The value of waiting to speak during an interview

When you are in a job interview and the interviewer is articulating a question, it can be easy to jump in and to begin answering the question before the interviewer finishes speaking. One little trick to help with overcoming this all-too-human tendency is to think of this moment in an interview as if you are waiting in your car at an intersection. In the same way that you would not venture into the intersection until you have a green light, you can use the image of a stop light to help discipline yourself in an interviewing situation to not jump in too quickly with a reply in making sure that the interviewer is actually done speaking. Simply stated (and to belabor the obvious a bit), when the interviewer is speaking, the “light is red”; when the interviewer is finished with a question or request, the “light is green” and it is your turn to talk.

As difficult as it can be to do this in the heat of the moment, there are several good reasons for waiting for your turn to speak in an interview. The first is that by waiting you ensure that you will have the benefit of responding to the entire question. Second, you are demonstrating basic courteousness. Related to this point, you are showing that you are a good listener and someone who values what others have to say—two essential qualities that employers especially covet in this era of near universally emphasized team collaboration and culture building. When you display the ability to listen and to wait for your turn to speak, you simply come across as more polished and professional, and as a result you increase your attractiveness as a potential hire.