Job Interview Tips: How to Deal With 3 Different Types of Difficult Interviewers

By Robert Half on November 26, 2013 at 8:00am

Some articles featuring job interview tips focus on preparing for different types of difficult questions. This one is about handling different types of difficult interviewers.

When applying for a job in the creative field, it's always smart to take a targeted approach. You're more likely to pique the interest of employers when you take the time to tailor your resume by spotlighting your skills and experience most relevant to the specific position you're seeking.

But your customization efforts shouldn't end there.

You'll also benefit from adapting your approach during in-person job interviews. Not all hiring managers, human resources professionals or prospective creative colleagues sitting in on interviews have the same style or level of interviewing expertise, yet many job candidates treat them the same way.

Here are three distinct types of challenging job interviewers – and tips for dealing with them:

The Box Checker 

Box Checkers are not particularly personable. They want answers to a defined set of interview questions ­– and only those questions. They rarely ask follow-up queries. Box Checkers are extremely process-oriented and rarely stray from their script. He or she typically takes lots of notes, but makes little eye contact.

Tip: When you encounter a Box Checker, keep your answers clear and concise. Don't drift into tangents. Hit your primary speaking points ­– easily digestible sound bites that highlight your top qualifications­ – and then let the person move onto the next topic. Speak slowly so the Box Checker has enough time to take accurate notes about your responses.

The Chatterbox 

In sharp contrast to the Box Checker, the Chatterbox is all talk. Before getting around to posing any career-related questions, the Chatterbox might wax poetic about his or her commute to work or the new bagel shop down the street. In between questions about your creative skills and employment history, he or she may tell you about tomorrow's weather forecast or inquire about your favorite movie.

Tip: You have to go with the flow to some degree because being all business won't work in this situation. No matter the subject that arises, your goal is to gently steer the conversation back to what you can bring to the table as an employee. It's a balancing act. Establishing rapport and showcasing your soft skills is important, but remain mindful that you're not applying to be the Chatterbox's best bud. You want to be thought of as the most qualified job candidate, not just a great conversationalist. Bottom line: Be friendly but highly focused.

The Poorly Prepared Interviewer 

As perplexing as it sounds, the Poorly Prepared Interviewer might not even remember reading your resume. Why? Perhaps the hiring manager hasn't been able to adequately oversee the hiring process because it's the busiest time of year and he or she is short-staffed. Maybe he or she is just incredibly disorganized. Or, perhaps the human resources department reviewed applications and took the lead in selecting the first round of interviewees. Regardless of the reason, this ill-prepared interviewer seems to know little about you.

Tip: When you're excited about a career opportunity and you've diligently prepared for an interview, it can be upsetting when the person on the other side of the table has not. Don't take offense or let frustration show. Instead, stay upbeat and strive to cover lots of ground. Make sure each answer packs an information-laden punch. Weave in lots of details about your most pertinent skills and successes. Because you never know when you'll encounter a Poorly Prepared Interviewer, bring extra copies of your resume along with your portfolio to every interview.

Selling yourself in a job interview requires great finesse in the best of circumstances. But you have to be even more nuanced and tactical when conversing with a difficult or less-than-adept interviewer. Being able to quickly get a read on an interviewer and then altering your approach accordingly can give you a leg up on the competition.


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