Good interviewers will use a pause or silence to see how candidates respond. In my experience it is one of the most powerful interview techniques. In some situations silence is golden yet in others it can make you feel very uncomfortable. Interviews can be highly stressful situations and time either seems to fly, or grinds towards a halt at the worst possible moment.
So how do you manage silences in interviews?
One fatal option can be to carry on speaking. You have answered the question but you have to fill the silence. You wrongly interpret the interviewer’s pause as a request for more information. Invariably people then lose momentum, waste time, often drift off-piste and lose confidence.
But you already have the power to manage silences by using your non-verbal skills and by engaging with your interviewers as peers. The two key non-verbal ways are by using your body language and the tone of your voice. You can use your eyes, facial expressions, moving forward and/or my favourite, your hands. Combine this with a deepening of your tone of voice, increasing the volume of your last word or slowing down to emphasise you have finished your reply.
In parallel, engage your interviewers in a real conversation and use your communication skills to help your discussion run smoothly. Then if you hit a pause you can ask them “does that answer your question” or “would you like me to give you another example”?
Remember interviewers are only other human beings and some are both poor at asking questions and listening – so help them out! People relate to people and we like to work with people we like. Be open, be confident and use your communication skills to help make it an enjoyable interview.
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