Someone once told me that no matter how good a fit you are for a job, the success of the interview will come down to striking that balance between talking too much and not talking enough. I’ve often reflected on that as I debriefed with candidates and clients after their interviews. Too often I hear about candidates who either were talking too much during their interview, or not enough.
It goes without saying that an attractive candidate is an interested candidate—interested in what the interviewers have to say about their company, the job, their views on technology, and such. Obviously, the candidate must stop talking long enough for the interviewers to get their say in. This is wise. But taken to an extreme, your lack of talking will turn into an uncomfortable silence making you appear to be disinterested, unresponsive and unengaged. Ultimately, your interviewers will simply dismiss you as someone who is not even remotely enthusiastic about getting the job.
The problem of not talking enough actually comes in two different flavors.
The first flavor is in not knowing enough about the company, its products and the position to be able to ask intelligent questions. There is a level of interest shown by the questions asked. No questions = no interest. Intelligent questions about the company, your role, the technology stack and so forth = interest. The moral of the story is come to the interview with questions.
The second flavor of not talking enough is quite different. It is found in the candidate who can find very little to say about past assignments or jobs. What did you do? What did you contribute? Any candidate should be prepared to discuss any point on the resume. You never know what will have interested a company in you.
Of course you want an opportunity to sell yourself, demonstrate your knowledge of the company, and demonstrate the value that you will bring to the company. This, too, is wise. And communicating all of that will require a certain amount of communicating on your part. However, taken to an extreme, you will come across as a compulsive talker, someone who is not interested in hearing what they have to say, and generally as someone who probably is not going to be a good fit for their company.
So how do you strike that balance between saying enough (without talking too much) and being appropriately silent without appearing bored or disengaged? The answer to that is simply remembering that a successful interview isn’t so much of a question-and-answer session as it is a conversation.
Conversation: A form of interactive communication between two or more people who are following rules of etiquette.
Just as good conversation results when the parties involved discover that they share some common thoughts and views while a degree of rapport is established, so does a good interview result when these same things are achieved. Of course, you won’t always agree on everything, even in a good conversation, but that’s where following rules of etiquette comes in.
In summary, sell yourself, but don’t do all the talking; be interested in what they have to say, but don’t forget to carry some of the conversation yourself. And don’t forget to follow the rules of etiquette (use good judgment so what you say isn’t offensive). Keep these points in mind and you will maximize your chances of having a successful job interview.
As always, we at Stout Systems are interested in hearing how your job search is going. Feel free to drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.