encountering this type of interviewer is one of the reasons why you should always take a few copies of your CV to an interview – that way you have them on hand if needed. If the interviewer’s questions seem vague or open ended, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification or to make sure your answer was detailed enough. A disorganised interviewer may not give you much concrete information about the job’s requirements profile, so be sure to ask carefully when the opportunity arises.

Whether due to adherence to formulas, corporate doctrines, standardised tests, or lack of imagination, some interviewers ask the classic “interview” questions according to a predefined script that allows little variation or personality. These include questions about your strengths and weaknesses, your ability to work in a team, your ideal work environment, and where you see yourself in five years.

How to handle the interview: 

The good news is that you can – and should – prepare thoroughly for these types of questions. Read through lists of frequently asked questions, write down your answers to organise your thoughts, and ask someone to help you with a mock interview. If you’ve researched the company and the job you’re applying for well, you can anticipate what variations of these questions you might be asked and prepare the best possible answers. It may well be that such an interviewer won’t ask any follow-up questions. So try to include all relevant information in your answer the first time.

The interrogator

This type of interviewer, more common in companies where special skills are required, will make you feel like you’re being questioned as part of a criminal investigation. Questions, follow-up questions, queries about even the vaguest hint of inconsistency. They’ll quiz your technical knowledge down to the smallest detail, why you know certain things and not others, and they’ll question any gaps in your work or ambiguities on your CV. They’ll ask you not only about your certifications and qualifications, but also how you maintain and update your skills. Expect pointed questions about previous projects you’ve worked on and why they prepared you for the task at hand.

How to handle the interview: 

Consider what you’d expect if you were hiring someone for a job. Even if such an interviewer makes you feel like they’re pressuring you, they just want to make sure they find someone with just the right skills or aptitude to develop. You can prepare for this scenario by thoroughly researching not only the company, but also yourself. Know your CV front to back and be prepared to explain it. Study your past projects and how the experience you gained from them will affect the new position. And whatever you do, don’t embellish the facts or stretch the truth, you’ll get caught.

The overly open-ended interview

The question “What do you think?” is the stuff of nightmares for some interviewees. You ask for clarification on a particular question or point, and the interviewer responds by asking you a question. This type of interviewer doesn’t want to give you help or feedback, and instead expects you to drive the conversation.

How to handle the interview: 

Try not to get flustered or frustrated. If you feel you need more feedback than the interviewer is willing to give you, try asking binary “yes-or-no” questions that force them to give you a clear answer. Alternatively, you can offer the interviewer options to choose from. When asked which option you would choose, justify your choice based on your assumptions. However, be sure to state these assumptions with phrases such as “My understanding is…” or “Correct me if I am wrong, but…”.

Want to get some interview practice?

In job interviews, as in life: Practice makes perfect. Our Interview Skills solution provides customised interview training to help you answer interview questions. Our training programmes give you detailed feedback that you can put into practice in a second interview. This gives you the best chance of landing your dream job. Contact us to find out more.