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How to Recognize and Adapt to Your Interviewer's Style

February 27th, 2013

By: Karen Colligan

Interview StyleIn my last blog - Want to Ace That Interview? Make Time to Prepare! - I gave you some tips on preparing for your interview. Now that you’ve done your research, practiced your elevator pitch, and prepared your answers and questions, it’s time to gear up for the actual “event.”  One of the keys to succeeding in that event is to develop a connection with your interviewer. This goes beyond the small talk at the beginning of the interview to build rapport. It involves recognizing their communication style, and then adapting your own style so they will hear you throughout the entire interview.  If you have a contact within the company, you may be able to find out a little about your interviewer’s style in advance. If not, here are some clues you can look for to help you “speed read” your interviewer and adapt accordingly.

For simplicity sake, we’ll talk about four different styles. Let’s call them A, B, C and D. Most people are a combination, but they’ll have some dominant characteristics, which are the clues below.

Style A is detailed oriented, likes structure and process, and values practical and evidence-based information.

Clues: Reserved, brief handshake, formal demeanor, measured tone, tidy and well-organized office.

How to adapt: Minimize small talk, be prepared with facts and figures to back up your achievements, highlight your credentials, present information in a logical sequence.

Style B engages on a personal level, is a good listener, prefers a harmonious environment.

Clues: Makes good eye contact, warm and welcoming, soft-spoken, family pictures / plants in office.

How to adapt: Engage in some introductory small talk, use a softer tone, connect through sincere eye contact, discuss how your values align with those of the company.

Style C is creative and energetic, sociable, and prefers big-picture thinking over too many details.

Clues: Warm handshake, animated greeting, changes topics quickly, somewhat disorganized workspace.

How to adapt: Convey energy, provide context when discussing your achievements, focus on presenting big-picture results versus every detail, keep responses brief and be prepared to switch topics quickly.

Style D is confident, decisive and focused on results. They are brief and purposeful in communication.

Clues: Firm handshake, good posture, confident demeanor, functional, uncluttered workspace.

How to adapt: Answer each question fully but briefly, don’t waffle, convey confidence, make direct eye contact, be prepared to be challenged.

Want to learn more about your style and how to recognize and adapt to others? Check out the PeopleThink assessments.

Till next time,


Career, Communication, Interviewing, Job search

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