Many people come to me for help when they freeze up in interviews, which they attribute to panic and nerves. That’s true. Your nerves can make you freeze up under the spotlight of an interview. What you may not know, however, is that your nerves will make you do other strange things. So if you’ve ever had an interview that you thought went wonderfully well, only to receive a knockback a week or so later, read on.
Many recruiters see the way you handle yourself in an interview, as an indication of what you will be like under pressure in real life. That is, you give at your weakest points. Here are a few examples to show you what I mean:
1. Answering the question before an interviewer finishes asking it
I list this first as I honestly loathe this behavior. I’m not sure why people do this, but my take on this is that the person has poor listening skills. Interrupting someone before they finish asking you a question is like a verbal kneecapping – unexpected and painful.
2. Not answering the question
Sometimes interview questions are too long. Sometimes an interview question has too much preamble. Sometimes interview questions are too confusing. So as an interviewer, I don’t mind repeating a question, but when I need to rephrase and simplify a question three or so times, I give up and move on to the next question.
3. Talking too much
Some people don’t seem to take a breath in interviews. This is fine if you have an engaging story and you can remember the question you are answering a few minutes into your answer. However many people keep talking and forget to keep checking to see if their interviewer is listening.
The tricky thing here is to know whether your interviewer is a person who likes detail or who likes bullet points. It’s also difficult to know if interviewers are actually listening. Some interviewers, particularly experienced interviewers, are professional at looking like they’re listening.
See more on this at How to Zip It in Interviews.
4. Shutting down
Often people switch into “interview mode.” They’re engaging in reception. They’re lovely over the phone. But when they get into interviews they talk in a completely different way. As an interviewer, I think “whatever happened to…?”
5. Injecting odd phrases
“Like,” “like you know,” “do you get what I mean?” This verbal stuffing can completely detract from your appearance as a competent professional. The public speaking group, Toastmasters, is good for eliminating this kind of thing, as is recording yourself in an interview practice session.
Bonus: Forgetting to listen
Sometimes people launch into an answer that they want to give, rather than listening to what a question is actually asking. The danger in this is that it may take the interviewer a couple of minutes to realize you are off tangent. If your interviewer is short on time, or simply impatient, you may have missed your chance.