How to Ace Your Interview – No Matter Their Style

Erin Kennedy, MCD, CMRW, CPRW, CERW, CEMC, is a Certified Professional Resume Writer/Career Consultant, and the President of Professional Resume Services, named one of Forbes “Top 100 Career Websites”.

Interviewing is stressful – no doubt. You never know what you will meet on the other side of that door or zoom conference. Wouldn’t it be great if you could get a glimpse into the personality of the interviewer before you met them?

Even though you won’t know in advance, here are some personalities you may meet, and the best part – how you should respond once you know who is asking the questions.

The Multitasker

Their Actions – This style is mentally “out to lunch.” Maybe they just received a big project, don’t really want to be involved in the interview, or are unprepared. They may be checking emails, scrolling on their phone, not making eye contact, or not giving you any verbal cues they are even hearing your answers.

Your Response – Don’t take it personally or get distracted. Be friendly, confident, and keep it simple. If it seems appropriate, you could offer to reschedule to a better time for them. Otherwise, answer their questions and focus on the interview follow-up.

The Best Friend

Their Actions – This style is overly friendly. They smile, tell you to relax, talk too much, joke around, and tell you more about themselves than you want to know. They can put you at ease, which could be a problem. You may end up telling them information better left to YOUR best friend.

Your Response – Remember, you ARE in an interview! You don’t have to be rigid, but be friendly AND professional. Engage enthusiastically in the conversation, looking for opportunities to relate the conversation to your job qualifications. Keep looking for openings to ask questions about the company and duties.

The Interrogator

Their Actions – This style is like a machine gun, firing question after question. They aren’t interested in a conversation as much as they want to either get this over with, or find out if you are lying on your resume. They also aren’t interested in making friends, possibly coming across as intimidating. Of course, this may be on purpose.

Your Response – Since you won’t get much feedback, just remain calm, don’t react, and carry on. They may want to see how you handle stress, so being prepared will pay off. Don’t assume their directness means they don’t like you or you aren’t doing well. It’s ok to take your time in answering questions. Follow the pace of the interview. If you have opportunity to expand on your answers, do so.

The Rule Follower

Their Actions – This style is “cookie cutter.” They will ask the traditional questions you would expect, and they will ask the exact same questions to every candidate. They may be uncomfortable with the process, or it may help them be more objective. They probably find comfort in following the pattern.

Your Response – Be careful about derailing them from their pattern. This could take them out of their comfort zone and leave a bad impression. However, you may see an opening to start a dialogue, so be ready.

The Inappropriate One

Their Actions – This style steps over the limits of acceptable behavior. It could be asking questions that are illegal to ask, such as questions about age, marital status, religion, etc. It could be someone telling personal stories that are best reserved for their therapist or telling racist or inappropriate jokes. They may not even know they have stepped over the boundary.

Your Response – If the questions are illegal to ask in an interview, you can gently state you would prefer to stick to standard work-related topics or ask how these questions relate to the duties for the position. If they are telling stories or jokes that are inappropriate, realize you don’t have to address any of it. Try and steer the conversation back to the job requirements or your qualifications. If nothing is working, get out ASAP.

The Comedian

Their Actions – This style loves to be funny, and sometimes they really are. They also have a joke ready for any situation, which could include your answers. You could receive sarcastic comments or funny asides. It can be confusing, and you aren’t really sure what is part of the interview.

Your Response – They may have already decided you are a great fit from your resume and are trying to determine your personality fit to the company culture. If you are comfortable with this style of working, it could be a great fit. If not, it’s good to know now that this may not be the place for you.

job interview

As you get ready for your interview, know your resume, prepare answers to commonly asked questions in advance, and know your value. No matter who you meet at your interview, your job is to prepare!


The Statue

Their Actions – This style has a poker face. You get absolutely no feedback to your responses. This can be daunting because you won’t have any idea if it’s going well or not. Often times, they do this to weed out the weak candidates. 

Your Response – Don’t focus on trying to “break” them. It will take your attention off the goal, which is to present yourself as a friendly, professional, and highly competent individual who is the best qualified for the position. Instead, stay composed and give strong, relevant examples in answer to their questions.

The Gift for Gab

Their Actions – This style may forget their purpose is to get YOU to talk, so they fill the space with talking. They may be genuinely friendly and hope to put you at ease. But it can make it difficult to get a word in edgewise.

Your Response – At first, you may feel relieved to have them do the talking. But it can cause you to let your guard down and become too “comfortable.” Remember to remain professional and be friendly, as these qualities will be appreciated by this personality type. Though it may be difficult to find opportunities to share information, when they do ask questions, answer skillfully.

The Oddball

Their Actions – This style is easy to identify it when you see it. We all have encountered weird people, but forget that most of them have jobs. If you are interviewed by one of them, they may ask off the wall questions such as, “If you could be a Disney character, which one would you be and why?” They may have “interesting” art or attire.

Your Response – Unless the weirdness turns into creepiness, just focus on the questions and ignore the rest. As long as they are being professional and staying engaged in the interview, do your best to focus on your goals for the interview. The fact that they are clipping their nails or solving a Rubik’s cube isn’t relevant.

The Novice

Their Actions – This style can be shocking. We expect our interviewers to have experience and be professional, but everyone who interviews had a first time. They may be nervous, unprepared, disorganized, or unprofessional. They may even TELL you this is their first interview. You may even ask them questions about the position or the company that they are unable to answer because of their lack of experience.

Your Response – This can throw you off, or make you think you have the upper hand. Don’t go there. Don’t talk about their lack of experience, even if they do. Remain calm and professional, even if they aren’t able to answer all your questions. Stick to your talking points and present your best self. They will remember your kindness and patience with them.

The No-Nonsense

Their Actions – This style won’t spare your feelings. They take filling the position seriously and won’t waste your time or theirs. They ask tough questions about your value to their organization. They will be honest. They may tell you in the interview you aren’t the right fit for the company or don’t have the qualifications.

Your Response – Brace yourself and don’t expect much feedback or smiles. Don’t react negatively to their honest comments, but prove them wrong. Give them examples of why you are the right fit and share your experiences and accomplishments that show you are a qualified candidate. They won’t respect someone who doesn’t stand up for themselves.

The Mafia

Their Actions – This style is like walking into a board room filled with sets of intimidating eyes staring at you. These kinds of group interviews can certainly be an ordeal, and they are meant to be. They usually want to see how you handle yourself; if you can handle the pressure situation. You will, no doubt, have many of the previous interview styles mentioned in this room.

Your Response – First, stay relaxed. There will be many people asking questions, maybe even interrupting each other. So, the calmer you are, the more in control you will feel. Remember, you can’t please everyone, so identify those in the room who seems to be connecting with you. Look for those responding with eye contact and nodding to your responses and focus on them.

As you get ready for your interview, know your resume, prepare answers to commonly asked questions in advance, and know your value. No matter who you meet at your interview, your job is to prepare!

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