Secret to a Successful Interview: Don’t Ramble

A successful job interview relies as much on preparation as it does on communicating effectively during the actual interview. If you haven’t interviewed for a position recently, you may not know when the information you are providing is worthwhile and when enough is enough. So, how can a candidate keep the conversation balanced? The key is to preparelisten, and watch.

Preparation — which is beneficial for nearly any task in life — is especially critical for an interview, whether it’s an initial inquiry phone call, a video interview, or an in-person interview. If you are not prepared for the interview, then rambling at any stage of the game could be a death knell that only the interviewers hear. When preparing for the interview, refer to these guidelines:

  • Advertisement/Prospectus – Read it again carefully prior to any aspect of the interview process. Revisit your notes and cover letter on the strengths you bring to the position. Make sure you tie major components in the prospectus to your skill set and make the case for why the job is pertinent to your expertise.
  • Journal – Compose particular questions that you feel the interviewers will ask and answer them. Organize questions you were asked for previous positions for which you have applied and brainstorm new questions specific to this position. Address how your vision for the position melds with the mission and vision of the institution.
  • Key Qualities – In your mind or on paper, delineate three to four key skills that you can bring to the job. During the interview, questions could focus on these. Ensure that your response differentiates yourself from others. For example, don’t state that your skill is being a dedicated worker who finishes the job. Each candidate should be that! Instead, focus on what makes you unique. Interviewers want to know how well you will fit with the institution and what special components you bring. How are you the best candidate?
  • Background Information of Institutions – Review the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). Locate financial audits, understand the mission and vision of the institution, and study the strategic plan initiatives. Understand the culture of the institution through investigation of websites, news articles, and social media. What are main points of which you should be aware? How can you be an asset?
  • Practice – Yes, practice answering questions to yourself and then with a trusted group of individuals. Seek feedback on which of your answers best demonstrate your expertise. Too many “stories” can be detrimental. Yet, giving a “story” that connects your compassion to your professionalism can highlight valued qualities. Ask your trusted group to tell you when you are talking too much or too little.

The second key to a successful interview is listening. Listen fully to the questions and be careful not to interrupt the interviewer(s). Some questions have multiple parts. Bring a notepad and pen to jot down key points so that you can address each aspect of the question consistently and carefully. In an open forum, this may be more difficult. Remembering a keyword from each question or repeating the question(s) can keep items clear in your mind. Answer the question using those three or four skills you have noted as your key qualities to emphasize the benefit you bring to the institution. 

The final key is watching. Watch the interviewer(s) and take cues from them. When people’s attention seems to waiver, it’s time to stop talking. When interviewers begin tapping their pencils, looking through other questions, or checking their phones, you must wrap up the answer and move on. Be mindful of the time allotted for the entire interview. When asked if you have anything else to add and you are close to the completion time, it is better to thank the interviewers, rather than try to discuss one more “important” quality. If it was that important, you should have highlighted it in an earlier answer as one of your three to four key qualities. 

To summarize, prepare and practice, listen, and watch those involved in the process. If you feel the conversation is one-sided, enough is enough. Relax and enjoy the conversation.

By: K. Renee Fister