Handling Eight Types of Interviewers

Robert Half International

In an ideal world, all hiring managers would be highly skilled at conducting an effective job interview. They would ask intelligent questions about your work-related competencies and experience, while providing you with a solid understanding of the company and open position.

Unfortunately, not all prospective employers are master interviewers. If you haven?t yet encountered a bad interviewer, you likely will at some point in your career. They come in many shapes and sizes. Some are unorganized or aloof; others are focused and informed but intent on "testing" you.

Regardless of the type of interviewer you meet, there are ways to maintain your composure and leave a positive impression. Following are some common types of bad interviewers and tips for dealing with their idiosyncrasies.

The Inquisitor

Don't expect to engage in friendly chitchat with the inquisitor. This type of interviewer immediately dispenses with small talk and gets down to the business of interrogating you. The inquisitor will fire a barrage of questions at you, perhaps even taking a slightly accusatory tone. The nanosecond you finish answering a query, the inquisitor is halfway through the next one.

How to manage: Don't try to keep pace with a frenetic interviewer; you could end up fumbling a response you would have easily nailed otherwise. Your best bet is to remain calm and briefly pause before answering each question. This tactic will enable you to collect your thoughts, while stemming the inquisitor?s ability to completely control the tempo of the interview.

The Talkaholic

Information should flow both ways during an employment interview, but this concept is lost on the talkaholic. While it?s beneficial to you for a hiring manager to impart insight about the firm, the talkaholic provides too much information, most of which has little relevancy to the open position.

How to manage: Interrupting the chatterbox will likely work against you. Instead, try to quarterback the discussion when the opportunity to speak arises. Use whatever opportunity you have to link back to the skills and qualifications that make you perfect for the job.

The Robot

Unlike the talkaholic, the robot doesn?t deviate from the script. He or she asks only basic boilerplate questions. There are no tangents, interesting asides or impromptu follow-up queries. If the question isn't written on paper, it doesn't get asked. Often, this interviewer appears disengaged.

How to manage: If an interviewer is flying on autopilot, enliven the discussion by asking questions of your own. For instance, you could ask the interviewer what he or she enjoys most about the company. Getting the hiring manager off script might enable you to develop rapport that sets you apart from other candidates.

The Unprepared Interviewer

Completely unfamiliar with your job-application materials, the unprepared interviewer asks questions that could be easily answered with a cursory glance of your resume. Example: "So, where did you go to college?"

How to manage: Because the unprepared interviewer hasn't -- and may never -- read your resume, be sure to reiterate the major selling points highlighted on it. A good way to do so is by asking if you can talk about a few of your key qualifications after the hiring manager concludes his or her list of questions.

The Newbie

Inexperienced and intimidated, the newbie is more nervous than you. He or she is wet behind the ears when it comes to understanding the finer points of conducting an efficient job interview. You?ll likely encounter lots of stammering, awkward pauses and a disjointed flow of conversation.

How to manage: First and foremost, maintain your poise and don't let the newbie's nervousness transfer to you. Since he or she may not be able to fully answer your questions about the work environment, consider requesting an office tour to fill in information gaps. Observation can be the best way to learn about the company's culture.

The Multitasker

The multitasker fields phone calls, sends faxes, and responds to e-mails and instant messages during the meeting. This easily sidetracked interviewer might even start conversations with colleagues who happen to walk by the office.

How to manage: While not ideal, interviewers sometimes must respond to pressing matters at inopportune times. Your best course of action is to grin and bear an interruption or two. However, if incessant intrusions take over the interview, offer to reschedule the meeting for a more convenient time. Also, keep in mind that how you?re treated during the interview is often a good indication of how you?ll be treated as a new employee. If the interviewer isn?t respectful of you, you may want to re-evaluate your interest in the position.

The Tester

The tester plays mind games and asks trick questions designed to fluster you. For example, he or she may make the office extremely warm to see how you react or ask you off-the-wall questions like "Why are manhole covers round?" and "If you were an animal, what animal would you be?"

How to manage: The tester thrives on your uneasiness. By staying on your toes, keeping your cool and answering questions with confidence, you?ll show the interviewer that you can deftly handle pressure. That said, set boundaries and tell the interviewer if his or her tactics have crossed a professional line. Being demeaned should not be part of any interview.

The Inappropriate Interviewer

The inappropriate interviewer probes into your religious or political beliefs, race, age, marital status, or home life. In addition to being irrelevant to your candidacy, these questions are unlawful. Examples include: "What church do you attend?" or "How long have you been married?"

How to manage: Be polite and tactful, yet matter-of-fact. Explain that you want to focus on your professional skills. Some interviewers may simply not realize they are asking inappropriate questions. If an interviewer persists with a line of inappropriate questioning, consider the red flag raised and explain that you'd prefer to end the meeting.

A job interview gives you an excellent opportunity to see what it would be like to work for a particular employer. Watch for warning signs that may indicate an unhealthy environment, but, at the same time, remember that everyone has bad days -- including hiring managers.

No matter what type of interviewer you face, maintain a positive and confident demeanor during your meeting. If you still feel the job may be right for you, be sure to write a follow-up thank-you note to express your gratitude and interest in the position. Above all, try to put your best foot forward during the employment interview, even if the hiring manager doesn't do the same.

Next: 5 Worst Case Interview Scenarios >>

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Robert Half International Inc. is the world?s first and largest specialized staffing firm with a global network of more than 330 offices throughout North America, Europe, Asia, Australia and New Zealand. For more information about our professional services, please visit www.rhi.com.

Copyright 2006 Robert Half International.

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