Rather than offer a generic opinion on how YOU should act during an interview, let’s look at the various personalities and attitudes that different people actually portray during a job interview. Then using common sense, you can figure out how to use this information to help you improve your ability as an interviewee; and if you have any questions, you can email me at careerpointkenya at gmail dot com and I will try and help you as best I can.
So let’s have some fun and look at the different personalities and how they may be perceived.
The Desperados – You know the pressure you are under and how desperately you need this job and the
income it offers. However you must control your emotions during an interview. When I interviewed candidates as a HR consultant, I was turned off by the Desperados and usually did not hire them or pass them on to the next level. And how do I identify a Desperado? Some make it easy by coming right out and asking for the job more than once and telling me how wonderful getting this position would be for them! Most however show their desperation in subtler ways that a trained professional can pick up on such as body language, extreme nervousness, their cadence and tone of voice, the way they answer questions, and especially from the timing and relevance of the questions they ask. The biggest tell is a candidate focusing on the money and benefits more than on learning about the company and the job they are interviewing for.
The Actors– Whereas it is helpful to polish up on your acting skills for an interview, there is no substitute to showing your true colors. In other words don’t pretend to be someone you are not. If you’re not innovative don’t give the impression you are. The same holds true for any character trait or skill set an employer places great value on. If you do not feel you will perform well under certain circumstances or work conditions such being a small cog in a big machine, working independently or with limited supervision, being asked to lead or mentor others, or if the job requires extended travel, don’t hide or mask these feeling because this is what you think the interviewer wants to hear. Sooner or later the truth will come out. On the other hand actors spend much more time rehearsing their role than they do on stage. Emulating an actor in order to deliver your lines smoothly, get your timing down, control your emotions and body language, and have someone critique your performance are all positive things you should do to
prepare for an interview.
Debaters– The purpose of most interviews is to have the interviewer ask the questions and the interviewee responds. You may want to ask for clarification of a point before you offer an answer, this is Ok. What I and most interviewers find most disconcerting are people who answer our questions with a question of their own. It is true that an interview is a two-way conversation, but it is not a debate and there are no rules that demand equal time. This is especially true on the first or initial interview. The golden rule is to stay on point and talk about what is important to the person asking the questions and not offer useless information. Think of an interview like this, the interviewee is the host and you are his or her guest. Their job is to ask the questions and your job is to answer them. As you go further into the interview process the rules will change slightly and there is more room for give and take. But always try to save questions for the end, and tell the interviewer “I have a question about this,
but it can wait until the end of the interview.” If they want to hear the question now they will ask you what it is, if not they will know that there is something that needs to be discussed and will leave some extra time at the end of the interview for this question.
The Jokers– Some people try and mask their nervousness, anxiety or lack of confidence with a prepared joke or two or some other attempt at humor to begin an interview, and with some people act this way all the time. With very few exceptions being a comedian is not a great idea on an interview. You can lighten up the mood just as easily with a firm handshake and a warm smile, and by looking around the office and sizing up the interviewer to find a way to offer a sincere compliment or find something of mutual interest that can be used as an ice-breaker and to set a positive tone.
The Serious Candidate. While some people are flippant and do not take an interview seriously there are many people who are serious, never smile, over analyze every move, and place too much importance on the outcome of an interview before it even begins. They sit in the waiting room mulling theoretical questions and answers as if their life
depended on it, and by the time they enter the interviewer’s office they are wound up tight like a spinning top. If this is you try to keep in mind a cardinal rule of interviewing – avoid getting too high (literally and physically) or too low before, during and after an interview. Just relax and be yourself; and no matter what the outcome, remember it is just a job interview it’s not the end of the world.
Miss Congeniality. This person is always smiling; there is nothing she or he can’t do, and nothing that will turn them off. This is a great attitude as long as you don’t take it too far on an interview because you may be looked as being a phony, or naïve and these are not the type of personality traits most employers desire. So keep the smile but take a more professional approach; and leave the laughs and the giggles in the waiting room.
The Arrogant Bossy Types – I find this attitude more from interviewers in this buyer’s market, but there are some candidates who still act superior and are full of themselves on an interview. This often occurs with professionals and executives who are interviewing for positions and in companies that they deem are be
low what they are accustomed to; when they interview with someone who has less experience than they do, or are interviewed by someone who in better times would be reporting to them, not vice versa. There are ways to strut your stuff, being arrogant is not one
of them. Even if the interviewer is condescending to you, it is important not to act in kind and sink to their level.
The Casual Types– You come to the interview five minutes late, make up a lame excuse why, and proceed to take off your coat, sit before the interviewer sits, and act like you’re the King of his castle. Being casual and comfortable in an interview is an art form not many people have perfected. Unless you are a veteran at interviewing others, I suggest you begin the interview acting by professionally and take your cues on how to act from the person on the other side of the desk.
The Chatterboxes – Some people love to hear the sound of their own voice, lecture others, show off their subject knowledge, and prove to you that they are great communicators. The first two are definite no-no’s in an interview. The next two need to be controlled. What an interviewee needs to understand is an interview is like a time bomb and you don’t know how long it will take for the bomb to explode or be disarmed. Going in you don’t know how much time the person on the other side of the desk will allow you to get your message across, so every minute counts and the first five minutes count the most.
This is when interviewers determine if you are worth getting to know or if you are relegated to a perfunctory, courtesy interview. I find chatty people are nice and qualified but they waste my time because they fail to understand what information is important to a decision maker and what is not.
These are not the type of people you want to be around day to day. Another thing I found is people who come into an interview unprepared are often chatterboxes and will try and compensate by rambling on until they arrived at the point they want to make; and being prepared is high up on the list of things I look for in candidates during an interview.
Now that we discussed these different personality profiles, and there are more, let me tell you that most people are not one but a combination of many. I suggest you go over this article with someone who knows you and can tell you which profiles define you the most, and then work on making improvement from there.
Ben Thairu is a HR Consultant based in Nairobi. At Career Point we welcome articles touching on jobs and careers. Write to us at careerpointkenya at gmail dot com.