When it comes to interviewing, it’s essential to know when to shut up. In my experience, the unfortunate reality is that many of my best candidates get really close to landing new jobs and the primary reason why they aren’t hired is because they ramble on in interviews.

Communication is at the center of strong collaborations, and companies are definitely focusing on how their candidates communicate. A critical layer to skilled communication is the ability to recognize what information is relevant and how to keep answers focused and succinct. Rambling instead of answering questions is not a good look during an interview, but there are ways to improve on this behavior.

When asked, Barry Saltzman, CEO of Saltzman Enterprise Group said, “During an interview it is imperative that a candidate can answer a question with brevity, which to me is a huge sign of confidence. As a sales coach it is one of the topics I really focus on with my clients that are looking for a new job.”

I recently spoke to a candidate and our conversation started off strong with a, “Good morning, Gregg!  I am so glad we got to connect.  How was your weekend?”  After responding, I asked, “Why are you open to making a move from your current job?”

This particular candidate launched into a meandering answer about her relationship with her boss. She mentioned that they still keep in touch, and even went on to detail previous jobs she had. After about seven minutes, I had to interrupt her and politely provide her with some feedback.  I honestly don’t even think she remembered what the question was that I originally asked her.

I asked the same question again, except this time I said “If I told you that you have to answer this question in 15 seconds or less, what would you say?” She then replied, “When I would demo the software, it would crash and I didn’t feel comfortable selling a product that wasn’t working properly.” By providing parameters for her answer, she was able to remain concise and deliver her message without any extraneous information.

Unfortunately, this candidate is the norm, not the exception. Much like a sales call, it’s important to stay concise. Interestingly enough, the more you talk in an interview, the less you are listened to. A great way to prepare for these scenarios is to conduct and record a mock interview with a friend. When reviewing the recording you’ll be able to pinpoint areas where you can tighten up your responses and bring clarity to your answers.

Your responses to questions shouldn’t last more than 1-2 minutes.  If you’re worried about not giving a complete answer, you can even say, “I’m happy to give you the high level view.  If there’s anything you want me to dig into more detail about, will you stop me and let me know?

I also suggest checking.  For example, after answering a question, you can say, “Did that answer your question?”

Next time you are preparing for or entering an interview, remember that your gift of gab won’t play well in the room. It is more than likely that your interviewer will lose interest if your answers ramble on, so remain concise.  Too much talking might just result in you talking yourself out of a job.

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