Handling the Awkward Silence
You just finished answering the interviewer’s curveball of a question and you know that you knocked it out of the park. It was a hard question, but you came in prepared and delivered an impressive response. But just when you are imagining yourself rounding the bases and heading for home, you hear crickets rather than a verbal indication that it is time to move on to the next question, or even a nod of approval. You obviously aren’t expecting a round of applause or a high five from the interviewer, but the lack of acknowledgement can be unsettling.
How you handle this awkward silence can be very telling and any good interviewer will be taking notes on your ability to remain calm, composed and confident. If silent pauses are causing you to strike out, use the following dos and don’ts to improve your game.
Use nonverbal ques during the pause to demonstrate your confidence. Sit up straight, don’t fidget, and make eye contact with the person on the other side of the desk. These are all signs that you are done answering their question, are confident with your response, and are ready to move on.
Take a Breath
Instead of continuing your answer with meaningless babbling to fill the silence, take a breath and count to five (in your head of course). Chances are that the pause isn’t nearly as long as it feels; after all, four seconds can feel like forever during an interview. Concentrating on your breathing and slowly counting will help you to focus on something other than the deafening silence.
Babbling on after you have completed your answer will most likely turn your well thought out response into an extemporaneous mess. When you are done answering the question, stop. Don’t continue talking just to fill the silence as it can dilute the message that you are trying to convey.
Overthink the Silence
When you don’t get an immediate reaction from the interviewer, it’s easy to start thinking that they didn’t like what they heard, that their expectations weren’t met, or that they are hoping to hear more. Don’t overthink it. It is likely that they just need some extra time to jot down some notes, think about how your answer matches with the position they are trying to fill, or how they should ask the next question.
Break the Silence
It may be tempting to end the silence by saying, “well that’s it” or “I’m ready for the next question”. Don’t. Ending a question this way is awkward and uncomfortable for everyone.
Leave your next interview feeling like you hit a homerun despite hearing crickets. Remember that you will be judged on how you handle these pauses, so go into each interview expecting and being prepared to face the silence with confidence.