Ramble on
December 1, 2020 5:54 PM   Subscribe

How do I stop rambling during job interviews?

I have a job interview coming up and I can't stop thinking about my most recent job interview, which becomes more disastrous in my mind the more often I think about it.

My main weakness in job interviews is that I just... RAMBLE. I find it extremely hard to give the concise answer I might have practiced at home prior to the interview. Lots of the advice I've read online just says to "embrace the silence," but it's so. fucking. hard. for me to do that in the environment of a job interview. During normal interactions, sure, I can do that. But in an interview? Forget it!!!

What triggers this rambling is the demeanor of my interviewers. Despite advice telling job-searchers to view a job interview as a "conversation," it really isn't. When the interviewers remain silent and give me very little feedback (whether that is a nod, or a mmhmm, whatever) it just... makes my brain go HAYWIRE. It triggers something in me that makes me need to KEEP TALKING. It's just so. hard. to not do that. I just can't stop talking! I feel like they need MORE and I just can't END my answers until I get some sort of cue (verbal or non-verbal) that my answer is "acceptable." Obviously, this isn't great.

How can I not ramble? I doubt it's ever helped me get a job. Again, lots of the advice says to embrace the awkward silence, but for me it's about more than that. Somehow my social anxiety (which is at it's WORST in during job interviews) NEEDS some sort of response from them.

My next interview is on Friday, and not that I'll be able to perfectly squash this habit in 2 days, but how can I get better at not rambling?!
posted by VirginiaPlain to Human Relations (15 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
I find typical interview questions and write down bullet points of what I want to cover. Then I practice answering aloud.
posted by saturdaymornings at 6:09 PM on December 1, 2020 [3 favorites]

One really great tip that someone gave me was to always take a moment before answering the question. Bring a bottle of water with you and if you are about to start trying to answer the question without taking that moment first, take a tip of water because it will make you stop.
posted by kinddieserzeit at 6:10 PM on December 1, 2020 [5 favorites]

I tell myself that I need to focus on listening just as intently as I am focused on speaking. So, when an awkward pause comes up, rather than rambling, see if anything the interviewer said can be turned into a follow-up question for them.
posted by Anonymouse1618 at 6:14 PM on December 1, 2020

I have been on the hiring side of some formal government job interviews where the panel is highly discouraged from doing much talking, and without a doubt, the most impressed I have ever been by a candidate was one who asked for a moment to collect her thoughts when answering substantive questions, made quick notes on a pad of paper and then stuck to her taking points in clear, concise answers.

Not every interviewer would love that break to make notes, but if it is the kind of environment where you could do it - for a technical interview, for example - it just radiates confidence and competence. The panel was hiring for positions in more than one organization, and there was a fight over who got to hire her.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:20 PM on December 1, 2020 [13 favorites]

How good are you at picking up social clues in regular (whatever that means these days) conversations? This is a huge generalization, but many people lean back very slightly when they've heard enough. Watch for that, if you can: it may be difficult to pick up over a video interview (and completely impossible over the phone).

Two reassurances:
  1. they're taking the time to interview you: they like you, and even at first interview are fairly serious about employing you.
  2. If you haven't given them enough information, they'll ask. The awkward silences are theirs to manage, not yours.

posted by scruss at 6:23 PM on December 1, 2020 [2 favorites]

When you have the urge to keep talking, how 'bout peppering in some questions and/or summaries:
Does that answer the question?
Would any other info from me be helpful?
Would that strategy (that you just described) be effective here?
So yes, that's how I address (thing you were asked about).
So to sum up, I do have a lot of experience with A, B, C.
posted by Uncle Glendinning at 6:38 PM on December 1, 2020 [6 favorites]

How about simply forcing their feedback, politely?

"I think I stand out for this position because of the management skills I gained at my previous job. I very much enjoyed engaging with my staff and maintaining a constructive dialogue when any issues arose. Or was your question intended to address my technical skills?"

You might come off as a robot if you do this for every question. But try doing it for the first one, and your mindset might flip.
posted by mostly-sp3 at 6:48 PM on December 1, 2020

I find typical interview questions and write down bullet points of what I want to cover.

This is really important. I always try to do this and it helps immensely.
posted by showbiz_liz at 6:50 PM on December 1, 2020 [1 favorite]

Think of the silence after your answer as a courtesy. Just like you would step aside to let someone walk ahead of you, stop talking and let your interviewer go ahead. Look at them expectantly, put the ball mentally in their court. If they need more info than you gave, they'll ask.
posted by emjaybee at 6:59 PM on December 1, 2020 [1 favorite]

I do quite a bit of hiring.

Time yourself. Your answers should be around 30 - 90 seconds, so once you know how long that feels you can aim for it better.

Generally, you should not start talking until you know how you will finish your answer. Pause - smile, take a breath, make eye contact, etc. It's not a regular conversation, pauses of 3 - 5 seconds are normal and expected. If you need more time to think it's ok to say so.
posted by mikek at 8:50 PM on December 1, 2020 [5 favorites]

You can do this to yourself, it's just a matter of practicing self control in social situations that are less stressful. Understand, however, that you might be misreading the issue here (one feedback from an interviewer can be ignored, two can be considered, ect.) and are likely expected to TAKE CONTROL of the interview at these points. If you're applying for something that requires initiative, be prepared to show it and lead them. Lead them to the conclusion YOU want.
posted by IronLizard at 3:00 AM on December 2, 2020

I've got a strange tip that's worked for me. I learned that I'm a kinesthetic learner which really means my brain thinks differently when I can move and interact with things. Now, jump to a job interview and I can't move (stuck in chair + panic freeze) and I'm only interacting verbally. This sort of shuts my brain down and I do like you - a sort of blurty ramble. I learned that holding something in my hand super really helps. Ideally something quite tactile, but I've found that even holding a pen makes a vast difference. It's mad really how big! I usually take a notes page - my application - so I can pretend I've got a pen out for a reason.
posted by london explorer girl at 3:43 AM on December 2, 2020 [4 favorites]

In interviews I focus on BAG and STAR in my answers.

BAG is Background, Accomplishments, and Goals. That introduces me to them - helpful for introductions and big picture stuff.
STAR is Situation, Task, Action, and Result. That answers questions about specific jobs, positions, et cetera.

Both of these keep me focused on answering their questions with useful stuff about work I did, and not rambling on. Cause I can ramble too!
posted by entropone at 6:23 AM on December 2, 2020 [3 favorites]

Perhaps have a few different techniques to try so that you can mix them up? For example, you could finish your answer, by asking if there's anything they'd like you to expand on or elaborate on. You could, get to the end of your pre-planned points or example, and then make yourself pause for 5 seconds (count in your head). You could summarise at the end of your answer, so it feels more like an ending.

Interviews are stressful, so it's not surprising that your subconscious might accidentally sabotage you but it's not inevitable that it must. See if you can practice interview questions but with your practice partner deliberately trying not to give any non-verbal cues. If you can become more comfortable with not continuing beyond the end of your answer in a practice situation, you're more likely to be able to do so in the real thing.
posted by plonkee at 6:29 AM on December 2, 2020

Do you have someone you can practice with? Write out some questions, have them play interviewer and ask you the questions. Answer the questions. Pay attention to your body position, your annunciation, your eye contact.... Have your friend time your answers. Then you can repeat and adjust.

I tend to ramble when the question is vague and general and I think of several specific contexts or examples of that question. Pick one or two specific scenarios, answer those snapily, but not 3 or 4.
posted by at at 11:02 AM on December 2, 2020

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