6 Tips to Tame Your Chatty Cathy/Charlie Tendencies in an Interview

Male interviewer looking bored

Interviews always make for a nervous time. For some of us, that may mean that we have butterflies in our stomachs. Others may have more outward signs of the jitters. One of those signs, excessive talking, can be particularly problematic. If not reined in, it can cause you to be knocked out of contention for a job that you really would be quite qualified for.

How can you control your not-so-inner Chatty Cathy/Charlie during an interview?

1. Develop answers for common interview questions and practice them.
There are many lists of interview questions that can be found on the Internet. A couple that I like come from Quintessential Careers: Established Job-Seeker/Career Changer: 20 Traditional Job Interview Questions and Situational Job Interview Questions & Excellent Sample Responses (there are 20 questions in all for the latter link, so be sure to go beyond the first 10).

Whatever resources you use, make sure that you develop your own answers. Using the answers that may be suggested online is a bad strategy because 1) they won’t necessarily reflect your perspective or experiences, and 2) you will have a much harder time trying to recall something that you have had to memorize word-for-word. That can lead you to talk more than necessary.

2. Anticipate questions that are particular to your field and the position.
Even with all the guides that you have access to, they won’t necessarily hit on the questions that will be specific to this job interview. You know your industry, so think about the aspects of your work that are critical and how you have been able to successfully carry them out. Also look to the job description, the website, and any current news on the company to determine what may important to this company. The better you can answer these questions, the more you look like someone who is already part of their team. If you ramble on, you may come across as someone who has a hard time focusing on what is important.

3. Know the stories that highlight you unique value.
Stories are key to a successful interview. They paint a vivid picture of you putting your knowledge and skills in action, they demonstrate your thought processes, they convey your enthusiasm for what you do. However, poorly told stories that go on and on or pull in extraneous information can cause your interviewer to lose interest. Practice these stories so they can be delivered well.

4. Do a mock interview.
Practicing is important, but it’s also important to know how you are coming across. If you can work with a career professional or get a friend to help you, that’s great. If using a friend, make sure s/he doesn’t say nice things about your performance just to make you feel better. You need someone who is going to give you honest feedback; if you need to improve in some areas, you need to know that.

If you don’t have anyone to work with, videotape yourself. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy — even the webcam on your computer would work for this purpose. When watching the recording, don’t go to the extremes (too complimentary or too critical). Just look at yourself realistically, giving yourself credit for what you are doing well and being truthful about what could use some improvement.

5. Bring along a pad of paper and pen to jot down notes at the interview.
One reason why this works is because it channels nervous energy. Instead of your mouth going a mile a minute, you can be capturing on paper key points from the interview. Even this needs to be tempered, however; too much note writing can be a distraction to the interviewer and can be perceived that you are not really paying attention.

6. Consider using something like Interview Angel to help you get organized.*
Brent Peterson has created a powerful tool to help job seekers bring all the pieces of one’s career together into a cohesive package. The Interview Angel padfolio guides you as it asks questions designed to bring forth the stories that demonstrate your value, and it keeps your information organized so you can study from it to prepare for your interview. Being organized definitely cuts down on the nervousness that leads to being overly talkative.

How else do you minimize chatty behavior on a job interview?

*Note: I have not received any compensation from Interview Angel. It is just a product that I really believe in as a helpful tool for job seekers.

Image courtesy of bpsusf

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