The Key to a Successful
Job Interview – Listen


Here’s a common job interview blunder: Trying so hard to make a good impression that you do all the talking.

You want to get it all in, tell those anecdotes about the time you saved a project, describe what a great manager you are and reveal your personality. The more you want a particular job the more likely tension will get the better of you and you keep talking.

Even seasoned executives can come on too strong during an interview. In fact, the more you’re used to talking about your ideas and making decisions, the easier it is to fall into this trap.

If it doesn’t sound like a problem, think of it this way: when was the last time you really enjoyed a conversation with someone who kept talking about himself?

 The Formula for a Great Conversation

Job interviews may not be casual chats, but the best interviews are good conversations. Here’s a great definition of an ideal interview: An idea-generating, problem-solving meeting between two professionals who aren’t working together, but should be.

You can’t, of course, control how your interviewer approaches these meetings. Plenty of managers will act like interrogators or stick to a standard script. Some will be as uncomfortable as you are. But you can take steps to guide the conversation in a way that helps you make a great impression.

How? When it comes to job interviews, the formula for a good conversation is really quite simple. Listen more than you speak.

Most experienced job seekers arrive at interviews knowing what they want to ask about the company, the job, and the manager. That’s all good. But just as important is listening carefully to the answers so you ask the right follow-up questions (not just the next one on your list). By paying close attention you’ll be able to zero in on the manager’s needs and position yourself as the person who can help. That means not interrupting and not thinking more about your next question than what the manager is saying to you.

The other reasons you want to listen more than you speak come down to human nature. Most people just enjoy talking about their own work and ideas more than the work that someone else did somewhere else. And people tend to like people who listen to them.

Likability is a huge factor in hiring decisions. So if your aim is to get a particular job, you may actually make a better impression by spending more time listening and less time talking.

 6 Tips for a Great Job Interview Conversation

  1. When interviewing with a hiring manager you should talk less than half the time of the time, and mainly during the second half of the conversation.
  2. Try to postpone lengthy answers until you’ve gotten a manager to talk about her priorities.
  3. Never talk for more than a minute without pausing so the manager can redirect the conversation.
  4. Try to end your answers with a reference to the manager or a question.
  5. Understand the manager’s needs by asking targeted questions and follow-ups.
  6. Act like an employee, and talk to them more about work and not your personal aspirations.

About the Author

Susan Price has been writing about careers, entrepreneurs and personal finance for more than a decade. She’s been an editor at BusinessWeek, Money, and, among others.