8 Hiring Personalities and How to Deal with Them

by Salary.com Staff - Original publish date: January 18, 2012

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...

Neurotic Nick

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.

Neutralizing Nick

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.

Gushing Gloria

Gloria is the type of person who will greet every interviewee with effervescent delight even immediately after having a wisdom tooth pulled.

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 blows!

Indifferent Dan

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 drop.

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.

Harried Harry

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!

Sensible Sarah

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 you?

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 it now.

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!"

Accepting Adam

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.

I'm-the-Boss Irma

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 far.

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 spades.

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?