Dealing with an interviewer who won’t shut up
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Dealing with an interviewer who won’t shut up

You are really in big trouble if you come across a job interviewer who just keeps talking.

What the interviewer really should be doing instead is asking questions, then listening to what you have to say about yourself and your work experience. You came for a job interview not to listen to a marketing presentation.

Technically speaking, we say such a person has got “logorrhea”, an actual illness defined as a pathological inability to stop talking. Sometimes, and less serious, you see a word like “loquacious” applied to people who talk a lot and often about stuff they think we should all know.

What do you think causes excessive speech in a job interview situation? No, it’s not logorrhea or loquaciousness.

Let me tell you, in 9 out of 10 cases, it simply comes down to the inexperience of the job interviewer. It’s the kind of interviewer who thinks interviewing is just talking to people, who will ask old-fashioned and silly questions like: “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” “Why do you want to leave your current employment?” “Can you sell?” (assuming the job is in sales).

It’s the kind of inexperienced interviewer who is convinced that a gut feeling is all it takes to determine if a candidate is qualified or not. I kid you not!

An inexperienced interviewer believes he or she should talk 80% of the time and you, the interviewee, only 20%. In fact, it is of course the exact opposite. I mean, you came for a job interview, not to listen to a company and personal presentation.

My mentor in teaching me to understand cross-cultural management in a Thai context, for which we go back almost 25 years, was Dr Henry Holmes who was a long-time resident of the Kingdom, a Harvard University graduate and author of several books on working and leading multi-cultural teams in Thailand.

Henry’s favourite advice was: “be a good listener”. According to Henry, one gets more out of listening than speaking. The art of listening is to pose questions that get the candidate or applicant talking and providing the insights that one seeks.

Interviewing is a highly complicated multi-tasking activity

Don’t let anyone convince you that interviewing is just about talking. That is so far from the truth. Interviewing is one of the most complicated skill-sets of multi-tasking and takes years of practice to really master.

  • Ask your candidate questions using the written questions you prepared beforehand. Key words here: written, prepared, beforehand!
  • Take notes: write down the key points of the candidate’s answers.
  • Meanwhile, as you are still writing, concentrate and listen carefully to the answers to assess if they make sense. Did the candidate actually answer the question? Decide what follow-up questions you want to ask in order to further probe and uncover more needed information.
  • Observe eye movement and body language. Look for eyes looking up, for eyes flickering from side-to-side, for arms crossed.
  • While listening, writing, thinking about follow-up questions, looking for the next relevant question on your list and managing the time by keeping an eye on the clock, observe the candidate’s body language.
  • Then it starts all over again and continues in that vein for up to two hours. That’s what professional headhunters do, day in day out, for years and years.

The Number 1 tip for interviewers who talk too much

Stop trusting your gut and take the interview process seriously; follow a plan; prepare your interview agenda and stick to it; have written questions to ensure you remember to get all the important points covered.

Showing up at the interview with only the candidate’s resume is the road to hell. To give yourself a fair chance of assessing the experience and skills of the candidate, prepare at least 20 questions that are linked directly to the required competencies.

Sticking to these questions, though in any order as you gain more experience, will also ensure that you ask all the candidates for the particular position the very same questions and thereby gain a better chance to compare.

The four step job interview agenda

The best-in-class recruiters and HR departments will email the candidate with tips on how to prepare for the interview; whether it’s the interview with the recruitment company or the corporate talent acquisition.

The email should confirm the date and time, the place of the interview, who to ask for at the reception, who will be the interviewer and finally also a telephone number to call in case of unexpected delay on the way to the interview.

Inform the candidate that it’s not a competition about who has the best memory; suggest to the candidate to bring their resume, a pen and paper for note-taking, but also other supporting documents (which could be examples of performance, candidate’s own questions, etc.). You may even recommend how to dress for the interview.

The four step interview agenda:

1. Welcome and an introduction of your company. Not details of the job yet.

2. Question the candidate’s background and expertise. That is the heart of the interview.

3. Introduce the job description, the department, expectations.

4. The next step after this interview; when will an update be given?

As a candidate, how do you deal with an interviewer who talks too much?

I started interviewing candidates 35 years ago for the company I worked for in Jakarta at the time. For the last 15 years, I have made a living as a headhunter, helping clients find and assess candidates for management positions in Thailand. Here’s what I’ve learned.

I am still flabbergasted, when I hear the horror stories from candidates who talk about their job interview experiences. Many decided to turn down offers from such companies because of the unprofessional and amateurish interview processes they experienced.

It’s a nightmare and a challenge. Your first warning is when an interviewer comes into the room with nothing but your resume. Even if that much. If the interviewer did not bring pen and paper to note your answers or if the interviewer clearly does not use prepared questions, it spells trouble ahead.

If you haven’t lost the motivation already, if you still want to give the company a chance, if you like to give them the benefit of the doubt, you need to take charge and be very assertive.

You need to politely interrupt the interviewer. Say something like: “Sorry to interrupt. I have something important that I would really like to tell you. It’s a great example of something I have experience in.” Then go on and talk about your experience, perhaps present some documents that support your point. And be prepared to interrupt again, and again.

Author: Tom Sorensen is a Partner at Boyden Thailand, a global Top 10 executive search firm. Contact and learn more on

Series Editor: Christopher F. Bruton, Executive Director, Dataconsult Ltd, Dataconsult’s Thailand Regional Forum provides seminars and extensive documentation to update business on future trends in Thailand and in the Mekong Region.

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