There comes a time in every job interview…the awkward silence. No one is talking.  

It’s okay. Let it happen.

With all the preparation candidates do for interviews—and don’t think we’re discouraging preparation!—one thing they don’t always take into consideration is how long their answers actually are. This is another good reason to practice interviewing with a friend or a colleague who is paying attention to the details.

Your answers in an interview should be between 1 and 2 minutes. Even if you’re telling a story, short and sweet is the best. A short story can lead to more interesting questions and more back and forth. If you talk for too long, the interviewer will tune out.

Sometimes, however, when you are pithy, you finish before your interviewer has prepared the next question. That’s really good, as it means he or she was engaged in active listening.  

Don’t be tempted to fill the silence after your well-crafted answer is finished. It seems much longer than it actually is and puts the dynamic of the interview squarely in your hands.  

So time out your stories. And your long form answers to “Tell me about yourself” and “why do you want to work here?” Stay within two minutes and you will know if there is a little space between your answer and the next question, it’s because you’re doing well!

Wendy Stackhouse, Consultant for Artisan Creative