One of my personal favourite stereotypes about pilots is that you all have a relaxed communication style. You’re sparse with words, and are good with brief pronouncements. That style is kind of reassuring when you announce things in flight as becoming “a little bit bumpy.”
I know that’s not true of everyone. In fact, some air crew I’ve coached on interview skills, are like everyone else (funny that!) They talk way too much. They lose the interviewer, and they run the risk of shooting themselves in both feet when they go off on tangents.
This is common in an interview. Many people talk too much when they want to be believed. Often, no matter how much preparation you do, in an interview you can find your faith in yourself being challenged. If too much talk is your problem, and you find yourself facing a “poker faced” interviewer, you’ll have real problems controlling how much you say and what comes out of your mouth.
Sound familiar? What can you do?
If you’re a chronic over-talker or a detail person, to stop yourself talking and change your natural style in interview will make you uncomfortable. So don’t try to be something you’re not. What you can do though, is help the interviewer help you, manage it.
Have I confused you? Stay with me here.
Good communication is in how the message is received, not so much how you deliver it. Some interviewers like bullet points. Some like detail. If you’re a detail person, and your interviewer is a bullet pointer, you’ll have a problem. You’ll not know this from the outset, so you can always ask before you answer a question: “would you like me to give you detail, or would you like brief bullet points?”
If you know what the interviewer prefers, then you can work with that. You’re less likely to go off on a tangent at that point you see the interviewer’s eyes glaze over and you suddenly think you need to be believed.
Another reason people over talk, is that they’re not sure of the point of a question. So they cover all bases. If you don’t understand a question, clarify it. Question the questioner. Good questions to ask are “I’m not sure I quite understand the question” or “are you asking me about ‘a’ or ‘b’?” Once you get the point, you can give a better answer. This is exactly what you’d do in a normal conversation. An interview is no different.
Watch the interviewer’s body language. If you do see the “poker face/eyes glaze over” that’s a good indication that you’ve lost your audience. Whatever you do, don’t keep going. Keep it light and keep it real. There’s nothing wrong with saying something along the lines of – I don’t think I’ve answered your question here, can you ask me it again?
Make your weakness your strength. One of the things interviewers want to see is that you are self-aware. I am a detail person. I talk a lot and fast when I need to be believed. So one of the things that has worked well for me and my clients is saying: “when I get excited about a topic I tend to give a lot of detail. Please stop me if you’ve heard enough.”
On that note I’d better take my own advice and sign off. For more on this theme, check out this post on interview over-talkers on my blog: InterviewIQ. If you have any questions, subscribe or send me an email: Karalyn@interviewiq.com.au . I promise I’ll get to the point quickly.
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- Free Pilot “Interview Preparation Checklist” from Pinstripe Solutions
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- Interview with Captain Eric Moody