It happens every day. You are the one being interviewed but the interviewer is too busy talking to ask you any questions. How will they ever get to know you if the interviewer is too busy talking? Can you say, “I don’t care if you were a high school football star”? Or, “It’s too bad your kids are sick but I want to tell you about me”. How will you ever get to tell your great story without interrupting the interviewer and sounding rude? What if your time is up and you hardly had a chance to talk? Then, when they finally stop talking the interviewer asks, “Do you have any questions?”
What you want to say at this point is, “No! I don’t have any questions. What about you? Do you have any questions? You haven’t asked me any yet!”
No one wants to endure a stress interview but we all want the chance to describe how great we can be and how we will help the organization. But, as the candidate, how do you turn the monologue into a dialogue? How do you turn the subject back on yourself? Here are some tips from HR managers and men and women right out of college:
- Give it time but don’t let the time get away. No need to panic in the first five minutes. The interviewer may be breaking the ice. Glance at the clock or take a peek at the interviewer’s watch. If you are more than half way in and you still haven’t had time to talk, it is time for an interruption.
- Steer the conversation toward you. If the interviewer is blabbing on about their own college or work experience, that’s an opening for you to butt in with a segue into your own background.
- Don’t start asking questions too early. That time will come. If you start asking questions right up front you may not get the podium back. Let the interviewer ask the questions.
- No tangents. Don’t encourage conversations that will go on and on and not be relevant to the job opening. The interviewer may be talking about the World Cup and you may be a fan but don’t throw fuel on that fire. Be cordial and engaged but then go silent so the interviewer can get down to business.
In talking to those same HR managers and young men and women right out of college, there are several hypotheses about why this phenomenon exists. Some reasons are not pleasant.
- The interviewer flunked interview school. Any one who attends a seminar on interview skills is warned about speaking too much. Among many other reasons, the candidate is just not interested. For some, the temptation of a captive audience is just too much.
- There is really no job open. Why bother with learning about the candidate if the interviewer knows a job opening does not exist? A better question is, “Why have the interview at all?” It is probably a waste of time.
- Sometimes the interviewer is more nervous than the candidate. When that is the case, the candidate could be in for a long story of the interviewers career trajectory.
Sometimes it seems that the interviewer did all the talking but that may not be true. Avoid the trap when the interviewer says something like, “Let’s not have an interview. Let’s just chat.” Avoid that trap and be aware that the “chat” is still an interview and you are still a candidate.
When the interviewer drones on and on and time is slipping away, it is OK to interrupt. Politely say, “Thanks for all of that information, can I now tell you about how my experience relates to this job? I think you will like it.”
Then be aware of your own voice. The only thing worse than an interviewer who talks too much is the candidate who talks so much that the job slips away.
Advice for Employers Who Never Respond
The job market is going through the annual influx of new college graduates. It happens every year at the same time. There are no surprises.
As the President of a college I hear from the recent graduates as they seek fame and fortune in that first job. The process is exciting at first. The technology allows for an incredible inventory of possibilities. Go to any really large company website and it will show hundreds, maybe thousands of openings for a recent graduate. Go to any big job site and enter any keyword like recent graduate or trainee or associate or entry-level or start-up and thousands more openings will pop up. Wow.
As the newly minted graduate, you may not know exactly what kind of work you want to do so you do a little trolling. You aced both art history and marketing so why not try a few different things? And it looks like there are lots of positions for which you are perfectly suited. The “send” button is hot from all the connections being made with employers. Sure, there is lots of competition for the right spots but you worked hard. Applying for lots of positions is not like playing the lottery. It’s more like placing a hat in the ring for consideration. The possibilities can put you in a mild state of arousal. Until the silence. Total silence.
The silence creates frustration. It is a huge frustration when applicants don’t hear back from places where they’ve applied. Not a word. Nada. Zippo. Zilch. Aaaargh. The arousal previously mentioned doesn’t last long. How hard can it be to send even a little acknowledgment?
I don’t get it. Everyone understands that a thoughtful response is impossible with so many applicants. There also isn’t a need for a false hope message to be delivered. All that is required is a polite acknowledgment. “Polite” is the operative word here.
Come on employers, you can do better. I know you can. You have technologies that can scrape key words off of resumes. You have sophisticated CRM systems. You have cloud computing and big data available. You have apps, 3D printers, GPS, optical scanners, flux capacitors and talent managers. You can do better. Employers, you know that no reply to someone who pours their soul into an application is a little rude. The least you can do is respond with a returned note. In the spirit of making things easier for you, I offer the following response suggestions. None of them will burden your computing capability. None are more than seven words.
First response: “Got it. Stay tuned.” Meaning that at least the resume is in the system.
Second response: “Unfortunately.” It may be the cruelest word in the job hunt process but everyone knows what words will follow.
Or another second response: “Looks good. Come in for an interview.” Yipee. Get the interview clothes ready.
Yes, I know there are millions of resumes that fly around every day. And I know that many job seekers flood the applicant pool even though the qualifications fall short. No matter.
Just a few words in an honest response would go along way towards helping the new graduate understand the prospects. Even a “no thanks” is better than never hearing.
The text flashed while I was sitting at the coffee shop. “I’m running a little late, “ she said. She was already five minutes late so that was not a surprise. “No worries”, I texted back. “How late will you be?” The text reply was “@45 minutes”.
Argh – that is really, really late. Late enough that if I waited, my day would be totally disrupted. So we rescheduled for several weeks out. And it was her loss because she was the one who wanted the meeting.
Each of us has dealt with the late person. Sure it’s annoying since no one wants to be left at the altar or the blueberry muffin counter. At the moment we realize our business “date” will be late we have two choices.
- You can let it ruin your day. You can be out of sorts, kick your metaphorical dog and be mean to the person who is late, regardless of the excuse. Or,
- You can take a sigh and use the time productively. Enjoy the latte you bought, check out the news and catch up on those emails you need to get to.
I recommend number two.
Most of us don’t plan to be late and don’t enjoy being late, but it happens. And when it does, the real question becomes – how late is late? Let’s start with being late is never a good thing. Almost always, for the one who is tardy there is stress, a bursting bladder and a dead cell phone. Being late is never fun for the offender.
In a day when business casual could mean shorts and flip flops and dogs hang around at the office what does late mean? It means not on time. (According to some, not being fifteen minutes early is late.) Five minutes late is within a reasonable range and worthy of the good effort grade. Fifteen minutes late is pushing it on the forgiveness scale. And any thing after that is just rude and requires a big apology and the offender to pick up the check. Thirty minutes late will have you wondering why you scheduled the meeting in the first place because it probably won’t start out well.
Excuses and reasons why one is late sort of don’t matter. You are still late. Traffic is no longer a good excuse because there is always traffic. You need to bake that into plans and schedules. Good excuses do exist and they usually involve blood or children.
Late means the same thing on both ends of the business equation whether it be a lunch date or a job interviewer. A late interviewer is just as rude as a late job candidate. A late customer is just as rude as a late sales rep.
For the latecomers, here are some traps to avoid:
- Don’t overbook yourself. It will guarantee that you are always behind schedule and always late.
- Don’t be known as the one who is always late. It will brand you in a disorganized and not happy way.
- Don’t assume that travel will ever go as planned. It never does and you need to bake in lots of time for problems.
- Don’t arrange a meeting without the cell number of the person you are meeting. Just in case there is a big issue you can contact your date.
- Unlike so many other rules in business that are morphing and changing the late rule has not changed. Late is late.
To paraphrase Shakespeare, “better an hour too soon than a minute too late.”