How Talking Less Could Land You Your Next 6-Figure Job
Most people find interviews nerve-wracking -- there's a lot of pressure and no way of knowing for sure which questions you'll be asked. But there's one topic that, when the answer is practiced effectively, you can ensure a better interview outcome for: "Who are you, and why would you be a good fit for the role?"
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In Robert Greene's acclaimed book The 48 Laws of Power, the fourth law is to always say less than necessary. This might come as a surprise if you pride yourself on being able to talk yourself out of anything (or talk anyone into anything), but there are times when keeping your talking to a minimum can be a winning strategy. Job interviews are one of those times.
Sitting in complete silence for the entire duration of the interview might not be a recipe for success, but failing to let the interviewer get a word in isn't either. Here's why dialing the talking down could help you earn more.
Silence is power
According to Greene, the reason that silence is so powerful ultimately comes down to staying in control. We tend to let ourselves slip or come out with silly things when we speak for too long while keeping things brief can make our statements seem more profound (and lowers the chance of us saying something ridiculous).
At first glance, this might not seem particularly applicable to the world of interviews — you can't exactly hope to win the job by maintaining an era of mystique and talking in riddles or giving one-word responses with meaningful glances. But it's still true that saying too much can deprive you of the opportunity to wait for a reaction and respond to the interviewer's cues.
Think about it: If you had one job candidate who talked complete nonsense for two minutes straight to answer your question and another who gave you a brief response that you needed to follow up with further questions, who would you give the benefit of the doubt to?
But this isn't just about avoiding saying something stupid — keeping your answers short gives you more opportunities to genuinely connect with the interviewer and react to what they're telling you.
Related: In Sales, Silence Is Golden
Show your authenticity
Most people find interviews nerve-wracking — there's a lot of pressure and no way of knowing for sure which questions you'll be asked. But there's one topic that pops up in some form in practically every interview: "Who are you, and why would you be a good fit for the role?"
Many candidates will rehearse their response to this question extensively, making sure they include everything that will demonstrate why they're the perfect person to hire. Unfortunately, this can come across as being fake and overly-rehearsed — and if you're also on the awkward end of the spectrum, your answers could seem robotic.
There's nothing wrong with rehearsing, but avoid falling into the trap of rehearsing so much that you dominate the interview (not in a good way) and fail to show your true self.
For the most part, companies set aside a fixed amount of time for an interview, so spending too much of this speaking will waste time that could have been put to much better use. Sticking to the idea that "less is more" and rehearsing one or two key points instead of five or six is one way to come across as more authentic.
But it's not the only way.
Create a connection
The best interviews should feel like a conversation. The interviewer asks a question, the candidate responds, and it leads to a back-and-forth dialogue. Yet this rarely happens, because the candidate is too focused on themselves (usually due to their stress).
We all know how it feels to end up in a conversation with a friend or acquaintance where it feels like the other person is so caught up in themselves that they haven't even noticed you're no longer paying attention to them. Interviewers can sometimes feel this way too.
All you have to do to avoid this happening is pay attention to basic social cues. Does it look like they want to interrupt you or follow up with a specific question? It's probably time to shut up. Did they look displeased or uncomfortable with something you said? Time to skim over that point and move onto something else. Did they look excited about something you said? Go into some more detail.
You almost certainly use these kinds of basic social skills in your everyday life, yet when it comes to interviews, most people prefer to "stick to the script." Treat your interviewer like a person and it will take you far.
How much is too much?
If we've convinced you that talking less is the way forward, you probably have one question left you need an answer to. How long should your answers be?
Generally, a maximum of 60 seconds for a response is about right. It only takes around 10 seconds for an interviewer to start losing interest, and after 90 seconds they might have stopped listening completely.
It's not like you can time yourself in the actual interview, but you can certainly time yourself at home when you're practicing your answers to common interview questions. If you can comfortably stay below 45 seconds for an answer, you'll give yourself more leeway for the actual thing.
Less really is more
Every interviewer is different, and every interview with the same interviewer is different. There's no magic formula for exactly what you should say or how long you should speak for.
But if in doubt, you'll rarely go wrong by assuming that less is more. Keep your responses brief, let the interviewer do their job and don't leave your emotional intelligence at home. It might just land you your next six-figure role.
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