8 Types of Interviewers and How to Deal with Them

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Different types of interviewers

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Types of Interviews Introduction

The truth is that every interviewer is different. As a human (well, most are), they have a personality, associated traits and unique experiences. You will soon know if it is a good interviewer, as they do demonstrate some consistent characteristics, and will follow a certain process to a greater or lesser degree.

The good type of interviewer will:

  • Come a greet you in reception, and create some sort of chit-chat to get your jaw moving and to relax you. The chat element may be as simple as, “how was your journey?” Clever interviewers will look at your CV, and go straight to the hobbies and interests section. They will pick a sport of hobby they know something about, and then start a conversation about it. That’s one reason that you should have this section on your CV. It is aimed at relaxing you so they can get a good performance from you.
    If it is your potential line manager that is interviewing you, then you now have an indication of their management style. Ask yourself, “Do I really want to work with this person?”
  • Take time to explain the role and the company. If they ask you, “Do you know anything about the company?”, tell them what you do know. If you have done your preparation, then this will relax you further.
  • They will signpost you. That means they will tell you what will happen during the interview, and how long it will take. they may also let you know the next stages, though this tends to be at the end of the interview.
  • They will talk very little after they have introduced the role. Instead, they will smile consistently and nod lots. They will do their best not to ‘leak’ as to whether they liked or did not like your answers.
  • They will ask you if it is okay if they take notes. And they will then write a lot during the interview. Don’t worry about the lack of eye-contact. They have learned not to rely on memory, and will make copious notes, and these will be in your words where possible.
  • The good interviewer will not sit across the desk from you. Instead, they may choose to work from a corner to open up the body language. They may even choose not to have any barriers, and use a clip-board to write on.
  • At the end of the interview, they will ask you if you have any questions. And they will let you take the time to get all the information you need.
  • Finally, they will walk you out of the building whilst being very polite.

These types of interviewers are great, and whilst most interviewers would like to think they occupy this ground, the reality is that they do not. Most are rushed, unprepared, slightly nervous, and as a consequence, talk far too much. The following types of interviewers are all manageable. These types of interviewers may lack the skills, may have certain beliefs about interviewing, or it may just be a reflection of their personality. We have separated the aggressive interviewer from other types of interviews simply because this type of interviewer is the one we get most feedback about.

Types of interviewer – The Aggressive Interviewer

Don’t get overly worried about this style – it’s becoming a thing of the past and more confined to line managers than HR practitioners. Remember that they chose to interview you. Why are some interviewers so aggressive?

  1. Bad interviewing – it’s their problem, not yours. Often seated in their own inadequacies whether personal or just simply lacking the skills.
  2. Nervous interviewers – interviewers are often more nervous than candidates! Their aggression is an attempt to keep the control in the interview situation.
  3. See what you are like under pressure – often called the ‘stress interview’ this aims to put you under similar pressure to that within the role itself. Seems reasonable except there is evidence that it does little more than put the candidate off the role itself.

If you face an aggressive interviewer, remain as yourself and be reasonable in your approach. It is really tough to be aggressive with someone who is reasonable back. Just keep being reasonable, get in rapport, and you will wear down their aggression. Never fight fire with fire. That would be a no-win outcome. Never play the little boy or girl bowing to their superiority. Even if you get the job, that is now the expectation in their mind at work. Never tell a joke to defuse the situation. They are more likely to see you as a joke.

Other Types of Interviewer

Unfortunately, there are a number of types of interviewers other than the aggressor. The following table provides a summary together with appropriate counter-measures.

Interviewer Type Strategy
The Bully
Will come across as aggressive. Avoid head-on collisions, as they tend to enjoy these. Be friendly but firm. Focus on the subject at hand. If you show respect rather than fear, this sort of interviewer will go elsewhere for what they want and respect you.
The Flatterer
They need approval, so give them some. Laugh at jokes and enjoy their stories. On the other hand, never hold as true their unrealistic commitments. Take them back to the facts – names, places, and verification. Make it clear that honesty is the best policy.
The Know-it-all
Don’t fight, blame, or confront this type of interviewer; avoid trying to counter-expert. Instead, challenge him/her to problem-solve. Question, listen and acknowledge; then give feedback and suggested alternatives.
The Introvert
Get her/him to talk as much as possible. Adopt a friendly, silent posture and ask open-ended questions; give her/him a chance to either talk or be comfortably silent. Comment on what you experience, and try to elicit his reaction.
The Talking Box
A nervous interviewer who you will need to interrupt carefully at times.  To some extent you will need to conduct the interview yourself by almost asking yourself the questions. For example, “let me tell you about my main achievements at [department/business area]”.
The Arrogant
Patronising, sarcastic and opinionated – sounds nice? Don’t challenge – just stick to your points and the facts. Let them know what you could do for them whilst keeping assertive and positive at all times.
The Rushed
Messy desk, phone ringing and being answered, a whirlwind who likes to be seen as essential to the functioning of the business. Well, play their game. Tell them how busy they look and how you could help with how busy the organisation is. If you need to, ask them if they would prefer to see you another day.


Types of Interviewers – Conclusion

Although there are many types of interviews, there are also certain things you should think about given their behaviours:

  1. If it is your potential line manager that is interviewing you, then you now have an indication of their management style. Ask yourself, “Do I really want to work with this person?” How many billion jobs are there on this planet? I once went to a job interview, and my potential line manager interviewed me. He asked some good, tough and appropriate questions. Have you ever noticed that your eyes move when you think hard? This is called eye-accessing patterns. So whilst I was thinking of my answer, he moved his finger to where I was looking (searching for the answer). He then moved his finger for my eye to follow back to his eyes. How rude. He did not understand how people access information. At that point I very politely thanked him for his time, and left the interview. I did not want him as my line manager.
  2. Interviews are a game. Remember this no matter what their interview style, and have fun.
  3. The interviewer not listed above in the types of interviewers is the ‘incompetent interviewer’. Do forgive this type. Often thrown into the ring by others, untrained, and just doing their best based on their knowledge and skills.

For more information of types of interviewers, try this article.

If you are following pathways, you may want to move on to understanding why interviews fail.

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