Oh the dreaded interview silence. His pesky presence is seemingly lurking around every corner. Sometimes you’re lucky and he doesn’t show up (he obviously had better places to be). But those times he does decide to make an appearance in an interview? Whew. He usually drags his friends along too…Mr. Sweaty Palms, Ms. Butterflies in the Stomach and Ms. Uncontrollable Eye Twitch. They’re no fun to have around either.

But the good news? You can kick this dreaded visitor to the curb and his friends too. Using just a few of the techniques below will help send him on his way.

Fool Him Into Thinking He’s Welcome By Letting Him Stay (Just a Little While)

Interview silence isn’t all that bad really. It can (obviously) get a bad rap. But despite that, it’s surprisingly not a deal breaker. Interview silence can be used effectively in small doses.

For example, when you need time to answer a particularly challenging or thoughtful question. What may feel like an absolute eternity to you is most likely just a few seconds. And these few seconds may give you the time you need to reflect thoughtfully and answer the question better than if you’d simply rushed through it.

Preparing for an interview the night before helps as well. By taking the time to think about situations, tasks, actions and results of your previous jobs (and jotting down a few notes on these endeavors) you’re giving your brain a chance to store these facts just under the surface. Taking a moment of quiet in an interview can be all you need to recall these gems you have to share.

Borrow a Page From the Martial Arts Playbook

Those of you familiar with martial arts may be familiar with the concept of “using your opponent’s strength against them” — in other words, taking that strength which is meant to knock you off balance, and either deflecting it or turning it around to challenge your opponent.

For example, if you find yourself in an interview situation in which you feel your interviewer may be using interview silence as a tactic to make you feel uncomfortable (believe it or not some hiring managers use this technique as a way to gauge how you handle pressure or deal with difficult situations) you can face it head on.

One way of doing this is to ask something in the moment such as, “I would be happy to share more examples of my experience, is there a specific competency or area of strength you would like me to speak to?”

This shows you are confident and not easily shaken. Another way to do this is to simply look at your interviewer with a pleasant smile and wait for their next question. It’s good to maintain appropriate eye contact in this situation too. Remember, you don’t want to come off as arrogant, but you do want to show your strength.

Use Him For What He’s Worth

Having a moment of interview silence at the end of your meeting is a great chance to take some time to ask any questions you may have, either about the company or the interview itself. Your interviewer may not have asked you for questions, so in this case you could say something like, “I would really love the chance to ask a couple of questions, do you have time for that?” or just jump right in and say, “I really appreciate the chance to interview for this opportunity. Is there anything else you’d like to know about me?” or, “I’m truly excited for this role. How do you see me fitting in to your team’s culture?” This is a great way to show your enthusiasm for the role, as well as your initiative.

Interview silence really isn’t all that bad once you get to know him. And as you get more comfortable in his presence, you’ll soon come to see that he doesn’t have to be an unwelcome guest!

Updated: 05/04/2017

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