A while back, I had a phone interview with the VP of a company I was really excited about. I shut the door to my home office and took the call, prepared with my resume and talking points and ready to wow him with how great a fit I was for the job.
When the interview was finished, I came out to the living room, where my husband was sitting. “Were you really on a call?” he said. “I didn’t hear you say anything.”
No, our apartment wasn’t sound-proof—rather, over the course of a 45-minute call, I had barely managed to get 10 words in. The interviewer talked and talked about the position, the company, the rest of the team, and what he liked about my background—so much so that I couldn’t get a word in edgewise.
While this might seem like a dream (no tough interview questions? Score!), I felt like I didn’t get a chance to show him a bit about who I was, not to mention get any of my questions answered about the position.
This, unfortunately, isn’t a rarity. And although it’s usually the right approach to follow the lead of the interviewer, you really want as many of those precious 30-60 minutes you’re given for an interview to communicate why you’re the best person for the gig.
Next time you’re faced with an over-talker in an interview (or, well, in any other situation), use these steps to make sure you say what you’ve got to say.
Don’t Jump to Conclusions
Many interviewers like to start the interview off by talking about the company and position, giving you as much information as possible before you start answering questions. So, if the beginning of the interview feels a little wordy, let it slide. It’s probably normal, and you’ll get your chance to talk in a bit.
That said, if the interview gets past the halfway point (i.e., minute 15 of a 30-minute interview), and you haven’t made a peep, it’s time to start nudging your way into the conversation.
Shift Your Positioning
A great (and non-awkward) first step is to use the power of body language. I’ve found that shifting your positioning in the room can send the subtle message of, “Hey, buddy, we’ve been doing the same thing for a while now, and it’s time to switch gears.”
When you’re ready to start diving in to the conversation, shift in your seat a bit, uncross and re-cross your legs, smile, and lean forward to subtly signal that you’re ready to go. (Unfortunately, this doesn’t work in a phone interview—but quietly clearing your throat and saying a quick, “Excuse me,” can have a similar effect.)
Remember Your Messages
If subtlety doesn’t work and you’re 20 minutes in, it’s time to strategize and prioritize.
In other words, forget all those witty anecdotes and amazing tales of your accomplishments and results you’ve worked so hard to prepare—and instead zoom in on the 2-3 most important points in your background that you want to get across. Is it that you’ve managed remote teams? Led your department to a 40% revenue increase? Make a mental note of what you absolutely must get across before you leave, and look for any opportunity possible to weave them into the “conversation.” Including:
1. Over-talking Yourself
When the interviewer does pause to ask you a question, try to extend your answer as long as possible (hey, you have no idea when you’ll get this chance again). Don’t ramble, of course, but do cover more than what the question was initially asking if it can help you get your messages across.
If, say, you’re asked how many people you’ve managed, don’t stop at the number—follow it up with details about your management style, hiring processes you’ve implemented, or other relevant details to the position. For example:
Interviewer: We have a team of seven people. How many people have you managed?
You: I’ve managed a team of three and a team of eight. In my most recent position, four of those eight were remote employees—which is really relevant to this position. I’d love to share some strategies I’ve learned about making the most of remote teams.
2. Not Waiting for Questions
In the case of my phone interview, though, the questions truly never came. And so, I had to try and find pauses where I could jump in with relevant points about my experience.
This can be tough to do without sounding rude or awkward, but if it’s your only option, try to look for a window of opportunity and dive in. Like this:
Interviewer: “We have a goal of increasing sales 50% this quarter, which is really aggressive, so we need someone who can come in ready to go. Currently…
You: “Sorry to interrupt, but that’s great to know—I actually increased our department’s sales by more than 75% at my last job, and I’d love to share with you some of the strategies that I think would translate well.
3. Focusing on the Follow-up
At the end of an interview, if you haven’t gotten the chance to share what you think you need to, ask for a few extra minutes of time or the opportunity to follow up with additional details about your background after the interview. If you didn’t get a chance to talk about sales strategies, for instance, you can offer to share them with the interviewer after the fact:
Interviewer: “Well, shoot, it looks like we’re out of time. Thanks so much for coming in.”
You: “Thanks for having me. It’s been great to hear so much about the position and company. I know we’re out of time, but I have some great ideas about how I could contribute to the team’s sales goals. Do you have a few extra minutes now, or can I follow up with an email outlining the strategies that have worked for me in the past?”
By doing this, you may get more time or a second chance to show off your skills—and that's a big advantage over the other interviewees who left without making a sound.
Dealing with an over-talker can certainly be frustrating, but don’t let your annoyance show through. Be kind, smile frequently, and do everything you can to get your message across. Hey, an over-talker is better than a stone-faced interrogator, right?
Tell us! Have you ever dealt with an over-talking interviewer?