Talking too much in an interview

A reader writes…

How do you know if you’re talking too much in an interview?
Shouldn’t I sell myself? 

Dear “Chatty,” 

There’s something to be said about the gift of gab. While it can be considered a wonderful trait, talking too much can also be your biggest downfall – especially when it comes to an interview!

I read somewhere the following breakdown of what the average interviewer’s attention span looks like.

It goes something like this:

  • You start talking. You have the interviewer’s full attention.
  • About 10 seconds go by. The interviewer begins listening with less intensity.
  • After 60 seconds, the interviewer’s mind begins to wander – now only devoting less than HALF his attention to you.  By the way, you can sometimes see this in the interviewer’s facial expression – eyes start to glaze… forehead starts to crinkle… (you know the look!)
  • By now, the interviewer is thinking about his/her next question – not really paying much attention.
  • If you’ve been speaking non-stop for 90 seconds, I assure you, the interviewer is barely listening at all.

By all means, you should do your best to “sell yourself” during an interview – but you don’t want to get carried away. Listening (and even asking questions) are essential parts of the process and reveal a lot about a candidate. As mentioned in one of my previous “Interview Tips” post:

Rule #5: LISTEN to the interviewer. We have two ears and only one mouth for a reason! You should do double the listening and keep your mouth shut when appropriate. Employers want good listeners.

A good rule of thumb is to take a good breath after each verbal “paragraph” and WATCH and LISTEN for the interviewer to break in with another question so they don’t start to feel frustrated that they can’t get a word in edgewise. If the interviewer doesn’t start to open his or her mouth to speak, you can keep going.

If anyone has any additional advice on this subject… do tell! 
Post your comments here!


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Phyllis A. Vinciguerra
    May 19, 2011 @ 10:26:10

    During an interview it is very important that you listen to the interviewer so you can answer the questions in a positive manner to which you are selling your skills. I did this, I was asked to start working the day I was interviewed. I was also asked, how much I want payed.


  2. raineywalden
    May 17, 2011 @ 09:32:52

    I agree, but, of course, this interviewing tactic is difficult to accomplish during telephone interviews. As an intent to piggy-back off of this inquiry, what are good tactics for successfully passing those psychological interviews when you provide honest responses, but a comparison of your responses to prior statistics representing average responses lower your chances tremendously? In other words, do you provide the anticipated response which may be contrary to a truthful response? Gallup is an organization that uses these type of interview methods.


  3. Dennis Barmettler
    May 17, 2011 @ 08:52:22

    Chatting and warming up people is a skill , and although being trasparent by revealig a bit of your real self through sharing is important, as well as opening up others about the real person they are is equally important, A sales call is about getting to the point as time is important in todays downsized world, spend time on thier need, and they will appreciate, and welcome you back


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Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.

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