The Cure for the Rambling Interview: Tips to Keep Your Answers Focused


One of the recurring themes with candidates that do not interview well is continued rambling during answers to interview questions. This will completely ruin any chances of advancing to the next round.  Remember, the interviewer probably has a list of questions that they need to cover in a finite amount of time.  Rambling is caused by several factors.  

• Lack of interviewing experience

• Anxiety or nerves

• Lack of confidence

• Cultural trait

• The inability to provide an appropriate level of detail without going overboard 

How can one increase their ability to convey a succinct or concise answer?

1.  Practice makes perfect:  Practice your interviewing skills with a friend or family member.  You can rehearse answers to common questions and focus on concise, well-thought-out answers. This can help to increase your confidence and reduce your tendency to ramble.  

2.  Use a stopwatch and time your answers.  Get them into a succinct logical format with enough vivid detail that paints a picture for the listener.  The answer should not be longer than 75 seconds to maintain the interviewer’s attention.    

3.  Focus on key points:  Remind yourself during the interview to focus on the question being asked, and to answer it directly and concisely. You should aim to identify the key points you want to make, and structure your answers within the context of STAR format: Situation  Task Action  Result.

4.  Slow down and breathe:  This will relieve anxiety.  Take a few deep breaths at the very beginning, pause, and gather your thoughts before answering.  Whenever you feel yourself drifting with the conversation, take a deep breath again.  Also slow down your speaking pace!

5.  Use bullet points:  This is a big one!  Create a list of three key bullet points you want to make in response to common questions.  Tape them up in front of you.   This can help to keep your answers focused and on track, while still allowing for flexibility in how you deliver the information.  

6.  Pregnant Pause is OK.  Once you have addressed your three key bullets in STAR format, stop talking and be comfortable with the silence until the interviewer asks their next question.

7.  Get feedback:  Ask for feedback from the interviewer or a career coach after an interview. You can use this feedback to identify areas for improvement, including reducing rambling in your answers.

TJ Hummer 

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