By the time you reach the interview part of the job search process, there are several factors beyond your control. The first two are that you’re either qualified or you’re not. Likewise for fit - you’re either a good fit or you’re not. So, that’s good news! You don’t have to worry about two key parts of getting the job. Instead, you can direct your energy and focus on the person or people conducting the interview. Here’s what to pay attention to:
People you’ll talk with:
Recruiter - Typically they’re screening you for the next interview. They will be quick, cover the basics, and come across as cheery and excited. They’re excited because they’re closer to their commission. Don’t be deceived. But do go along with it because you want to get to the next interview.
Hiring Manager - This is where the action happens. They’ll have the hard questions, but at this point, you’re ready. Remember, there is no perfect interview. Part of the finesse is your recovery. Instead of focusing on your role as the candidate, pay attention to what they’re doing and saying. This will set the stage for your next move and take the pressure off what you’re supposed to say. Remember, you’re either qualified or not, and a good fit or not. This is your chance to find out if you want to work for this company.
The head person - A lot of times, especially at smaller companies, the owner or CEO will want to meet you. In my experience, these have been some of the most interesting encounters. Typically, this person will talk about their background, share their vision, and may throw a curveball question. At this point, the hiring manager has made up her mind and just needs to get you past the key person. The goal here is to not blow it. As long as you don’t say or do anything totally “out there,” you should be fine. Bonus points if you hit it off.
Do they want to hire immediately? This is important for you to know. If they need someone right away, why? What happened with the last person (typically negative) or what’s happening to create a change (probably positive)?
What to do: Find this out before you make up your mind. In the rush to make a hiring decision, the interviewer is probably skipping key questions and may not give enough detail for you to get a good grasp of the job and work environment. Don’t fall prey to their kindness and good words. People will say anything under pressure to get what they want.
Is there a deadline? Deadlines are good. It shows there’s a plan in place.
What to do: Find out as early as possible how many people they are interviewing and what the next steps are. This gives you some control.
Is there an open time frame? This is the tricky one. Interviewing takes resources and money. Why would a company invest in the unknown? Do they have a goal in mind or are they grasping for some direction? This puts a ton of pressure on you as the candidate. Not knowing what they’re looking for can cause excess anxiety and self doubt. Remember, it’s not you. Don’t take it personally.
What to do: Ask what their goals are.
Watch out for:
Distracted: Is the interviewer not really there? No sense giving it your best when the other person won’t notice.
What to do: Find a way to reel them back into the conversation. Take a pause, ask if something is going on and see if they’d like to reschedule.
The decision maker: Are you meeting with the person who is part of the hiring decision? Establish this right away. If not, they may just be making sure they can check off the boxes and may not have a true understanding of your background or the job you’re going for.
What to do: Be sure to give detail (tell good stories) to keep the conversation flowing.
Engaged with you: If the interviewer isn’t engaged, she may have her mind made up already. You’ll know this when you get a question you’ve already answered or they talk more than you do.
What to do: Ask if they have any concerns or questions about your qualifications and go from there.
Agreeing with everything you say? The is probably a recruiter or low level hiring manager who just needs to clear you for the next interview. Or they’re short on time.
What to do: Smile and go along with it.
Actually asking you questions? When the person you’re meeting with doesn’t ask any questions is, to me, the worst kind of interview. Is it a test? Some sort of google-crazy-type interview trick? Or simply someone not prepared? It starts the interview out on a bad note.
What to do: You can bring it back by being prepared. Start with a brief summary of your research on the company and why you want to work there. Then, if that doesn’t spark a question, ask your own.
Get a read on the person interviewing you. Is there a personality disorder?
Narcissist - They like the power position and will talk of their great success. They want you to confirm this and to be like them, which ultimately makes them feel better.
What to look for: Boasting and grandiose stories, all about them.
What to do: Mention how impressive their success is and the company’s too. Give an example of something you’ve done that will add to their success. Warning: If this person is to be your boss, think twice about taking the job.
Gaslighter: A gaslighter’s favorite expression is “Don’t worry about it.” They will make you question your thoughts, memories, and the events occurring around you. Their goal is to have the upper hand and be superior, while at the same getting their needs met.
What to look for: If the interviewer dismisses your questions, ignores you, or brushes off important details, take this as a red flag.
What to do: Find out what type of person they’re looking for or what their goal is for the position and focus on how you can fulfill it.
Sociopath - Probably the most common of the bad bosses, a sociopath is known for acting without thinking about how others will be affected, only thinking of themselves, and prone to fits of anger and rage. Their drive may have put them in a position of power but it doesn’t translate to being a good manager.
What to look for: Scan for clues like erratic job history and no sign of family photos or personal belongings. During the interview, you’ll notice that they don’t really listen and talk over you. They may even say the words “I don’t care.”
What to do: If your interviewer is a sociopath, be agreeable and patient.
Psychopath - Psychopaths are super-scary-smart but lack empathy. They don’t fear the consequence of their actions. They’re crafty and will fake relationships to make it look like they care. They also tend to concern themselves with immediate needs rather than high-level concepts such as spirituality, emotional growth or work-life balance. It may not occur to them to strive for inward fulfillment, or make sense to them that anyone else would do so.
What to look for: A way to find out if your interviewer is a psychopath is to ask what books they read for professional development or who their influencers are. If the answer is none, be forewarned.
What to do: During the interview, smile, be agreeable, and follow their lead.
Pro Resume Works founder Lisa Dubino is a career coach, marketing consultant, and mom of two teenage boys.