The Personality of the Technical Interviewer
Technical interviewers come in all flavors: male, female, gregarious, reserved, friendly, rude, smiling and sour-faced. The tactics that work in your favor with one interviewer may do you in with another.
A good example of when it's important to gauge your interviewer's personality type and mood is when you consider using humor in answering questions. Some of us (yes, I'm one of them) have a tendency to want to interject a little humor wherever the opportunity presents itself. If this comes naturally to you (and if it doesn't, don't try to force it), this can be a great technique for disarming the interviewer, and making yourself appear to be confident and easy to get along with. But that's only true if the interviewer: a) appreciates humor, and b) is in the mood for it at the time.
Be Politically Correct
It also goes without saying that any use of humor must be of a type that's non-offensive. Lawyer jokes are popular, but your interviewer's spouse (or mother!) might be an attorney and this could be a pet peeve of his/hers. Microsoft-bashing jokes might build a bond with an interviewer who views Redmond as the seat of the Evil Empire, but may not seem funny at all to one who has made a fortune off Bill Gates' products.
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Watch For Non-Verbal Clues
Take your cue from the body language, facial expression and voice tone of the interviewer. The study of kinesthetics has shown us that human communication is more dependent on these non-verbal factors than on words to convey a person's real meaning. In fact, it's generally accepted that as much as 80% of the message is communicated through gestures and other non-verbals. If your interviewer appears to be solemn or sour, you're probably better off with a brisk, competent "all business" approach. If the interviewer is full of smiles and charm, a lighter demeanor on your part may be more appropriate.
Reconnoiter the Joint
Job search pros - those who have really made an art of it - will research not only the company to which they're applying, but the interviewer too (if possible) before ever setting foot into the interviewer's domain. You'd be surprised how many IT people have their resume posted someplace on the web. If you can find out something about your interviewer personally, such as hobbies and interests, where he/she went to college, previous employment, etc., it will help you to make the all-important introductory small talk that sets the tone for the interview. It may also help you avoid making major gaffes such as telling an Aggie joke to a graduate of Texas A&M.
The more you know about your interviewer, the better. Regardless of the interviewer, though, you'll need to be prepared for the types of questions that will be asked. We will address that on the next page