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. 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 offering 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 pause and consider your choices before replying. Even if they ask a complex question that you’ve prepared a definitive 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. Take a pause when you usually would maintain 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 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 pause? Unless you were rehearsing for a play, the likely answer is that you can’t remember. That’s because everyday conversations have pauses. Embracing them 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 pausing. 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 following interview a more natural, conversational experience will require you to prepare and take pauses when appropriate. Good luck with your next interview, and don’t forget to pause!
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