Monday, July 12, 2004

Profile of an Interviewer

I've been thinking of changing employers, and to that end I registered today with an employment agency. I don't find agencies particularly useful, but this one was free (for job-seekers) so I figured I'd give it a shot. The experience got me thinking about job interviews, and about the different kinds of interviewers I have met. I'll list 'em, and the ways to deal with them.

The Sphinx: This interviewer asks you a question, and then stares at you expressionlessly even after you've finished your answer and the silence spins out. Don't be fooled into filling that silence with more information, because that's just what she wants. By maintaining a stony silence, the Sphinx is hoping you'll volunteer something you shouldn't. Therefore, when you've sufficiently answered her question, simply return her stare and live with the silence, and let her speak first. Trust works.

The Bumbler: This interviewer really doesn't know how to conduct an interview, and he sort of blunders his way along, sometimes asking you questions, sometimes talking of irrelevant things. Beware losing your focus, which is easy to do when the Bumbler has the stage. Since the Bumbler has zero control over the interview, you can use his ineptness to your advantage by politely taking control yourself.

The Chatterbox: Similar to the Bumbler, the Chatterbox isn't the best interviewer. She talks on and on about everything and anything even tangentially related to the job, whether or not you need to hear it. However, since the Chatterbox's loquacity knows no bounds, you can sometimes find out more about the job and the company than she meant to reveal. Ask leading questions and she'll give you ten times the answer. Since more information means you can make a better choice, the Chatterbox is definitely a boon to the skilled interviewee.

The Adversary: Since this is the most dangerous interviewer of all, I'll spend more time on this one. The Adversary regards you as a potential enemy, and he will do everything in his power to trip you up or twist your words into something negative. If you say you are skilled at working independently, he'll ask if that means you have a problem with authority. If you point out your extensive experience, he'll wonder if that means you're too set in your ways and open to new ideas and methods. In short, the Adversary is out to get you.

There are ways to deal with the Adversary, however, and none of them involve telling him to kiss your ass. Try these:

1) Your words belong to you. You know what you said and what you meant, and if he tries to twist either one, politely and firmly correct him. If he persists, keep politely correcting him, as many times as it takes.

2) Don't get riled up. The Adversary wants to rattle you into making a mistake, but you can cheat his hope by staying cool and collected. Take a deep breath between his question and your answer, and speak slowly and carefully. It's hard to argue with someone who's upbeat and confident, and if you are both of those it will be hard for the Adversary to provoke you.

3) Shut your pie-hole. The Adversary is ready to pounce upon any misstep, so if you keep your answers short and your comments spare, he'll have less room to prowl. Once you answer a question, shut your mouth, and if he wants to know more, he'll ask.

Hopefully, this has been instructive. If not, too bad!


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