Pause to Consider Why Pauses Can Make A Difference in Your Next Interview

By Chelsea Babin

Maybe you’ve had a string of recent interviews that haven’t resulted in a job offer or you’re simply trying to prepare for your first upcoming interview for a long time. You’ll undoubtedly be researching companies, body language, how to write effective thank you letters and so on and so forth. It’s enough to make your head spin. But there’s one question you probably forgot to consider: Have you taken the time to pause?

No, we’re not suggesting you put your job search on hold. Instead, we’re suggesting embracing silence in your upcoming interviews. When you’re preparing for an interview, you’re probably running potential answers to typical questions through your head and practicing your responses out loud. This is a great thing to do! Instead of thinking up scenarios where you “put others before yourself” or “had to find a solution at the last minute” on the spot, thinking about your responses ahead of time could save you from blurting out a less-than-stellar example.

But, no matter how much time you dedicate to preparing appropriate responses, there will always be a question or two that catches you off guard. Or there will be a question you were too prepared for and your answer sounds rehearsed. Here are a few ways that embracing pauses can help you avoid damaging your interview:

1. Impulsive Answers Are Best Avoided: If you’re a fan of rapid-fire question and answer games, you’ll know that sometimes your first impulse isn’t the best answer. Especially in an interview scenario! Sometimes your instincts will be on point and professional but, if you take a moment to pause and consider your response before speaking, you’ll be more likely to deliver an answer you’re proud of.

2. Taking Time to Consider Difficult Questions: Think about it, when you’re asked a difficult question, your natural response is often to take a pause and consider your choices before replying. Even if they ask a difficult question that you’ve prepared an outstanding answer for, you’ll want to take a moment to pause before responding. Otherwise you may risk looking too rehearsed and unnatural which isn’t what employers are looking for. Taking a pause when you normally would maintains the natural pace of the interview.

3. Body Language Cues: Even when you aren’t speaking, your body is. When you take a pause your interviewer will have more time to focus on your body language. If you are leaning in you will look engaged in the conversation. If you are maintaining eye contact you will look confident and interested. If your arms aren’t folded across your chest you’ll look open to the opportunity and the conversation. So, if you need to take a pause before responding, make sure your body language cues are on point and this moment of silence could end up being one of the best moments of your interview!

4. Embrace Normal, Conversational Pacing: When was the last time you had a back-and-forth conversation that went nonstop without a pause in between? Unless you were rehearsing for a play the likely answer is that you can’t remember. That’s because normal conversations have pauses. Embracing pauses will help your interview feel more like a normal back-and-forth exchange which will help you relax and make you appear more confident.

5. Repetition Is Like A Non-Silent Pause: Maybe the idea of silence in your interview intimidates you. How long should a natural pause last? Will they think you weren’t paying attention? If the thought of silence in your interview is causing you anxiety, try repeating the question instead of taking a pause. This is a natural, commonly used way to buy time without looking disengaged or disinterested. Repeating the question gives you time to get your bearings without leaving an actual moment of silence in your interview.

Pauses, moments of silence, taking a beat—whatever you call them these quiet secret weapons are one of the often overlooked elements of success in any great interview. Making your next interview a more natural, conversational experience will require you to prepare and take pauses when appropriate. Good luck on your next interview and don’t forget to pause!