When Interviewees Talk too Much, The Bagg Group Experts say Interrupting is Doing Them a Favour


Interruptions are a fact of everyday work life. Between incoming email, texts, phone calls and a colleague stopping by for an impromptu chat, interruptions take up 28% of a knowledge worker’s day.  That’s the finding of a study by the US research firm Basex which also reports that interruptions cost US companies $28 billion in lost hours per year. 

It’s a hefty price to pay for often unnecessary email or unsolicited reviews on last night’s episode of CSI.  But there are also times when an interruption is helpful and contributes to productivity.

A job interview is a case in point. When candidates lose focus and talk too much, the biggest favour you can do for them is to interrupt.  

Yet many hiring managers say they’re uncomfortable cutting off an interviewee in mid-stride. However, The Bagg Group recruiters encourage their clients across the GTA to do just that when necessary.

Sometimes as an interviewer, you need to be blunt to be kind.  We know this from interviewing hundreds of thousands of candidates to successfully fill more than 57,000 full-time positions, contract opportunities, and temporary placements over 40-plus years.  

We have seen time and time again how common it is for people to digress or give too much information when asked about themselves. That’s why we always coach our candidates to stay on point, and be succinct.

It’s not surprising that people get carried away, given that an interview can feel like an exam.  And how many of us have answered exam questions by telling everything we could recall on the subject, in hopes of winning extra points. 

So while talking too much in an interview is understandable, it almost always backfires.  A real chatterbox can prompt just about anyone to check out of the conversation. For that reason, the nicest thing you can do for an interviewee is to cut off rather than cut out. 

Here are some tips from the interview experts at The Bagg Group for how to turn an interruption into a positive interaction.  

  1. Identify whether the information is pertinent to you.  As you listen, ask yourself, “Is this important for my decision-making?”  If it’s not, cut in.
  2. It’s not advisable to waste your time and patience waiting for the interviewee to take a pause. Instead, jump in.  The candidate will not be thrown if you thank them for their answer but say you must stop them there because you’d like to ask other questions, and you need to be mindful of time.
  3. It can be helpful to tell chatty interviewees to bottom line their answers. A useful technique is to include the word “briefly” in your question. This alerts interviewees that you don’t want a lot of background.  
  4. If the interviewee veers off topic, it’s beneficial to interrupt by reminding them that due to time, you’d like to focus on how they can relate their experience specifically to your team’s needs.

On the bright side, more challenging than having to interrupt an interviewee is coming face-to-face with a person who hardly says a word.    

Barbara Walters, who has interviewed almost every world figure over the past 50 years, reported that one of her worst interviews was with Hollywood movie star and director Warren Beatty.  “I asked him, ‘how are you?’  There was an interminable dead silence.  Finally he said, ‘fine.’” 

Now that’s a real problem interview.

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