Interview Tip: STFU

Listening is a critical skill. In a job interview, if you start to answer a question before I’ve finished asking it, I’m going to assume you’re likely to start off on a project before you understand the assignment, and that I’m going to have to chase after you to keep you on track. Or worse, you’re going to go off, screw something up, and leave everyone else to straighten up the mess. Of course, maybe you’re just nervous. I understand. It’s really important to practice listening, though. Only a few of my questions took more than one sentence to ask, and I don’t pause all that much between questions (Yes, I rehearse my interviews). More importantly, I specifically stated that the one question gave every candidate trouble, and that I would gladly repeat it and even rephrase it if needed. But I only got half-way through before you shot off. Had you listened, you would have understood that what you were saying was precisely what I didn’t want to hear.

Now, you might be wondering why I didn’t immediately stop you and repeat the question. Perhaps I could have used the opportunity to test how you handled criticism. I was more interested in seeing how aware you were of what you were doing, and whether you would eventually come to realize that you had gone off on a tangent and hadn’t actually answered my question. You eventually did stop, although I can’t really give too much credit just because you had to stop talking in order to breath. Nor can I be impressed by your ending each response with “I’m not sure I’ve answered your question”. Yes! Interviews are stressful. My questions are difficult. We’ve all gotten nervous and confused when responding to a question and lost our train of thought.

But to repeat that same behavior with every question; to start talking half-way through and continue for what seemed like eons before you ran out of ideas or oxygen or whatever; to not even try to hear what the other person is saying during an interview, it’s unlikely going to work out day-to-day for anyone on the team, and I’m not going to take that risk.



About jeffmershon

Director of Program Management at SiriusXM.
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