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Can We Talk? The One Mistake that Could Cost You the Job—or the Hire

"So. How did it go?"

I make the "So. How did it go?" phone call many times a week, as I follow up with candidates and hiring executives alike on how an interview went. Of course, I want both parties to walk out of the meeting with that "a-ha" feeling because they have found a great fit. Even when a candidate has the ideal professional experience and leadership qualities, however, any number of things can trip up an interview.

Your—and their—number one reason

What’s the number one reason hiring executives tell us they are hesitant about a candidate? “That person talked too much.” What’s the number one reason executive candidates say “I’m not sure this is the right fit for me”? “The hiring manager spent the entire interview talking about himself and never asked me about my qualifications.”

And it bears mentioning, I have never had a candidate or a client tell me that the other side talked too little.

Are you talking too much?

How do you know if you are talking too much, as either the hiring executive or the candidate? What can you do to be sure you don’t leave that impression? And just what is so wrong with talking too much anyway?

  1. You should be able to walk out of an interview with a wealth of information about the other person (or the position), no matter which side of the table you were on. Think as you leave a meeting, “Was I talking 80% of the time? 65%?” Next time, aim for 50%, or better yet, 40%. Generally speaking, the best interviews are those that feel like a true dialogue.
  2. During the interview, be sure to check in visually. Keep a watch out for tapping toes, glazed looks or lack of eye contact. A person’s body language will tell you you've strayed from the main point.
  3. Check in verbally. Simply ask if you have answered the question adequately, or if they are looking for something else. Better to ask before than after you go off on that tangent—when what has been said cannot be unsaid.
  4. Prepare for the question: “Tell me a little about your background.” Note that the key word here is “little.” If you have been talking for twenty minutes and you have not yet covered your college years, we guarantee you are in trouble. And yes, it happens all too often. Be able to describe a position or your background in five minutes or less.
  5. Ask friends and family for honest feedback. If those who love you most find you long-winded, chances are you might be boring those you have just met.

It's a two-way conversation

Both the hiring executive and the candidate need to remember just that there are two sides, and an authentic dialogue with active and engaged listeners on both sides of the table will get everyone to the right destination. Which, in my view, means that the answer to “So. How did it go?” is “(he or she) knocked it out of the park!”

But I've said too much...

Article updated on February 20, 2020.

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