7/24/16 - Know when to stop talking during the job interview
Clients often ask me how they can improve during interviews. That’s a pretty big topic!
Certainly we need to be mindful of our body language, our tone of voice and all that goes into presenting ourselves as an enthusiastic solution to the employer’s needs.
We practice our answers to standard interview questions just like we studied for tests in school. And while it’s important to come up with good wording for our answers, today I want to focus on a tip for creating a more positive verbal presence.
It’s knowing when you may be talking too long. Hey, we’ve all been in conversations where you just wish the other person would run out of breath and be quiet. We all know that person — the one who never shuts up. Some of you remember the television show “All In The Family.” Don’t be an Edith Bunker!
During interviews, it’s easy to talk too long. After all, you’re probably a bit nervous. You want to make sure you’re giving the employer the best and most thorough answers you can.
In our culture, during everyday conversation we cut each other off all the time. While doing so too soon can sometimes be perceived as being rude, it is a very common occurrence. After all, when we’ve heard enough, it’s time for the other person to talk.
The problem is, during interviews the employer will often remain silent until you’ve completed your answer. And you, expecting to be cut off, fill that space with more and more verbiage.
So how can you get a sense for when to wrap up? Try these tips in everyday conversation so they’ll become second nature during stressful interview situation.
Look for the other person to nod their head as you’re talking. This probably signifies they are following what you’re saying. If they sit like a statue without facial expression, try pausing for a couple of seconds. That’ll usually encourage them to acknowledge they’re dialed in to what you’re saying.
The second level of response is when you pick up on an audible sound, such as “Hmmm” or some other sound. This tells me to begin wrapping up because the person is more strongly signifying they get my point.
The final level of response is when the employer speaks by saying such words as, “OK, I understand, that makes sense, right, sure, I’m with you.” By the time you’ve heard any of those words, there’s a great chance the other person has shut down listening and is ready to speak. You may feel you have plenty more to say, yet they’re not ready to listen. Same thing happens when talking in detail to young children. You have all this “wisdom” to impart, but you’ve already lost ’em.
Therein lies a problem. Sure, you know you need to wrap up quickly, lest you talk yourself out of the interview and job. But how can you anticipate when they’ll start with the, “OK, right, sure, etc.?”
My advice is to keep an answer short, then conclude by asking a question. For example, if I’m asked about an accomplishment, I’ll want to state the situation, my actions/activity, and the result in a concise manner. Then say something such as, “As you might imagine, there’s much more that went into that project. I’m happy to give you more detail if you’d like.” By asking such a question, it allows the employer to redirect you to a specific portion of the accomplishment. As well, if they’ve heard enough, and they simply say, “No, I’m good. Thanks,” then you should be glad you stopped when you did.
Perhaps later in the interview you can go back to provide some of that additional detail you didn’t get the chance to earlier on.
Remember, sometimes less is better. Especially when you’re getting clear signals the employer understands you and is ready to move on.
As always, if you’re a professional and could use some help with your job search, my center’s services are free. Contact me at the address below. Good luck!
Randy Wooden is a longtime Triad career consultant and the director of Goodwill Industries of Northwest North Carolina’s Professional Center, in partnership with the NCWorks Career Center. You may reach him at