Stop Talking. Listen More in Interviews

By Martin Ellis

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If you're a candidate. Sit down. Take a moment. Listen to me. PLEASE!!!!!

Recently I attended three client interviews. I had three excellent candidates, but two of them talked themselves out of a job. The third guy got the job.

So. What did he do that the other two didn't?

He entered the room and looked my client in the eye. He smiled and sat down when invited to do so. He was 5 minutes late, but he'd rung me some time in advance to say he was stuck in horrible traffic and he couldn't get off the motorway. He showed he thought ahead.

The client asked him a question. My candidate answered it. He didn't let his mouth run away with him. He simply listened to the questions and answered them. You'd think this was the least you'd expect from a candidate, but I'm afraid he was the exception. So he got the job.

The other two had impressive sales records. One, on asking to give a summary of his career rattled on for 17 minutes. I interrupted him and tried to steer him towards issues of relevance - but he continued to talk about a job from over ten years before. My client put his head in his hands. The candidate just carried on..............and on.............and on. At the end, the candidate apologised for talking too much - so he knew he was doing it!

The second candidate was no better. He didn't talk quite so much, but he mumbled a lot more! He looked at the walls, the desk, his crutch, but avoided my client. Now my client is no Brad Pitt, (but he's not that bad-looking) but come on!!! Just look at the bloke. Once would do!

To be fair, nerves clearly got the better of them. Their sales record was evidence that they must know how to talk to people, understand what they want, and ask for the order. But they were unprepared. They are used to surviving by the seat of their pants and took the same approach. It was only when they were in the interview, they realised they were in a big sale, and they didn't know their own features and benefits.

This happens far too often to candidates. They think they can wing it and fall flat on their arses when they get in above their heads.


1.  Smile sometimes

2.  Look the interviewer in the eye.

3.  Listen to the question. DON'T IGNORE ME - LISTEN TO THE BLOODY QUESTION!!!

4.  And when you've answered the question. Shut up and smile!

5.  And don't anticipate the next question and answer it before it's asked.

6.  Have a 2 minute summary of you and your career ready in your head.

7.  Do some research.

8.  Ask some questions yourself. Good questions make you look good. 

9.  Keep smiling.

10. And if you're going for a sales job, please demonstrate that you know how to ask for the order, by asking if there's anything else the interviewer would like to know to help them make the decision to offer them the role.

I know I am writing the bleedin' obvious, but experiences like last week remind me that most people get it wrong. The guy who got the job did nothing extra-ordinary, but he didn't talk himself out of the job. Most do.

(Image courtesy of


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