Keeping Talkative Interviewees On Track

Posted in : HR Updates on 1 December 2020
Olga Pollock
firmus energy
Issues covered: Recruitment and Selection; Interview tips

We’ve all been there; that overzealous interviewee who doesn’t seem to know when to stop talking while the interview panel squirm and surreptitiously gland at the clock praying for the candidate to run out of steam before launching into the next question.

In my experience the first “tell us about yourself” question can be the gateway to an unlimited response where there has been no attempt on the panels’ part to manage expectations. Inevitably these types of interviews tend to overrun and have a knock-on effect on the rest of the interview schedule. It goes without saying that this is far from ideal for either the candidates or the interviewers and it is clearly unfair to write off the talkative candidate when he or she hasn’t been aware of the guidelines from the outset and will significantly impact your ability to assess candidates effectively.

I remember many years ago in a previous job, an interview candidate waiting nervously in the office reception area having gone to the effort of flying into Belfast from London. The poor lady was left sitting for an hour and a half before being called for interview whilst the hiring manager assumed that if she was interested enough, she should be happy to wait despite the fault lying with the interview panel for inadequate time management skills.

Granted this is an extreme example of how things can go wrong, but how do we encourage the ‘talkers’ from responding succinctly and keeping everything on track?

Set the Scene

During the introductions it is important to explain to the candidate how long the interview is expected to last and roughly how much time that equates to per question. That way the candidate is given boundaries from the from the get-go of the need to be concise. I sometimes find it helpful to go a step further and explain to the candidate that they shouldn’t feel the need to delve into huge levels of detail as the interview panel will probe further when needed.

Keep an Eye On Time

If you know how much time is set aside per question it is important to keep an eye on the clock to ensure this actually happens. How often have we been in an interview where the candidate has spent twenty or so minutes on the first question and there is still ten more left to ask?

Politely Interject

If time is marching on and they’re still in full flow you can politely interrupt through body language by raising a hand or eyebrow or slightly pursing your lips as if to speak. This sends a subtle que to the candidate that you’re about to ask a question and you can follow this by something like, “that’s really interesting what you’re describing here. I’d also like to know about … “; and move onto the next question.

Blame the Clock

If all else fails cut the candidate off and blame the clock. This is a last resort technique and may be offset by applying the above techniques but when needed, apologise and explain that you don’t want to cut them off but that you  really want to ensure that all the questions are covered so ask for headline responses only and explain that the panel will dive deeper if needed. This gives the candidate a very clear but non-threatening instruction from you and should ensure that the interview finishes on time.

The above approaches should greatly enhance the interview panel’s ability to manage dialogue more efficiently. Of course, you should expect to face the odd curveball from time to time but generally these steps should limit over-talking and ensure that both parties present themselves in the best possible light.

Useful reading

How Do I Get Long-Winded Job Candidates To Stop Talking During Interviews?

This article is correct at 01/12/2020

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Olga Pollock
firmus energy

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