Copyright © 2008 Ed Bagley
My best advice to clients about to interview for a job is to treat the interview like an IRS audit.
When the Internal Revenue Service thinks you are cheating on your annual tax return, and they ask you a question during an audit, it is a real good idea to answer the field auditor’s question and shut up.
The same strategy works during job interviews. When the interviewer asks you a job-related question, answer the question and shut up. Use my “Zip-a-Lip” Theory and you will more likely stay out of trouble and get an offer when all is said and done.
Always remember that is it much easier to stay out of trouble than to get out of trouble.
Too many clients answer a question and then feel compelled to explain or justify their answer. This is almost always a bad idea. You have perhaps heard the expression “better to remain silent than remove all doubt”. A job interview is no time to be the life of the party or a chatty Cathy.
Once I asked a potential hire a job-related question and about 30 seconds into his answer he drifted into a discussion of his sled dog experience in Alaska. Something he had said triggered a word association in his mind, and caused him to veer off track. I let him yak on and it was about 8 minutes before he shut up. He did not get a job offer.
When asked a question, answer the question and invoke Ed’s Zip-a-Lip Theory. If the interviewer wants more information, force him or her to ask a more specific question, then answer the question and again use my Zip-a-Lip Theory.
Few potential hires realize that by adopting this strategy, you actually gain significant positive points doing so.
The fact of the matter is that when you answer a question and remain silent when it is appropriate to do so, the smarter, the more intelligent and more accomplished you appear to the interviewer.
Again, it is only when you keep talking that you reveal too much of yourself, and run the risk of saying something out of turn that could create a seed of doubt. Creating a seed of doubt is something you simply cannot afford to do when interviewing. It causes the interviewer to start checking out something about you that could lead to a negative reaction.
When you remain silent you do not have to look sullen. You can smile without talking the interviewer to death.
Using my Zip-a-Lip Theory also moves the interview along, and saves time for all concerned. Be short and succinct in your answers and you will appear to be better organized, more in control of yourself, and excited about the opportunity in question.