Stereotyping people is never a good idea since we are each undeniably unique. But when the roles some recruiters and hiring managers play are rehearsed to the point that the interviewer sitting across from you becomes a caricature, what is a poor job seeker to do?
Recognizing personality "types" early on and handling them properly can make all the difference when it comes to getting what you want, if not what you deserve. Read on...
Nick is a guy who asserts himself and his opinions at work because he is an emotional basket case. Insisting that every candidate fit an exact profile saves Nick from having to exercise judgment when someone comes along who may break the mold.
Why? Because Nick fears being judged himself and he fears the changes that might bring about. People who represent or force change make Nick nervous.
Remember, Nick is irrational. Trying to reason with him is
pointless. Instead, acknowledge where you may "fall short" and what
you intend to do about it -- work harder, work smarter, work under
closer supervision, whatever.
Then ask if he had to choose between someone who meets his
exacting requirements and someone who can willingly do the job and
better, who would he pick and why? Be ready to make your case. Nick
doesn't do callbacks.
Gloria is the type of person who will greet every interviewee with
effervescent delight even immediately after having a wisdom tooth
The job Gloria is recruiting for is the best job on earth and
you are the best candidate to do it, no doubt! But watch out, Gloria is
a sea-nymph. She would rather beguile you into a job you'll end up
hating than tell you up front, "It is what it is."
Gently letting Gloria down
There is little to be gained in calling Gloria out unless you want
legitimize for your significant other the reasons for not getting the
job. Rather, tell Gloria it sounds too good to be true and tease out of
her why she feels the need to effuse so.
Based on what you find, make your decision. If you accept the
job, remember no one can be a gusher 24/7. When Gloria blows, she
It is hard to say what makes someone apathetic to the point that an
interview falls flat even before you’ve been invited to sit. Whatever
the reason, Dan is hard to read because anything that is percolating
behind the glazed look on his face could well have dripped its last
But as long as Dan is breathing you have as good a chance as
any of landing this job. Assuming you still want it that is.
Getting Dan to Decide
You must get Dan to move from a neutral position if you want to
progress. With little to lose you might be up front and ask why Dan
seems so distant -- is it you? Does he despise subordinates or simply
hate his job?
Alternatively, gently nudge Dan forward by asking questions
that get him to reference the things he cares about. If what he cares
about turns out to be little or nothing, move on.
Harry's boundless energy doesn't come from excitement but from being
hopelessly distracted. Because Harry needs to be getting on with
whatever it is that your interview has distracted him from, he views you
as a disruptive pain-in-the-you-know-what.
As a result Harry cannot evaluate you on your qualifications
or potential. Rather, he blames you for a condition he has suffered
from long before you came to visit.
Helping Harry cope
Defuse the situation by letting Harry know that your being there is
an obvious distraction, not what you want. Suggest a better time to
meet. Once agreed, ask what you can do to help.
After all, the "preoccupation" had better be something more
important than meeting you, right? Who better qualified to help then
than you, right here, and right now? Think of this as being an
on-the-job audition. Don't flunk it!
Sarah is the epitome of a professional at work. She is well-groomed,
well-mannered, well-prepared and on time. Her interview questions are
thoughtfully prepared, her note taking precise.
Sarah is all about business, getting the job done and
dispatching you back onto the streets where you belong. After all, if
you were sensible you'd already have a job and be as content as Sarah.
And if you're not sensible like Sarah is, then what the Dickens are
Sucking up to Sarah
It would be easy to dismiss Sarah as narrow-minded and prejudiced,
but winning her over might be easier than you think.
If your demeanor is professional, meaning well-groomed,
prepared, on-time, precise in your note taking and so on, you’ll be
mirroring Sarah enough for her to see more of her sensible self in you
than a jobseeker she would otherwise relegate to pounding the pavement.
Don’t crack any jokes and you’ll be fine.
Mia shows up 30 minutes late for an interview you traipsed across town
in the rush hour for. Mia asks that you forgive her and reschedule. How
could you deny Mia forgiveness? And you do want this job, don’t you?
At the rescheduled time Mia doesn’t show up at all. Mia doesn’t return
phone calls, Mia doesn’t answer emails. No one knows where Mia is or how
Mia can be reached. Mia is MIA.
Miss Mia no more
What happened to Mia is anyone's guess. The problem is we imagine
things that have no basis in fact. Most likely, Mia is plain forgetful
or downright rude. But what if Mia has resigned, dropped dead or been
abducted by aliens? What should you do? Whatever it is, go ahead and do
Adam the Apologist
Adam's watch word is…you guessed it: "Sorry!" "Sorry" for being late
for the conference call; "Sorry" for not answering your questions
sooner; "Sorry" for not getting you in to see the CFO before her
10-week trip to Asia; "Sorry" for not getting an offer letter out;
"Sorry, sorry, sorry!"
Rarely is whatever Adam apologizing for something Adam can do
anything about. Because Adam is effectively a go-between, what is out
of Adam's control in the beginning is likely to stay that way through
the very end.
Express your understanding and appreciation but don't wait on
Adam for anything more. Instead, establish direct contact with the
powers that be using Adam as your intercessor. If Adam says
"Sorry" now, he'll have good cause.
Irma wants you to understand from the get-go that she is, well let's
say, "top dog." As if to make the point, your first contact is through
a last-minute stand-in who explains you're lucky to have gotten this
When you do finally come face to face with Irma it is for less
than 30 seconds, which is taken up reminding her who you are. Without
Irma's blessing of course, there is no job.
Oh, Irma, Irma, Irma!
Send a note to Irma explaining you had dinner with another "top dog"
and suggest that the qualities and attributes you most admire in that
VIP -- list them all -- are the things you imagine Irma possesses in
Suggest that if she could similarly come to know you, you
would entertain a working relationship of some sort. She may still
send her proxy but at least this time she'll know who you are!
Candidates who live in glass houses...
While stereotypes can be useful to make generalizations that help us
understand how to play the "recruiting game," the inherent danger in
underestimating those we deal with is that we trivialize the very
people we aspire to work with in the process. That's a sure-fire way
for a job seeker to get nowhere in a hurry.
...Shouldn't throw stones
It would be a mistake to think that recruiters, hiring managers and
bosses don't have stereotypes to describe job seekers and wannabes too.
Imagine being described as Karen Can't-Keep-a-Job or In-a-Rut Rickie,
or worse, something that accurately describes you in less
flattering terms than your resume would have us believe is true. Now
that's a thought, isn't it?