Gather Intelligence to Be Effective in Interviews, Bounty Hunting

Through following a trail of links long enough that I don't remember where I started, I stumbled upon a post about interviewing. In itself, this is unremarkable. However, at the time, I happened to be watching an episode of Firefly (well, I had it on in the background). Because I am a nerd, I also had the commentary track on, and just as I read about the interviewing anecdote, Joss Whedon (writer/creator of Firefly) began relating something that eerily paralleled the interviewing "secret" in the post referenced above.

The "secret" is to know those who are interviewing you, and tailor your answers to match the type of response the person is looking for. He tells the story of how he interviewed for a principalship at a school in his district, or rather, how a friend helped him prepare:
She drew a rectangle on a piece of paper. “This is the table,” she said. She began to draw small circles around the table — 10 of them. She named each circle. She identified them as the people who would be interviewing me. This was not secret information, this was the panel that every potential principal had to face. The SECRET came next. She pointed to the first circle, “This is John Williams (not his real name). John tends to ask many data related questions. He likes brevity. Keep your answers short to him. Make your point and be quiet.” She pointed to the next circle. “This is Mary Thomas, she’s very child-oriented. She’s very warm and friendly and loves to talk. Answer her questions and orient your answers to how children are affected. Talk a lot with her; elaborate all your points. She’s warm and fuzzy, so use many personal anecdotes.” She continued around the table and when finished, it was like I had the playbook of an opposing football team. I knew the type of questions they would ask. I learned the type of answer each interviewer liked to hear.
This is interesting and, naturally, the advice is not limited to interviewing. (Those that have not seen Firefly but want to might want to bug out here, as Spoilers are ahead). Take Jubal Early. He's a bounty hunter, and he's after one of the people on Serenity. To get to her, he has to make sure the rest of the crew does not get in his way. So before he starts, he listens in on some conversations on the ship, gathering intelligence. As Whedon notes in the commentary:
Early has a very specific way of dealing with every character on the ship. He has listened to their conversation, so he understands he knows enough about them. And he understands that when you're with Mal, you have to take him out instantly because Mal is a physical threat that is very real. And then, you know, he closes up Jayne and Zoe and all the threats ... Kaylee is someone he approaches a different way - through a very horrible form of sexual intimidation. ... Later on we'll see him dealing with Book. And we'll see him dealing with Simon. When he deals with Book, again this guy has to be taken out. which gives us a little insight into Book's character. ... And of course, he deals with Simon with logic, because he realizes that the best way to deal with Simon is to use logic because that's the kind of person he is.
For those who haven't seen the series, some of this might not make sense, but each approach does fit its target. Mal is the captain and he won't stand for an outsider's shenanigans, especially when that outsider threatens the crew. Jayne and Zoe are also physical threats. Kaylee is like a delightful pixie, which makes Early's approach particularly disturbing. Shepherd Book is a priest, though events like the one in this episode indicate that Book has a less than saintly past. Simon is a doctor, and he's very proper, so a logical approach fits him well.

Again, this advice isn't limited to interviewing and bounty hunting. Knowing who you're dealing with is important, and allows you to orient your responses to their expectations. A little while ago, I was promoted to a management position. One of the interesting changes for me is that I'm dealing with a much wider variety of people, and thus I have to modulate my message depending on who I'm talking to. Of course knowing this and doing this are two different things, and I'm certainly no expert when it comes to this stuff. It comes naturally to some people, but not especially to me.

Anyway, not something I expected to write, but the coincidece struck me...