Angharad Warren
Angharad Warren
Associate Director

Articles From the Team

How to talk less (and say more) in an interview

Interview nerves can make people talk too much. It may sound a trivial criticism but it's one we hear in interview feedback from law firms time and time again. So, how do you stop rambling and provide well structured and well-measured answers that enable the interviewer to accurately assess your suitability for a role?  

Here are my top 10 tips to help you talk less!

1.  Don't go off on too many tangents; if you feel yourself doing so, revert to the question. A skilled interviewer will have a well scoped out interview plan and a direction in which they want to take the interview. If your answers involve multiple side stories they probably won’t cover the ground they had intended. Thorough preparation on your side for some of the more common competency based questions will help you no end. A good recruitment consultant will help guide you through what to expect and what to prepare for.

2.  Bear in mind that the interviewer's time is valuable. They will have set aside an hour for your interview and if your answers are too verbose they’ll struggle to keep to the allotted time, which will no doubt frustrate them if it sets their schedule back for the rest of the day.

3.  Breathe! If you hear yourself talking at 100mph take a deep breath and recompose yourself before carrying on. You don't need to give your replies immediately, there's nothing wrong with a slight pause before delivering your answer thoughtfully.

4.  Think about your body language. Do you feel tense? Try to relax your body. Sit back a little and try to let go of any tension. This will help to reduce the speed at which you are talking.

5.  Don't try to fill the void. It's the interviewer's job to direct the interview and keep it on track. Give full answers and don't make the process too laboured for the interviewer, but where you have set out your answer and a silence follows, don't feel compelled to fill it with chatter. The interviewer will aim to build rapport with you and hopefully put you at ease. A silence may mean they’re formulating their next question or taking notes so allow them a moment before they push forward with the next question. In some cases it can also be a tactic to see how you react to silence!

6.  Don't be caught off guard if an interviewer interrupts you. An assertive interviewer who knows what they want to find out from you will, on occasion, interrupt your flow. If it happens often, take note and try to make your answers more concise.

7.  Watch for visual cues. Does the interviewer look pursed to ask a question? Have they raised their finger every so slightly or tilted their head? Have their eyes glazed over? Allow them an opportunity to jump in. Let them interject or risk them tuning out altogether.

8.  Listen more. By listening more, you'll probably find you naturally talk less. Stay mindful. If you lose your thread and forget the question, apologise and ask if the interviewer can repeat it. People love to talk about themselves so listen attentively when the interviewer talks to you about themselves, their team, the firm etc. Be interested.

9.  Don't self edit your answers to the extent that you appear a shell of who you really are. Energy and enthusiasm are important and you need to convey both. Answers need to demonstrate a certain level of depth and your personality needs to shine through so try to find a balance. As a general rule of thumb your answer to any one question shouldn’t go beyond 90 seconds. Our attention spans wane over time so the more you talk uninterrupted, the less you are listened to. Certain questions come up time and time again so if you’re planning an answer to the 'tell us about yourself' question, keep it within a minute and a half.  Also, feel confident enough to ask the interviewer if you have gone into the level of detail they were looking for or: 'did that answer your question?' By doing this you are reengaging the listener.

10.  If you feel you have rambled during the interview, why not bring it up when asked about your weaknesses? Interviewers respect honest answers to the weaknesses question and it gives you an opportunity to acknowledge that perhaps nerves can sometimes get the better of you in interview situations.

Remember, both sides want the interview to go well. You're a potential fit for the job on paper which is why you've been invited to interview so don't talk yourself out of the opportunity. Stay focused on demonstrating why you're the right person for the job, try to keep the interviewer engaged, relax and enjoy the conversation!

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