Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Job jitters
A question of Interviewers
A guide to facing the people who hold the answer to your interview
Subraya Hegde

Illustration by Sandeep JoshiYOU can breeze through your next job interview if you understand the psyche of your interviewer.

Even the brief handshake with an interviewer is an introduction to his personality type and hence a clue to your interview prospects.

It's customary for interviewers to look beyond a résumé and use the face-to-face meeting to detect non-verbal clues to your personality — be it badly bitten nails or shoes that are polished everywhere but at the heels.

Most of the time, you hope that your interviewers will be friendly people who'll make you feel comfortable.

But that may not always be the case. Many interviewers make up their mind about you within seconds of being introduced. So, identify the category your interviewer falls into and make your moves accordingly.

Diversity decoded

Interviewers come with all sorts of temperaments and demeanours. Some are pushy; some laid back, some friendly, some antagonistic, some active and some passive.

Do not be intimidated by their mannerisms — interviewers will obviously have varied (and not always clear-cut) styles for interviewing, as well as individual preferences in what they seek in candidates.

However, if you can identify the interviewers’ style, you can deliver the type of responses that are most likely to win them over.

Poker-faced probers

Illustration by Sandeep JoshiThey skip the small talk and get right to business. They ask short, to-the-point questions and show little or no reaction to your replies. No matter what you say or how impressive you appear, you'll get no visible responses. You might feel as if you're talking to a wall.

If you get to meet these practical kind of interviewers, don't be intimidated by the unresponsive style. Make your answers equally short and direct and remain positive.

Look the interviewer/s squarely in the eye and communicate your confidence in handling the job.

Intellectual questioners

They come up with thoughtful, informative questions and are more interested in knowing how you do your job than what you do. They're typically interested in your philosophy or work ethics.

While dealing with this kind of interviewers, show yourself to be an "ideas" person by describing specific techniques you have employed, the judgments that rule your activities and the reasons you would do well in the position.

Talkative type

They keep you waiting, lead you into a messy office, and spend most of the interview talking about company issues and telling irrelevant stories.

If you happen to have a rendezvous with this type, play an enthusiastic listener but manage to get in a few accounts that show your own work in a positive light. In essence, this interviewer will hire you if he or she likes you, so be an attentive listener.

Friendly foes

They're simply overjoyed to have you in their office, so much so that you may be taken aback by their enthusiasm. They look at you confidingly and say: "I just love your résumé, now tell me about yourself." Be careful, for these are the trickiest interviewers of them all. They try to make you trust them by behaving like your best friend but can hold your own words against you.

The best way to deal with this kind of interviewer is to be cautious and respond to questions enthusiastically (ensure you don't exaggerate yourself). Tactfully ignore personal questions and continue talking, bringing the conversation back to the interview. Don't disclose too many personal details, else you may lose out on the job. Take a cue from their friendly style and most importantly, show yourself to be a team player. Use statements like, "We did this" rather than "I did this" and tell them you're captivated by the company's people-oriented atmosphere.

Intimidating selectors

Literally power players, they use pressure tactics designed to analyse you, your patience level and your threshold for stress. They might leave you waiting in the reception area long past the appointed time or interview you simultaneously with several other people in a competitive atmosphere.

They seek to intimidate you by subjecting you to a series of forceful, rapid-fire questions without allowing you the opportunity to answer fully. They may even ask for information you can't possibly deliver. They make you feel as though nothing you say can beget a positive reaction, making you think you're not meeting their expectations.

Is there a safe way out with such an intimidator? Of course, there is. Ensure you remain calm and don't get agitated. Also, repeat the question to give yourself a moment to gather your thoughts and then answer in a relaxed but professional tone. Let them know that you can handle pressure by not losing your nerves, giving spirited replies and displaying a good sense of humour.

Preoccupied players

They simply appear preoccupied. Even while you answer their questions, they may read a letter, check email or even answer a phone call. You will probably feel ignored.

In case you're faced with such 'lost-in-thought' interviewers, don't take it personally. It's important for you to appear interested and confident of your abilities. Ensure that you have a smiling face and stay focussed.

In a nutshell, just as important as your tangible skills, the interviewers also want to probe your intangible skills (your thinking abilities: can you think on your feet; can you prioritise and reprioritise; can you see the big picture?). So, go ahead and decode your interviewer/s and then make all the right responses that'll appeal to that personality type.