Talking your way into the job, not out of it

A: It’s a common problem for people. In some ways, it is understandable, as an interview is an un-natural environment, and thus you can behave differently to how you would normally behave.

The first point I would make is that you are entitled to what I call ‘thinking time.’ When they ask you a question, they are much more interested in the substance of your argument than they are in your response time.

So take time to weigh it up. Even a second or two will help you gather your thoughts and decide how you are going to answer the question.

If you are not comfortable with having that silence, you could get in the habit of ‘talking without saying anything’ for the early part of an answer. This could take the form of you saying something like “that’s certainly something relevant to this role” – meanwhile, you could use the time to gather yourself for the main body of your answer.

Whichever way you do it, claim for yourself the right to think through the main body of your answer before committing to it. An interview is not a speed test. Nor, indeed, is it an elocution test – the key thing for you is to take the time to arrange your answer as you see fit.

There is nothing wrong with taking a mini-breather halfway through a question – either through a couple of seconds of silence or ‘talking without really saying anything’ again – so that you can compose yourself for the remainder of the answer. As long as you don’t fall into a ten-minute meditative trance, those techniques above will work fine for you – the interview panel won’t have any quibble with them, and, in all probability, won’t even notice them.

Another tip is: don’t try to ‘boil the ocean.’ An answer can only deal with so much. Don’t try to go too far with it – it will make it difficult for you, and also for them.

It’s like when you roll down the window to ask for directions. The person kindly tells you left, right, avoid the right, straight on, and so on – but they’ve lost you at ‘left.’ You feel like saying “I’ll just take that left, and ask again,” but they’re locked into their answer, and there’s even a danger you’ll forget the left.

So keep answers to manageable bites for yourself and for the interviewers.


This week’s top tip

Get those names and addresses right. If you’re not a good speller, make sure to get someone to look over your applications.

Typical errors we come across include the following: lower case m as in Dear Mr murphy, completely wrong spelling (Walch for Walsh, McGra for McGrath, and countless other ones), and even wrong gender.

Call us old-fashioned, but the Michael Heneghan listed on the job advertisement really would prefer if you didn’t call him Ms. It goes on, trust me.

Carelessness is the problem. People rush things. If you’re not a good speller, chances are you know you’re not: so always leave time for someone else to cast an eye over what you’ve written.

It will stand to you in the long run. Little things can make a huge difference.

Sli Nua Careers (Watson’s Lane, Ballinrobe, Co. Mayo / Drum East, Bushy Park, Galway) tel 094 95 42965 /091 528 883, help candidates get jobs by carrying out professional CV Preparation (face-to-face and online) and Interview Training (face-to-face and via Skype/video link-up).

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