To paraphrase Mr. Gump, an interview is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re going to get. Sure, you might have certain expectations for the interview to go a certain way, or perhaps you expect to be asked certain questions, but sometimes (read:often) life likes to throw you a curveball and mix things up a bit and you get a question out of left field. Then you’re stuck staring blankly while your brain is switching directions suddenly and the interviewer is left wondering if you speak English or if you’re just dumb. It’s embarrassing, but we’ve all been there.
But while no two interviews are the same, they really only come in four basic varieties. So let’s discuss how to identify and deal with each one, and maybe next time you won’t take so long switching gears.
The Resume Reader
One of the more common types of interview, the Resume Reader basically just asks you questions while reading through your resume. You’ve probably had an interview with someone like this. You might even be this person yourself. There’s nothing wrong with a Resume Reader, they’re finding out what they need to know about your experience and skills, directly and without trying to trip you up. Expect questions about your skills and further explanations of job duties.
The Behavioral Scientist
This is my least favorite type of interviewer personally, though admittedly, it is a great way to interview people if you trust their resume and are more interested in how they respond. The Behavorial Scientist asks lots of questions about how you would react in certain situations that may or may not have to do with your industry. A lot of times, the questions aren’t even important, it’s how you answer that is. I once went on an interview for a major search engine company and was asked to describe how I would plan and organize the company ski trip. And I’m pretty that’s why I don’t currently work for said company. I got nervous and flustered because I was expecting the Resume Reader. If you go up against the Behavioral Scientist, try not to get flustered. It’s hard to prepare for questions that could be about anything, but at least being aware of what’s going on will help you to keep calm. Give them real life examples if you have them, and whatever you do, make sure you elaborate on your answers. Behavioral Scientists like details. And don’t be afraid to ask for a moment to think. They know they’re tripping you up. Thankfully, Behavioral Scientists are rare.
The Well Read Scientist
The Well Read Scientist is a combination of the Resume Reader and the Behavioral Scientist. This is probably tied with the Resume Reader for being the most common type of interviewer. They’ll start off by reading through your resume quickly, but thoroughly. They’ll ask short easily answered questions as they do, looking for further details here or clarifications there. After they get to the end of your resume, they’ll pop a couple of behavioral type questions that usually pertain to the job at hand. Like, how would you handle an employee who did this, or what would you do if this machine broke down. You’re less likely to be asked to do something completely unrelated.
This is the easiest kind of interview to get through, mainly because it’s not an interview but rather a lecture. As you may have guessed by the name, The Talker does all of the talking. They’ll read your resume to you, but unlike the resume reader, there will be few questions if any. At the end of the resume, the Talker will start talking about the job, the position, the company, his place in the company, your place in the company, etc, etc. Interviewing with a talker is easy. Pay attention, jot down some notes on what he’s talking about, nod appropriately and the interview will be over and everyone will be happy. The only way to mess this interview up is if you interrupt him or don’t pay attention enough.
So those are the four basic types of interviewers. In real life, most interviewers are at least a little bit of each, but usually predominantly one or the other. There’s really no way to prepare for one or another specifically, but roleplaying and anticipating questions about yourself for the interview will help immensely. Good luck, and happy hunting!