Who Are You When You Interview? (Part 1)

Over the years I’ve interviewed so many different candidates from new grads to high level executives, and everyone in between. My candidates came from all industries and lines of business all with varying levels of experience and education. While every individual is different, I noticed that when it came to those that failed to survive my interview, they fit in the same 5 categories.

About two years ago I was speaking to an NYC based non-profit organization on how to interview and decided that instead of going over the same boring tips (wear black, avoid novelty ties, excess facial hair, make-up, perfume, jewelry or clothing that’s tight, short, low-cut or revealing) I opted to tell my audience who NOT to be when they’re interviewing and ta-da!! It worked!! Not only was the audience more engaged than usual, they actually got something from it and were more successful in their future interviews.

Hopefully, you all get something out of it as well. Ready? Great!

Here’s Category #1: The Chatterbox Category

Who fits in the Chatterbox category?

Those who fit into the chatterbox category verbally take over the interview. They are so excited to be there and have the opportunity to sell themselves, they go overboard! They literally just talk, and talk, and TALK! It’s as if they aren’t even pausing to take a breath in between their statements. They may cut the interviewer off in conversation going on and on about how excited they are to be there, all the research they’ve done on the company, their former role, their boss, why they’re looking, etc.

If they’re nervous, they may go off topic and begin to ramble about things that have little or nothing to do with the job they’re interviewing for. They may go off on a tangent talking about their spouse, children, their new house or their pets and they actually think they’re doing something good! They think they’re bonding with the interviewer or really selling themselves. They’re not.

What’s wrong with being in this category?

Those in the Chatterbox category don’t give the interviewer an opportunity to educate them on the opportunity, the company, etc. and that’s BAD! The person you’re meeting with knows more about the role than you do. The information they give you in the interview can help you steer your conversation in the right direction. You are putting yourself at a disadvantage by not allowing the interviewer to speak more. This is an interview! It needs to be a balanced, professional conversation. You are there to learn just as much as sell yourself so take a breath, make your point without being overbearing and LET YOUR INTERVIEWER GET A WORD IN!

What’s the interviewer thinking?

Typically, the interviewer is silently wishing you would take a breath or pause, giving them an opportunity to go through the items they have prepared for the meeting. If they are one of the more patient ones, they may simply allow you to go on and on then wrap up and vent in their notes. A more forceful manager may stop you mid-sentence and attempt to redirect the conversation allowing them to ask the questions they originally intended to ask in the first place. While an inexperienced, unprepared or lazy manager may like this type because it means they don’t have to say much, an experienced interviewer will not be pleased with this type of candidate and will not be likely to invite them back in for a second round especially if they were cut off in conversation.

Am I in this category?

If while reading this, you’ve thought back and realized that you’re the one doing all the talking when you interview, then you might be in this category. If, when you interview, you find yourself thinking “I’m going to tell them everything I did, sell myself right away, and they’re going to just love me!” or “I finished all their sentences, proving that I know everything about the role and would be the perfect fit!” you might be in this category.

How do I turn this around?

You turn this around by remembering that this is an interview. (Sounds crazy right?) Remember that you are there in a professional capacity so unless it truly fits the conversation, keep the personal items at home and if you choose to mention something personal keep it to a minimum.

Listen THEN speak. Allow the interviewer to tell you more about the role. If you’re smart, you’ll use the information they give you to your benefit during the interview. Practice your answers to interview questions with a live person. Someone who will let you know if you start to ramble. Plan your responses out so you’re less tempted to go on and on. Enlisting the help of a coach would work wonders here.

Coming Up: Category #2: The Church Mouse ….

Best of luck in your interviews!

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