Your Browser Is Out of Date :(

Some sections of this website won’t display properly in your browser.
For the best experience, please update to one of the newer options below.



9 Types of People You’ll Interview (and How to Handle Them)

For years, experts have been arguing that job interviews are worthless. Many employers choose the wrong person simply because they favor a personable candidate over a qualified one.

When faced with a less-than-perfect interviewee, you may be tempted to write them off.

Not so fast.

Instead, try a different approach to get the most out of their interview. Here are 16 types of candidates you’ll meet at the interview table… and how to optimize your approach.

1. The Anxious Applicant

Who they are:

They’re nervous as heck and it shows. With sweaty hands and stammering answers, they seem like they might have a panic attack right there in front of you. But underneath all the anxiety might be a great candidate.

How to optimize the interview:

Cut the tension by putting them at ease and allowing them to get into their comfort zone. Take a detour and ask a few personal questions like “What’s a TV show you never miss?” or “What’s the best vacation you’ve ever had?” or “What’s one of your all-time favorite movies?”

2. The Chatty Cathy

Who they are:

This interviewee goes on and on and on, never pausing to take a breath. They might be nervous, lack self-awareness, feel compelled to fill the silence… or maybe they’re just super passionate about their work.

How to optimize the interview:

They may need you to provide explicit limits. Move into a “lightning round” of questions, and tell the candidate to keep their answers to 30 or 60 seconds.

3. The Silent Type

Who they are:

Quiet voice. One word answers.

How to optimize the interview:

Bring them out of their shell with an unexpected change of environment. Take them on an impromptu tour of your workspace, or bring them to the kitchen for a cup of coffee. This may be all they need to open up.

4. The Blame-Gamer

Who they are:

Every anecdote is filled with finger-pointing. Failures were not their fault, everyone on their team was the worst, and they were the only competent person at their job…at least, in their mind.

How to optimize their interview:

Force them into a different mindset. Ask “What was the best quality of your previous supervisor?” or “What’s an important lesson you learned from a previous colleague?” (If they still end up blame-gaming, watch out.)

5. The Best Friend

Who they are:

This candidate is super friendly and has a great personality. Forget the job, you want them to be your best friend. They seem like so much fun!

How to optimize the interview:

Get yourself in check! Of course, you want to work with someone who could be your friend, but that’s not the main criteria you’re looking for. Refocus the interview away from your common interests and back to business.

6. The Braggart

Who they are:

They take personal credit for every success they’ve ever had. Forget luck, timing, hard work, or the contributions of their teammates. They think they’re the best thing since sliced bread.

How to optimize:

They might think they have to majorly impress you with fancy successes, so show that you value self-awareness and personal growth more. Ask them “What’s a challenge you had to overcome?” or “Tell me how you handled a workplace failure” or “Tell me what you learned from a project that didn’t go the way you wanted.”

7. The Yes Person

Who they are:

They couldn’t agree with you more! Everything you say is greeted with smiles and nods. You couldn’t get them to disagree with you if you tried.

How to optimize their interview:

They can’t be an appeaser forever, and they’re likely to burn out quickly with that mindset. Find out if there’s more behind the “Yes” with questions like: “What qualities do you find frustrating in a supervisor?” and “Tell me about a time you voiced disagreement with your team.”

8. The Interview Smooth Operator

Who they are:

This candidate has all the right answers to every question, and a narrative to explain every red flag. A gap on their resume? They have the perfect reason why. Fired from last two jobs? There’s a very convincing story behind it. They’re suspiciously smooth.

How to optimize the interview:

Are they well prepared or a total psychopath? It might be hard to tell. Find out if they can walk the walk and not just talk the talk—give them a surprise task to test their skills. It will jolt them out of their comfort zone.

9. The “Just Okay” Interviewee

Who they are:

The majority of interviewees you meet will fall into this category. They don’t knock your socks off, but they’re not bad, either.

How to optimize the interview:

Adjust your own expectations. Interviews aren’t everything—and this person might be just what your team needs. Don’t let an interview that’s “just okay” diminish the actual facts about them—their skills, experience and track record of success.

Like what you’re reading? Sign up to get our best career advice and job search tips.