Sunday, September 20, 2009

Practice to Avoid This Common Interview Mistake

After interviewing thousands of job applicants, the most common error I observe is talking too much. A candidate starts to talk and five or ten minutes later, they are deep into left field as one thought leads them to another. A hiring manager may start to think that you dominate conversation, don’t listen very well, may talk more than you work, and even that you’re undisciplined. All things you want to avoid, of course.

Some people subscribe to the philosophy “answer the question you wish you were asked,” and that’s fine--as long as you still answer my question, too. In case you’re wondering, I do notice when you don’t answer my question and most of the time, it won’t work in your favor.

If you know that you’re a big talker or tend to ramble when nervous, you need to practice, practice, practice.

Listening for the question.
Jot down a few key words if needed. Practice giving a complete answer succinctly. Glance down at that note to make sure you’re on track and you’ve answered what was asked.

Different kinds of questions
gathered from a number of sources. Include some off-the-wall ones, e.g. “Which movie is a metaphor for your life?” or “If you were an animal, what would you be?” You are not trying to memorize answers; you are practicing to observe your thought proces and finetune your response under pressure.

With different people. Not just your best friend, but someone you don’t know as well; perhaps even someone who intimidates you. Or try using your family as a panel interview.

Using different media.
Writing or diagramming responses can be invaluable especially when questions involve a decision tree. You ensure you cover all bases and give the tightest, most thorough response. Then practice your answer in spoken conversation.

Place holders
to buy time. For example, “That’s an excellent question, how have I contributed to the bottom line at ABC Company.” As you’re saying that, your mind is preparing your response. If your mind is completely blank, ask to return to the question later.

What are your best tips for interview practice? I’d love to know.

image by Darren Moore


Ask a Manager said...

Amen! Rambling or not answering direct questions is close to a deal-breaker for me in interviews, for all the reasons you listed.

Joe said...

Tis done!

Joe said...

All good points to remember but it's been my experience that the applicant who is really interested in the position and presents a resume to back it up, will comport his or her self in a manner that will convey confidence. It's the old line of "do they want the position or do the want the job with all it's challenges".