How To Deal With the 5 Types of Interviewers on Data Science Interviews

interview tips Feb 08, 2023

When you start doing interviews, you will encounter interviewers with different styles.

Unfortunately, some of them are not going to be great. They may grill you, give you misleading feedback, or give you very little feedback.

No matter if they are good or bad though, interviews play an important role in deciding whether or not you get a job. That’s why it’s crucial to know how to deal with different interviewers.

In this post, I will share with you 5 general types of interviewers and how to deal with them.

The “What Do You Think” Interviewer

This interviewer does not seem to like answering your questions. You’ve asked clarifying questions, but they only respond with “What do you think?”

This type of interviewer is frustrating because you never really get any feedback. In interviews with open-ended questions, it can be especially difficult to figure out what direction you need to go in with this type of interviewer.

So how do you get the information you need when the interviewer is being difficult?

Dealing with the “What Do You Think” Interviewer

There are 2 methods you can try for dealing with this interviewer:

  • Ask yes or no questions. If you ask questions like “Does this make sense?” and “Is there anything I could explain more?”, it’s less likely for the interviewer to still say “What do you think?”
  • Give the interviewer options. Phrase things like “Here are a few reasons that cause the problem: First… second… and third… Which one would you like me to explore more?”

If the interviewer continues to say “What do you think?”, the best thing you can do is make sure to communicate as clearly as possible. Instead of asking clarifying questions, you may need to explain your assumptions and then confirm with the interviewer by saying things like “Correct me if I’m wrong.”

The “This Is Not What I Expected” Interviewer

This type of interviewer usually gives you some positive feedback such as “OK, continue” through most of the interview. But then, after you've already used a good bit of time, they suddenly say: “This is not what I expected” or “I was expecting something else.”

It could be that the interviewer has lost focus or that they simply misunderstood your points. Whatever the reason, when this happens, it can feel like the rug has been pulled out from under you, which can be hard to recover from, but it is possible.

Dealing with the “This Is Not What I Expected” Interviewer

There are 3 steps for dealing with this situation:

  1. Ask for feedback and listen. Figure out what part is not expected and do your best to address it.
  2. Mention other ideas. Try out other ideas if you have them but let the interviewer confirm before diving into anything.
  3. Ask for clarification. Take a step back and make sure you understood the question.

Preventing the “This Is Not What I Expected”

It’s wonderful if you can recover in this situation, but it’s even better if it doesn’t happen in the first place.

To prevent this, make sure you outline and confirm the big picture of your ideas with the interviewer before going into the details.

The “They Seem Nice” Interviewer

This interviewer seems great! They appear engaged and never really say anything negative during the interview. However, you then find out that you failed the interview and you have no idea why.

What’s going on, and how do you deal with it?

Dealing with the “They Seem Nice” Interviewer

Beware of interviewers that seem too agreeable or only give positive feedback!

If the interviewer is not pushing you at any point to consider other angles on a problem or dive deeper into particular aspects, it’s probably not because your answers are absolutely perfect. They may just be an interviewer who provides little feedback while holding you to a high standard.

If you have this type of interviewer, you need to confirm whether the interviewer wants anything more from you on each question. Don’t let the interviewer think that your answer is lacking simply because you didn’t confirm whether you had covered everything they want to hear.

The “Always Cutting You Off” Interviewer

This type of interviewer can be especially frustrating. They interrupt you with lots of follow-up questions often to purposely destructure you and see how you handle stress. It can feel like you are getting grilled.

Dealing with the “Always Cutting You Off Interviewer”

The first thing to remember if you have this type of interviewer is not to panic. If you prepared well, you can answer follow-up questions but only if you stay calm.

Besides staying calm, here are some steps for dealing with sudden follow-up questions.

  1. Focus on the follow-up questions from the interviewer.
  2. Ask for time to think.
  3. Return to the original question.
  4. Make notes to find your place.

While this type of interviewer is challenging, that is not necessarily bad. Doing well with this interviewer can get you a very strong yes.

The Ideal Interviewer

Maybe the above four types of interviewers have scared you a bit. That’s why I want to take the time to go over what an ideal interviewer looks like.

Ideal interviewers answer your clarifying questions and provide feedback. They may challenge you or ask what you think to test your problem-solving process, but they will also let you know if your answers make sense.

In short, the ideal interviewer communicates clearly.

Final Thoughts

I hope you are more confident about facing different interviewers! Remember that overall the key to a good interview is to interact with the interviewer. Use the tips in this blog to have a dialogue with your interviewer and impress them.

Want to know more? Check out the longer version of this post here.

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