I recently came across some advice for job interview strategy that could do more harm than good. An expert recommends: “You should talk half the time, and the employer should talk half the time.”
My problem with this advice is that it sets up a false expectation. In some interviews the exchange between an interviewer and job seeker might be pretty equal. In most cases, however, the job seeker will talk more because she is the person being interviewed. Think about any situation when you ask a question that involves an explanation. The answer is longer than the question, which means that in most interviews the job seeker will be talking more. I think what the expert wants to say is that job seekers should engage interviewers in dialogue whenever possible. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. But that’s not the most important thing a job seeker needs to do.
Good interviews start with focused listening. If you’re listening well, you can usually make your agenda fit the interviewer’s. You will also build a relationship with the interviewer. Let your strengths show through the conversation. That’s what the employer wants to know.
We are all nervous during job interviews. Some of my clients have tried to come up with scripts to give themselves more confidence. The problem with this approach is that the interview usually does not follow their scripts. Rather than scripting, I urge clients to put an emphasis on listening. Nervousness will not disappear through active listening, but it will be more controlled and your interaction during the interview will be more relaxed and natural. You cannot control an interview with a script. The best we can do is to engage the interviewer through listening.