Many people that can normally carry on great two-way conversations, talk way too much in an interview!
Whether it's nerves, a compulsion to make sure the interviewer knows everything about them, or a false idea that they are supposed to dominate the interview, people often hurt their chances of progressing in the hiring process because of an overactive mouth.
A good interview is a two-way street. As a candidate, you should be determining if the company, job, and team are the right fit for you just as much as the hiring manager is determining if you're the right solution for them. Asking questions and effective listening are a critical part of effective communication. If you're doing significantly more than half of the talking, the interview is not going well.
So how do you make sure you get it right? Preparation!
Here are some points to consider as you get ready and when you're in the middle of it:
~ Find commonly asked questions, and write out your answers. The process of writing them out helps you solidify your answers in your mind in complete sentences. In preparing for interviews, most people only think about the general example or idea they would talk about for a given question. However, since they haven't formulated the sentences in advance, when they are asked they tend to just keep talking until they think they've got it all covered. You don't have to memorize your answer word-for-word, but by having formulated complete, concise sentences once, you will be able to articulate your answer much more succinctly and effectively when you're asked.
~ Practice, Practice, Practice! The old cliche' is true... Practice makes perfect. Practice questions with your family over dinner. Practice with your spouse one-on-one. Practice while watching yourself in a mirror, or practice while hiding in a closet if you have to... but practice!
~ Give them an escape hatch. There's nothing more frustrating than someone that keeps talking without hardly taking a breath when you want to move on. Watch their body language closely. If they start fidgeting, squirming, or look as if they are trying to say something... Stop! Give them the chance to urge you on, or to redirect the conversation. Best to give a brief answer, then ask: "Does that answer your question, or would you like more detail?" Letting them give you permission to extend your answer prevents an uncomfortable situation.
~ Ask relevant questions, then listen! One way to make sure you're not the one doing the vast majority of the talking, is to get them talking as well. Peppered throughout your interview, you should be asking relevant questions as well. As much as possible, they should be related to the topic you're currently discussing. If they ask you about your ability to work on a team, give your answer and then ask something like: "Can you describe the team I would be working on?" It keeps the conversation going both ways and makes you appear more interested in the role. Resist the urge to interject additional comments while they are talking. Wait until they are done, then you can add one more brief idea to the topic, but let them move on to the next question as soon as possible.
~ Make sure you're answering the right question! Occassionally someone will misunderstand the question and run off down a rabbit trail answering something else entirely. It's even worse if you don't give them a chance to stop you. If you're not 100% sure of the question, be sure to ask for clarification. Say something like: "To be sure I understand, are you asking about ____?" This is also another reason it's important to give a brief initial answer and then ask them if that's what they were looking for and if they would like to hear more. Give them a chance to get you back on track.
~ Have plenty of questions prepared for the last part of the interview. Invariably, near the end of the interview you will be asked whether you have any additional questions. Make sure you ALWAYS have additional questions. To say you have no questions at this point comes across as a lack of interest in the position. In order to be ready, create in advance a list of 15 or 20 questions you would like answered. Take them with you in a folder. Then at the appropriate time, say: "Yes, actually I do..." Look down your list and select ones that haven't already been addressed. You can say: "We already discussed this one, and this one, and this one, however I would like to ask you..." Don't ask something that you already talked about earlier, it appears as if you weren't paying attention. Also, this is not the time to actually ask 10 or 15 questions. Depending on time, ask 3 or 4. However, in order to have 3 or 4 that haven't already been discussed, you may need to have 15 to 20 prepared. Asking questions is the best way to get them to talk as well.
For a successful interview, neither you nor the interviewer should be doing 65% or more of the talking. It should be a conversation leading to mutual discovery about each other and your suitability for the position. Preparation is the key. So get busy!
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