In the weeks and days leading up to a graduate job interview, you might have researched the employer, practised your answers to likely questions and ironed your best shirt and blazer. For all the preparation you’ve done, though, you might find that your mind is focused on one thing only when you step through the door to your interview: the interviewer. What’s their first impression of you? Are you answering their questions the way they want you to? It can be hard to prepare for this when you don’t know your interviewer until you meet them on the day. So, we have put together a list of the eight most common types of interviewer out there and how to approach them.
1. The friendly interviewer
They smile at you from the moment you walk in, compliment you on your answers and do everything they can to make sure you feel like everything is going well. You might think they’re going to try to catch you out, but the chances are they aren’t. Just be careful they don’t make you feel too comfortable. It’s important to maintain a professional demeanour, rather than talking to the interviewer as you might to a friend. A friendly interviewer is often a good sign that the organisation encourages supportive behaviour; however, you should make the most of any opportunities to interact with other employees to see if this is the case across the board.
2. The rude interviewer
While this is uncommon, you might get an interviewer who interrupts you or seems unimpressed by your responses. Just try to stay calm, as this may be how the interviewer acts with all interviewees rather than an indication of your performance. Maintaining a professional demeanour will show that you can handle pressure. Don’t be put off from asking for clarification when you need it and asking questions at the end of the interview. It’s also important that you remain polite, rather than mirroring the interviewer’s behaviour. If you feel strongly that they have behaved inappropriately, speak to HR afterwards.
3. The scribbler
As if you weren’t self-aware enough already, the interviewer seems to take note of your every word and gesture. Try to think of it as encouraging that they are making an effort to remember everything you say, but don’t pay as close attention to their behaviour as they do to yours. If you take note of when they start scribbling more intensely, you might get distracted or start to edit your answers in your head according to what they seem to like. It’s a better idea to just answer the way you would with any other interviewer – spontaneously changing your responses can make your communication less coherent and confident.
4. The timid interviewer
This kind of interviewer is naturally quiet or even shy. It might even be that they’re a fairly new interviewer and are still finding their feet. Some interviewees might find that this makes them act unconfidently as a response, in which case it is important to resist this urge, carry on as normal and try to give well-thought-out responses in a confident way. Others might become more assertive because they think that the other person isn’t in total control. If so, remember that the interviewer is still the decision-maker and is not likely to be impressed by a seemingly arrogant interviewee.
5. The silent interviewer
They ask you a question, listen to your answer… and then there’s silence. This might be a way of making sure you’re not interrupted; some interviewees need a few extra seconds to come up with anything they might want to add. Try not to feel pressured to respond to long pauses by adding unnecessary things to your answer as this could confuse or detract attention from an otherwise strong response. If you’ve made your point, just smile and wait for the next question. If they’re looking for more information, they’ll ask.
6. The inquisitive interviewer
Every time you think you’ve answered a question perfectly, there is a follow-up question. But why would you solve the theoretical problem in this way? If the solution you proposed doesn’t work out, what do you do then? The worst thing you can do is get impatient or assume that they’re asking more questions because your first answer wasn’t good enough. The interviewer is trying to get an idea of how you think and solve problems, so remain calm and ask for clarifications if you need them. If you need to pause for a moment to think, that’s OK.
7. The unprepared interviewer
They ask questions that are clearly improvised to help them remember your profile, refer to things on your CV that aren’t there, or might not even seem entirely sure what position you’re applying for. The best way to approach this type of interviewer is to give detailed answers to their questions about you, relating your experiences and attributes to the job. Don’t let their chaos rub off on you or make you flustered. If you find it’s putting you off the job, don’t write off the company just yet based on one person. Remain focused on the task at hand – answering their questions. When the interview is over it’s your call what to make of this; if you get the chance, talking to other employees and observing the working environment might give you an idea of whether disorganisation is a company-wide issue, or whether you can put it down to the interviewer as an individual.
8. The two-headed interviewer (panel interviews)
You might be met by two, three or four pairs of eyes rather than one when you walk through the door. This might be daunting but try to remember that panel interviews are often fairer as consensus can overrule personal preference. It’s particularly important not to read too much into the faces in front of you in this situation, as it will be distracting to do this with several people at once. Many interviewers will let you know beforehand if you’ll be interviewed by more than one person, so you have plenty of time to prepare for this experience if it’s relevant to you. Start by reading our advice on how to face more than one interviewer.
What you need to remember about all types of interviewers
There’s one thing to remember about all interviewers: you are not a mind reader. For the most part, you can’t know how the interview is going based on the interviewer’s behaviour. Remember that what you can know is what questions they’re asking you, and that what you should be thinking about is how to match their questions with your competencies, strengths and skills. You can’t control the type of interviewer you’re faced with, but you can control what type of interviewee you are.
To prepare for interviews with the right focus, have a browse through our ‘Tricky job interview questions’ section.