“You talk too much. You never shut up.” – Run DMC
To shut a candidate up or not to shut a candidate up? That is the question. A question, as an interviewer, I’ve contemplated for many years. A question I admittedly flip-flop on. But here is where I am with this now.
Candidates, you need to control your explanations. You need to learn when it is time to let it flow and when to zip it. You see, over-talking is killing your chances of further interviews. It really is.
What is a recruiter to do when a candidate continues to talk and talk and talk? Pull out a stopwatch. You have one on your phone. Literally, time how long they go on before they come up for air. I’ve clocked one person at nine minutes. NINE minutes. That likely took up anywhere from 15–30% of a typical phone screen interview answering one question. Terrible ROI, candidates. Terrible.
But that’s mean! No, it is not.
Why don’t you just cut in? Okay, you should. Once. At the beginning of the interview establish you are on a limited schedule and have a hard stop at one hour. If they start to over-talk, cut in once “for the sake of time,” re-establish the cadence and move on. If they over-talk again, let ’em go. They understand the cadence now and are either ignoring it or aren’t good communicators.
But they are just nervous! Probably. But there will be lots of scenarios where they will likely be nervous in their real job. Over-talking will not be an effective way to handle nerves then either.
What if they don’t have to communicate in the job they are interviewing for? They will. AP clerks have to communicate. Librarians have to communicate. Every job requires some sort of communication. Unless maybe if you’re a poet.
So when should an interviewer give an over-talker a pass? I can think of 3 times.
- They are an SME. If they are uniquely qualified for a super specialized job—give them a pass.
- If they acknowledge, on their own, that “over-talking” is an issue for them. At least they are aware of the issue. Then you and/or the hiring manager can decide if you want to continue to coach the issue if hired.
- If they ask in the middle of a rant—Am I going on too long? Or is that answer enough for you? Or would you like me to continue? I like that. At least it is then a conversation. At least then the interviewee is aware of their surroundings and in some way has controlled the “over-talk.”
OK, I’ll zip it now.
Dawn Burke, VP of Talent Consulting at Kinetix and founder/advisor for Dawn Burke HR, is an HR leader, speaker, and writer specializing in new HR practices, engagement and workplace culture. Her HR/recruiting/leadership career has spanned the last 20 years, with past gigs including a foundational role as VP of People for Birmingham, AL’s award-winning technology company, Daxko (And yes, Kris Dunn and Dawn are making Bham the HR capital of the world! Who knew?). You can also check her out at DawnHBurke.com and a variety of other interesting places. Google her, it’ll keep you posted on what she is up to.
Most importantly: She is addicted to TV, knows most of the lyrics to Hamilton and West Side Story, loves to cry at movies (check out Cinema Paradiso for a cry fest!), thinks wine, a wheel of Brie and Milk Duds make a well-balanced dinner, and sings in her car daily. Her husband and cat are the Yin to her Yang.