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Monday, January 28, 2008

you are talking too much

I've done a bunch of interviews recently with candidates who sank their chances by not knowing when to stop talking.

Your answer to the interviewer's question should be direct and to-the-point. It should not result in you rambling on for five minutes, giving tons of background and tangents. If there's more to tell and you believe your interviewer would be fascinated, after giving your direct, concise (two minutes at the very most) response, you may ask, "Does that give you what you're looking for, or would you like me to go more in depth about this?" If the interviewer wants more, believe me, she'll say so.

You must also pay attention to cues. If your interviewer is looking bored, looking at her computer screen, or looking anything less than happily engaged, you might be rambling.

Rambling is the kiss of death because it turns the interviewer off, signaling that you're not good at picking up on conversational cues about where she wants to take the conversation, and raising doubts about your ability to organize your thoughts and convey needed information quickly.

But this is not license to turn into your opposite, the candidate who barely talks and makes me pull information out painfully, sentence by sentence. The middle ground is around one to two minutes per answer, unless you get the signal for something longer.


The Ethical Slut said...

Absolutely, an interview is not a conversation. I find my answers seem a little abrupt or stilted, but its better to leave them wanting more, instead of the opposite. There's also the old saying of giving rope to hang yourself.....

Jen McCabe Gorman said...

1-2 minutes is a great benchmark. I've spent longer on the 'challenge' questions including "how have you handled a difficult workplace scenario" etc.

Has an interviewee ever presented a list of questions to ask you about the organization, culture, your role as a manager, etc?

If not, how would you view this? If so, how did that go?

I've done this with success, always of course asking permission and providing a copy of my questions for the interviewer.

I tend to disagree that an interview is not a conversation. I'd hope, for both the sake of the organization and the candidate trying to determine potential fit, it would be exactly that.

Jackie Cameron said...

As an HRM student we were told that an interview was conversation - with a purpose.I like that.
I am happy when someone I am interviewing checks in with me - Is that enough? Would you like me to elaborate on any of that? Even - Did that answer your question?
It shows that they are paying attention to me too which in itself tells me something.
Great advice in this post - don't ramble but for goodness sake say something!

Sue said...

This is great advice- it is so true!

Rachel - Employment File said...

If someone talks too much during their phone interview I don't bring them back for a real interview. Even if everything else is fine. I know the hiring manager will want to kill them if it takes them 7 minutes to answer a question so I don't waste people's time.

White Collar Office Schmuck said...

This advice seems appropriate for a question-and-answer format interview. However, many corporations today, such as the one I'm working for, have migrated to the "situational.behavioral" style interview. This is where the candidate is asked about four to six open-ended questions. An example might be, "Tell me about a time when you had to deal with an employee who refused to follow your direction". In situational/behavioral style interviews, the response format is to have three components, descriptions of: 1) the specific situation, 2) how you handled the situation, and 3) the outcome. In this style interview, it is much more difficult to know when to stop talking, when "enough is enough".

Productivity Guy said...

Compounding on what "white collar office schmuck" said - I think the key is to be interesting and provide useful information. I don't want an interviewee to ramble on more than two minutes at most, but if what they are saying is interesting and informative, then I have no problem if they talk longer. Still, if most candidates are just responding to standard questions, most of the time their responses aren't going to be that amazing - I was doing a phone interview the other day and my person talked forever, "And I did this, and I did this, and then I did this, oh, and another example is this, and..."

Anonymous said...

I just did an interview on Thursday, and the candidate would not stop talking! I literally was only able to ask him/her 3 questions in a 30 minute interview. The interviewee was obviously qualified, but totally sunk his/her chances because I consider the inability to listen to be a serious character flaw. Plus, the position deals with customers, and because this person was so intent on talking non-stop, I'm sure he/she would have come off as arrogant to a customer. What takes the cake though, is that after the interview was over, he/she sent me a 7 (that's right SEVEN) page email rambling on about nothing. I didn't even read most of it.