If you've spent much time looking over some of the job search literature that's out there today, you'd probably assume that all interviewers are exactly the same. In reality, this misguided assumption couldn't be further from the truth. While many interviews do follow roughly the same format, there are actually as many different types of interviewers are there people in the world.
Personality and interview style both play bigger roles in determining the outcome of an interview than many people think. Hospitality industry workers are often experts in quick personality readings. Being able to read the emotional tone of a table of guests or to quickly discern the personality quirks of the guest approaching the check-in counter is often the key to excellent customer service, and as such, most veterans of the industry can size up a situation in a matter of seconds.
In an interview situation, though, the stakes are much higher. If you misread the personality of the hiring manager, the ultimate cost of making the wrong call could be much more than a below-average tip -- it could negatively impact your career path. By familiarizing yourself with some common interviewer archetypes and arming yourself with effective strategies for dealing with each of them, you'll be well-positioned to handle virtually any interview scenario that you may encounter on your quest for career advancement.
Prospective hires often feel relieved when they encounter a friendly, gregarious interviewer, but be careful not to let this type lull you into letting your guard down. Respond with warmth and friendliness, as these qualities are likely to be appreciated by the chatty type. Although the chances for you to volunteer important information about yourself may be few and far between, your best bet is just to engage actively in the conversation and answer skillfully when and if you are asked a question.
The dreaded opposite of the flighty extrovert is the interrogation expert, an interviewer of the type who may seem to be better suited to a career in law enforcement. This hiring manager tends to fire questions off rapidly, often in a tone and manner that is more than a little intimidating. Maintain your composure at all times -- this type may be trying to see if you are easily flustered. Try to make the pace of the interview more deliberate by taking the time to think about your responses and answering in even, calm tones. Remain pleasant, but avoid excessive displays of sociability.
Though not as harsh as the interrogation expert, the by-the-books interviewer tries to stick as closely as possible to a preexisting interview script. This may be a sign that she wants to remain as objective as possible, or it may indicate a level of discomfort with the entire interviewing process. Don't derail the interview by deviating sharply from the pace set by the by-the-books interviewer; this may force her out of her comfort zone and leave a bad impression. You may be able to distinguish yourself by gently engaging the interviewer in a discourse that flows both ways and respectfully drawing her out of her set routine.
Potential hires who assume that the hiring manager will be a beacon of professionalism and experience are often shocked when they encounter an interviewer who is not adequately prepared to lead the meeting. Whether the interviewer is new to the company or simply new to the hiring process, blatant inexperience can be disconcerting. Don't let yourself be thrown off message; stick to your planned talking points and maintain an aura of calm, poised professionalism. It's bad form to make reference to the interviewer's lack of training or preparation, but if he repeatedly states that he can't answer your questions, you may want to see if there is anyone else with whom you could schedule a discussion or tour.
Unfortunately, there is a small contingent of interviewers out there who will step over the bounds of propriety in meeting with potential hires. If an interviewer repeatedly asks you questions that you feel are inappropriate or make you uncomfortable in any way, first respond with a gentle redirect, stating that you'd prefer to stick to standard work-related topics. If the interviewer persists with this line of questioning, it's probably best to conclude the discussion prematurely.
Personality is a complex thing that can't readily be reduced to a single variable, but hiring managers are often surprisingly consistent in their interview styles. Although it's unlikely that you will encounter an interviewer who perfectly embodies one of these five types, this guide will give you an idea of the kind of strategies you can use to respond effectively to different interviewing styles. If you encounter an interviewer whose profile doesn't fit any of these categories, experts recommend subtly adopting some of their behaviors and speech patterns -- research shows that hiring managers often prefer candidates who remind them of themselves.