How You’re Killing Your Chance of Landing Jobs and What To Do Instead

Have you ever had a conversation with someone who was doing all of the talking? Said person wouldn't let you get in a word edge-wise. You had important thoughts you wanted to express but couldn't because the person wouldn't come up for air.

We've all been there. Perhaps you were at a party and one person was dominating the conversation. Or you were at work and were being held against your will; you had an important assignment to complete, even an email to send. Or you were interviewing someone and felt like ending the interview five minutes in.

For job seekers, the last scenario needs to be discussed at greater length. This article addresses how job seekers are killing their chances of moving on to next-round interviews because they're talking over interviewers. There are four reason why you shouldn't talk over interviewers:

  1. Interviewers have questions to ask to better know you, so let them ask their questions.
  2. There's a time limit on interviews.
  3. If you talk over the interviewers, they'll assume you will talk over people when you're on the job.
  4. Talking over interviewers gives them an impression that you're a know-it-all.

𝟭. Interviewers have questions to ask to better know you, so let them ask their questions.

This reason for not talking over the interviewers is perhaps the most important of the four. It's self-explanatory; your goal is to land the position and the interviewers' goal is to find the right person for the position.

By disallowing the interviewers to ask their questions, you're preventing them from knowing what they want to know about you. Where I find most candidates violate this rule is by assuming they are running the interview and have the authority to tell the interviewers what they want them to know. Remember, the interviewers know best what they want to know.

Kelli Hrivnak, a recruiter, adds an insightful comment regarding active listening:

An interview is a two-way conversation, meaning each person is actively listening and engaged in the discussion.  If you are constantly jumping in or interrupting the other person, it shows the interviewer that you aren't taking time to digest or put thought into the entire question. 

Interviews are all about first impressions, and interrupting isn't a good show of communication skills.  While it often isn't intentional, you have to be deliberate about embracing a pause and checking in with the interviewer.

𝟮. There's a time limit on interviews.

Smart interviewers will devise questions that get to the core of the applicants. In doing the math, if the interviewers have ten questions they want to ask, and the interview is slated to last half an hour; you have roughly three minutes to answer each question. Of course it doesn't always work out this way. Ed Han, a recruiter, puts it this way:

Interviews are scheduled for a finite period of time. Every minute you spend over-answering question 3 means questions 4-9 get short shrift, or you might short yourself the opportunity to respond.

So expend those minutes judiciously, for your own sake, if not for that of your interviewer.Inability to respect conversational right of way is a particularly difficult problem at more senior levels, in my experience.

Another way to look at it is while you're talking over the interviewers about a weakness related to the position, you're robbing yourself the opportunity to talk about the strengths you bring to the position.

𝟯. If you talk over the interviewers, they'll assume you will talk over people when you're on the job.

Excessive talking on the job can be a true drain on productivity. Imagine if you are up against the clock to get a project done, or even emailing a customer about upcoming products. The last thing you want is to be interrupted by a talkative colleague who won't leave your office or cubicle, despite the hints you give them.

This is exactly the message you'll give interviewers if you talk over them. One person asked me what if they can't help themselves. I suppose my answer of, "Just don't" wasn't sufficient. One thing you can do is put a time limit on your answers. Thirty seconds for questions that require a negative answer and less than three minutes for questions that require a positive answer.

Kevin D. Turner agrees that the more succinct the answers, the better:

You know me, Bob, I can keep a conversation going for hours, so I had to learn in circumstances like an interview or a sales pitch, to get to our ultimate goals, we had to keep our answers succinct, powerful, and relative.

Hiring over 200 people, the best responses were long enough to prove ability, excite the interviewer, make them feel you can solve their needs, and create a demand to want to know more or close the deal. All of that in the perfect interview answer should take less than three minutes; anything more prolonged, and we are diluting our proposition.There is such a thing in interviews as TL/DL: too long, didn't listen.

𝟰. Talking over interviewers gives them an impression that you're a know-it-all.

No, it's not cool to lord your knowledge over less-experienced hiring managers. This is something I've heard way too often; job candidates who feel it benefits them to showcase their knowledge regardless of the questions being asked. Marti Konstant, MBA, has been a hiring manager at the VP level and says this about the matter:

As a hiring manager for technology organizations, I learned the personalities of job candidates quickly. The overly smooth operator who talked over me with their enthusiasm and charm came off as a know it all. The people who asked questions and knew the power of the pause got my attention.

Marti makes a great point: go into the interviews with the attitude of asking interviewers questions. However, don't ask so many questions that you derail the interviewers from asking their questions.


Interviews can be difficult enough for various reasons, but let's keep in mind that how you present your communication style is one key component of succeeding in the interview. This said:

Enter the room, get on the phone, or take the video call with the attitude that an interviewer's job is to ask questions that will determine if you will proceed to the next round of interviews.

When companies conduct interviews, there are time restraints on them. Recruiters, HR, and hiring managers must make room on their schedules to meet with candidates.

Be cognizant that interviewers are assessing your communication style and will assume that if you over talk, you'll most likely over talk on the job, and you come across as a know-it-all. The simple solution is to listen carefully to what the interviewers ask, not what you want to say.

Related: 5 LinkedIn Myths Busted