How to Survive an Interview With an Uneducated Interviewer

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By Marc Miller

You have likely encountered the uneducated interviewer! It is my claim that most hiring managers have never been trained to interview candidates.

I just finished reading Who by Geoff Smart and Randy Street. This book is the bible on how to interview for A players.

They chronicle ten different interview styles of the uneducated interviewer:
  1. The Art Critic -These are the managers who think they can spot talent when they see it.
  2. The Sponge - They think if they spend enough time with you they will soak up enough to make a hiring decision.
  3. The Prosecutor – They have watched too many episodes of Law and Order. They will aggressively question candidates attempting to trick the candidate.
  4. The Suitor - They want to sell the candidate rather than interview them.
  5. The Trickster - These are the interviewers who use gimmicks to test for certain behaviors. The authors state "they might throw a wad of paper on the floor to see if a candidate is willing to clean it up."
  6. The Animal Lover - Have you been asked in an interview "What type of animal would you be"?
  7. The Chatterbox - Have you spent more time in an interview talking about the local sports team or the weather?
  8. The Psychological and Personality Tester - Have you been required to take an assessment before being able to interview?
  9. The Aptitude Tester - This is a variation of The Psychological and Personality Tester.
  10. The Fortune Teller - The interviewer asked the candidate to predict the future. The authors give an example "If you are going to resolve a conflict with a co-worker, how would you do it?".
Do you recognize any of these?

Have you used one of these interviewing techniques? I have!

I will admit it. I have not been a very good interviewer!

Let's address the three most common in my experience:

The Suitor
The suitor is the easiest of the uneducated interviewer to deal with. Be prepared to tell stories. You should have a story prepared for each responsibility listed in the job description.

When there is a break in the conversation, pivot it back to the job description and immediately launch into a story. "Let me tell you about the time I demonstrated..."

The Chatterbox
The chatterbox is definitely an uneducated interviewer. Most do not have a clue of how to interview, but be prepared to be hyper-vigilant when interviewing with other interviewers. If the hiring manager is a chatterbox, the decision on whether to hire you will most likely come from others.

The Prosecutor
As soon as you realize your interviewer is playing the role of district attorney, you have to play the role of a good witness. You need to listen carefully to the interviewer and answer the questions. Be prepared to thoughtfully delay answering the question. You can rephrase the question, "Let me make sure I understand the question. You said..." This will give you time to think and make sure you really understand what he or she is asking.

When I taught high school math, I used questions like, "Do they have 4th of July in England?" The answer is YES! They do not celebrate it, but they do have 4th of July.

Lastly, be prepared to probe for pain points. Ask the interviewer about what was behind the question they just asked. You might say, "From the last question, can I infer that you are having a problem with...? If true, let me tell you about the time..." It is important not to pause between the question and the second sentence. Remember, you are dealing with a district attorney and you want to take control of the flow of conversation.

The key in dealing with an uneducated interviewer is to be conversational and respectful. You definitely want to control the flow of the conversation. Be prepared to tell stories on how you demonstrated your expertise.

Can you spot an uneducated interviewer?
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