Take your time and think it through

Too often, interview candidates think they should answer questions like a buzzer round. They tear into questions with the enthusiasm of a child let loose in Smyth’s.

It can result in costly errors.

An interview is not a speed test. Giving a good answer is more important than giving a fast one.

Thinking time is perfectly acceptable. You put undue pressure on yourself if you expect to shoot out rapid answers.

Take your time. Think your answer through. Talking before thinking can be calamitous. Arrange your thoughts and figure out the best information you can give – you can do all of this in a matter of a couple of seconds, and your answer will be all the better for this bit of breathing space.

There is nothing wrong too with asking for the interviewer to clarify the question if you’re confused. An interview should be a knowledgeable conversation and you can’t reach that point if you are worried about punching out the answers quickly or if you don’t know the question in the first place.

Another point: candidates frequently place what I call the ‘elocution’ burden on themselves. They deem it a fatal flaw to emit an ‘um’ or an ‘aw’ where, in fact, most people don’t even hear them.

A key element of effective communication is to put the listener at ease by transmitting a confidence that you will get to the end of your answer. You’re not reading The News. They don’t expect you to be word perfect: indeed, someone who is too clipped and precise can appear cold, rehearsed and, consequently, detached.

Take your time. Leave the elocution for elocution class. And focus instead on letting them know the value you can bring to their organisation.

First impressions count

A tale from the front – told without judgement, primarily for entertainment as we start to wind down after another busy year.

“I was the fourth person in the door for the interview” the man told a man who told me (yes, yes, I know, a tenuous link there, but bear with me).

“And there was a brush on the floor. I bent down, picked it up and left it against the wall. And the boss gave me the job there and then.”

The interview was to find a waiter for the restaurant.

“The other three had stepped over the brush or walked around it, the boss explained to me. I was the only one to pick it up. It was the boss man’s test to see who had the instinct to keep the place right.”

As I said, told without judgement, and on the back of the tenuous link. But, still, though-provoking. Meritocracy or mad? You decide.

Taking that tale as a starting-point, we would like to make known our belief in the power of a first impression. As you walk in the door, they are forming their opinion about you.

  • Do they like you?
  • Do you smile?
  • Do you make eye contact?
  • Are you confident?
  • Do you build rapport?
  • Do you handle this formal situation well?

In a 50-50 call, employers are likely to opt for the candidate whose personality they find more engaging. It’s human nature. Without forcing it, you should aim to bring a sense