How to Reel in Interview Rambling in 3 Easy Steps

Among all the deadly job interview sins, rambling is one of the worst.

An HR Manager recently confided to me this about a candidate: He looked great on paper, but in-person he wouldn’t stop talking. I felt like I needed reins.

Chalk it up to nerves? I’m not so sure. Feeling on-the-spot is one thing, but I’d credit most interview rambling to a simple lack of preparation.

As an interviewer, I want to see a candidate’s top performance, not their first rehearsal. After a first meeting, I tend to remember what a candidate said and how they made me feel.

Was I intrigued? Was I annoyed? Did I feel my time and my questions were valued? Was I comfortable?

Unfocused, long-winded talking can kill the sense that a two-way conversation is happening. It can also make a candidate seem unorganized, unsure of his/her/theirself and unable to cope with pressure. And, frankly, it can be boring.

Here’s how to pull back on interview rambling and make every word count.

Start in a good place recommends you take some pre-interview time to get happy and confident about who you are as a candidate – especially as it correlates to the job in question. Ask yourself: Why are you a great fit for the job? Do you have exemplary, compelling stories to relate about your career? Are you excited about it?

Luckily, interview questions themselves are highly predictable – or at least the overarching themes (e.g., prove leadership, likability, and experience) are. Before any interview, spend significant time researching the company, anticipating questions, and cataloging your proudest accomplishments.

Start by taking some time to reflect on why you’re an ideal fit for the job. Identify your unique strengths and qualifications that align with the role. Prepare compelling stories from your career that showcase your achievements, skills, and relevant experiences. Remember, confidence in your abilities can greatly impact your performance in the interview.

Interview questions often revolve around predictable themes like leadership, likability, and experience. Prior to the interview, invest time in researching the company thoroughly, anticipating potential questions, and cataloging your proudest accomplishments. By being well-prepared and having a clear understanding of how your background aligns with the job, you can approach the interview with confidence and enthusiasm, increasing your chances of success.

Get comfortable with silence

Many people ramble simply because the interviewer doesn’t jump in right away after they answer a question. So they start to back up (occasionally a bit lost on where they’re headed) and end up blabbering.

Silence doesn’t always signal displeasure. Interviews are compressed periods of time when a lot of information is exchanged and a lot of first impressions need to be examined. Allow sufficient time after each answer so that your interviewer can digest, think, and respond.

These slightly awkward moments are a great time to read body language. Is their head nodding? Are they writing something down? Are their brows furrowed? Allow the interviewer some time to tell you, verbally and physically, how they’re feeling and adjust your course from there.

It’s important to recognize that silence from the interviewer doesn’t necessarily indicate displeasure. Interviews are condensed interactions filled with information exchange and numerous first impressions to assess. Allow a few moments after each answer for the interviewer to digest, think, and respond.

These brief pauses can be opportunities to read the interviewer’s body language. Are they nodding in agreement? Are they taking notes? Do they have a furrowed brow? These cues can provide insights into their reactions and help you adjust your course accordingly.

By allowing for these moments of reflection and engagement, you can ensure a more effective and dynamic interview process, where both you and the interviewer have the opportunity to communicate effectively and make informed decisions.

End your answers with this simple phrase

Once you’ve answered the question, look your interviewer in the eye and ask them: Would you like me to expand?

Here’s why I love this question: it’s courteous (you’re acknowledging their original motivation for asking the question in the first place) and it shows you care about whether you’ve done a good job. Essentially, you’re asking for on-the-spot feedback. How am I doing?

Hey, I don’t mind nerves. I can almost always overlook them. Where it gets uncomfortable is when a candidate starts to lose themselves and stops reading the room. As an interviewer, I want a voice in the getting-to-know-you process.

And yes, for the majority of our time together, I do want the reins.