Why you should not be scared of silence in a job interviewPosted: October 21, 2011
You’re in a job interview. They ask you a question you hadn’t anticipated. Your mind goes blank. You try to think of something to say. The silence is embarrassing. Finally, you say something, anything, just to fill the void.
It’s a nightmare scenario. But it doesn’t have to be. And here’s why.
1. The silence is probably not as long as it seems.
No-one expects you to jump in and answer a question straight away. That could be the sign of someone who is over-confident, and that’s not something interviewers are keen on. A certain amount of silence is normal.
2. The interviewers expect you to think.
A good interviewee takes time to collect their thoughts and prepare a considered answer. OK, you may feel afterwards that you should have prepared the answer in advance, but that’s not always possible. (And it’s something to put on your list for next time.)
3. They don’t mind you being nervous.
Generally, interviewers are on your side (and if they’re not, do you really want to work for them?). They know you’re likely to be nervous and they will make allowances for this. If they feel you are struggling with an answer, they may even give you some hints about how they want you to answer it.
So what are the tactics you can use when you find yourself in this situation? You’ll have to break the silence at some point, so here are some ways to do it.
- Ask them to clarify or rephrase the question. This buys you some time.
- Tell them you need more time. It helps to have a stock phrase prepared, such as ‘That’s an interesting question; can I have a minute to think it through please?
- Take a drink of water; this will calm you down and help you to think.
- If you really can’t come up with an answer, be honest: and say so. It’s better than waffling.