Friday, 2 April 2010

Just keep talking

I'm not a very talkative person. Which doesn't really matter most of the time. I just say what I need to say, or if I'm silent someone more garrulous will happily babble away to fill the void.

But there's one situation where not talking is a definite negative. Namely, the job interview. If there's one thing that's called for here, it's plenty of words. And fast.

You know how it is. They ask you all those appallingly open-ended questions like "How good are you at acting on your own initiative/ working as part of a team/ meeting tight deadlines/ advanced brain surgery?" and you're expected to prattle away effortlessly about all the impressive things you've done, the extraordinary skills you possess, your boundless versatility and ingenuity, and your willingness to commute 100 miles to their flea-ridden office next to the landfill site.

So I trot out a few likely things and they dutifully scribble them down in their alarmingly empty notepads that they hope to fill with my dazzling and pertinent replies.

At this point I dry up, my mind goes blank, but they're still gazing at me expectantly as if I must have lots more to say. I rack my brain feverishly for inspiration but nothing emerges. My work with baby elephants? My stint in the funeral parlour? Perhaps not quite what they're looking for. Surely I've said enough? Haven't I convinced them yet? What more do they need to know?

This is where the naturally loquacious just carry on spouting, as if every experience in their entire life clearly equips them for the job, starting with conception and leaving the womb. They could go on all day if the interviewers didn't frantically call a halt and move on to the next question.

How do they do it? How do they find so much to talk about? It would be handy to have a little switch somewhere that made me talkative on demand. For when quietness is a vice and not a virtue.

Yes, I had a job interview. And no, I didn't get the job. Ah well, c'est la vie....

See also: Interview pitfalls, Panel game


  1. that awkward pause is designed to make you keep talking to fill the space. it's when you're filling space that you reveal what you dont intend

  2. I don't envy you Nick. The same questions, the same expressions, the same over rehearsed replies. I wish someone would ask something outside the box for a change. I mean I'm not going to tell them what my 'weaknesses' are .. "Oh I have a problem with attention to detail!"

    I'm capable of talking the leg off a chair but in interviews,sometimes the less said, the better. Good on you for getting as far as the interview!

  3. I hope you get good news, Nick! Interviews are torture sometimes...the only thing worse is going to the odd party where everyone knows the host but no one knows each other and having to chat up total strangers...

  4. Of course there is always the chance that their are people on the interviewing panel who detest shiny fast talkers, and by being quiet you PASSED. When my husband hires (granted...for a library) he tell gregarious people that they aren't a good fit and picks the solid, quiet ones. Was it a library job? Cuz then you may be in luck.

  5. I absolutely loathe interviews. And yet, I've always gotten the job, so I must be doing something right? I wish I knew what it was. I always walk out having no idea what I said...

    Good luck to you and hope you hear good news very soon!

  6. I'm absolutely hopeless at the small talk, Nick. But in the past I did do a fair whack of interviews at both ends so to speak.
    One of the things I did was research the company that was hiring and turn the interview on its head by asking them questions. I was genuinely interested if this was going to be my employer.
    I was always totally impressed when interviewees did the same thing to me.
    Also THE WALK. All important in an interview. Strong, purposeful, and absolutely never a dawdle.

  7. Yes, good luck Nick! I would hire you--for whatever!

    I never liked interviews...except the ones for college, those were, not so much.

  8. Kylie - Ah, revealing what I don't intend, that's what I'm afraid of. That time I crashed the entire computer network....

    Baino - Exactly, the same questions, the same over-rehearsed replies. How tempting it is to say something utterly inane just to liven things up.

    e - Yes, I've been to those parties as well. Who do I risk talking to? Which one is sane and intelligent and which one is the screaming nutter?

  9. Saint D - No, not a library job, a charity job. But you might be right, they may like the quiet ones.

    Megan - How fortunate to have a natural talent for interviews (even if you loathe them)! I'm all too aware of what I said - and what I didn't say, when it's too late to say it.

    www - Yes, I always ask questions about the organisation, because I'm genuinely interested in what they do (especially charities). And I always walk briskly and purposively!

    Leah - Aw shucks, what a nice thing to say! Job interviews suck, they're such a clumsy way of discovering the right person for the job. Just think of all those incompetent employees we have to deal with....

  10. Good Luck Nick. Interviews never give a sense of the real person- how can they?

    Happy easter to you xx

  11. Hi Cinnamon, long time no see! That's just it, how can they get a proper picture of anyone from a totally artificial 20 minute question and answer? You only have to look at any business to see how often they get it wrong.

    Happy Easter to you too!

  12. Hopefully they're looking for a strong sensitive man of few words.

    Good luck, Nick! They'd be lucky to have you.

  13. I had the same job for 32 years because I never wanted to go to another interview. Same house so I'd never have to move. Same breakfast so I wouldn't have to think about it. Now pardon me while I try to get some sleep without having nightmares on your behalf.

  14. Heart - Very kind of you. I hope so too!

    MB - I did have one job for 15 years. I enjoyed it so much I would probably have stayed for another 15 years but a new owner decided on a round of redundancies.

  15. Nick, the trick in interviews is to get the interviewer talk and the interviewee to confirm the former's statements. It is a shoo in for successful outcome. You just need to be a good listener and part conman to be that tricky!

  16. Ramana - Ah, that might work in India but here the equal opportunities rules mean that interviewers can only ask a set list of questions and wait for the response. If only your tactic was possible!

  17. Congrats on the interview Nick. Even getting one in these times is a plus.
    I get so nervous going into interviews and either clam up or babble. So now I try to turn the questions around to them and quietly wait for their answer, while showing great interest. It has even gotten funny a few times as some interviewers have had great stories to tell.
    Best of luck.

  18. Brighid - That technique would come in handy. Asking the questions would be easy too since I was a local journalist once upon a time.

  19. I am back from the dead to say Well Done on the interview! I hope you don't have to do one of those awful mind blowing aptitude tests - I always hated them.

    Fingers and knees crossed that this one comes up for you.

  20. Those panel interviews are awful - I had one for a council job when I was job searching 2 years ago - there were two men and one woman on the panel and I could see by the way she looked at me I had no chance from the start. and that was before any questions.... I was right!

  21. Grannymar - Sorry to say that I was rejected. Ah well, c'est la vie. No aptitude test, just a ridiculously simple maths and English test.

    Kate - Two of my interviewers looked totally po-faced from the start, and I assumed that was a bad sign. Even with all the equal opportunities rules, the fact is that people's personal likes and dislikes still play a part.