There are those who emphatically advise job seekers to study and learn the interview styles: The Directive Interview, The Behavioral Interview, The Stress Interview, The Qualifying Interview, The This Interview, The That Interview. Their articles outline different styles, list typical questions for each and tell you how to prepare for them, as well as suggesting appropriate answers.
That’s all well and good, but there’s an obvious question that begs to be asked: how do you know which style you’ll encounter? When you phone to schedule the interview, do you ask, “Oh, by the way Mr. Interviewer, what interview style do you use? I’d like to study that one and ignore all the others.”?
Do you study all of the styles? Memorize every question that applies to each style and all the recommended answers to prepare for each one? And when the interview begins, you say to yourself, “Aha! It’s The Abstract Theoretical Look Sideways Style!” and then you know exactly what to say and do.
Unless of course you missed a style or happen to confuse them, which throws you off and causes you to bomb the interview.
Worrying about interviewing styles is ridiculous. Not only is it too much information to memorize, but it’s also a waste of time. An interview is nerve-wracking as it is without worrying about which style you’re going to encounter.
The interview is about the company and how your presence will benefit them. The preparation (with the exception of your company research) is about knowing who you are and what you’re looking for. It’s not about the company or anticipating the hiring authority’s interviewing style.
Interview preparation is an absolute, non-negotiable, unequivocal must, but preparing by learning different styles is not. That’s why your interview preparation needs to be focused on learning about yourself, listing questions to ask, and forming your answers to fundamental interview questions.
You prepare by focusing on yourself because you are seeking your perfect job. You want to have the power to decide if you want to return for another interview instead of giving that power away. You want to be in control of your future.
An interview is a sales process. The product is, essentially, you. And you need to be real about who you are, and be prepared enough to interview well. Do that properly and the style you encounter is irrelevant.
Interviewing is 85% prep and 15% common sense. Sometimes it does involve a bit of mirroring, but again, some of that is common sense. Do it without losing your individuality. For instance, if the interviewer is chatty, longer answers are okay. If the interviewer is crisp and serious, keep your answers focused and on the topic.
For instance, one interviewer might leave you thinking “What’s up with this guy?” He seems rather at a loss as to what to ask you. His questions are open ended and don’t seem to have any firm direction or point. Just use common sense. You’ve done your interview prep work – jump in and sell yourself. That doesn’t mean talk non-stop, but you don’t have to sit there and be uncomfortably silent for long periods of time either.
Ease the awkwardness. Help him out. Lots of holes? Gracefully and professionally answer some of the questions you were prepared to answer, even though he hasn’t asked them. He may not know how to interview very well.
No one – except maybe a human resources person – should have a lot of experience interviewing. If they do – they either can’t keep a job….or they can’t keep employees, so he may be an incompetent interviewer, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll be an incompetent boss. On the other hand, other styles can be a definite warning sign.
Part 2 next week: A few examples, as well as why styles are irrelevant and what’s much more important to prepare for.