We’ve all been there: that awkward pause during a conversation when the silence seems to stretch to an eternity. Oh, no! Was it something you said? How do you fix it?
In our fast-paced society, with a constant stream of information, talk,
and even just “white noise” flowing around us at all times, we are
trained to feel the need to fill the empty spaces. And when these
pauses happen, especially during a job interview, most people’s first
thought is that something has gone dreadfully wrong with their
But this is not always the case. Pauses and silences are not
necessarily a breach in the communication skills of either the
interviewer or the interviewee. Instead, they are a necessary part of
processing information effectively, and can even be an indication that
the interview is going well!
Here are some examples of “healthy pauses” and how they can be used successfully during an interview.
- If the interviewer asks you a difficult question, it is
perfectly fine to ask for a few moments to think about your answer.
Most likely, the interviewer will be impressed that you are taking the
time to carefully formulate your best response.
- If the
interviewer is taking notes, give him or her time to write between each
question. The fact that the interviewer is writing down your answers
and their impressions means that they want to remember them – and
that’s a good thing.
- Sometimes the interviewer may need a
moment to think about your answer to a question. He or she may be
considering an idea that hadn’t occurred to them until something you
said triggers it, and may come up with a follow-up question or two that
will help reveal something unique and useful about you in relation to
the job at hand that would not come out if you nervously “fill the
Some additional tips for using pauses and silence:
- Practice being comfortable during pauses. Learning to use
silence effectively is as important to cultivating effective
communication skills as what you say.
- Use this time to look
around the room and find ways to “make a connection” with your
potential employer (click here for more information on this technique).
be alarmed if the interviewer does not respond to your questions. Most
interviewers are trained to remain neutral, and do not want to give an
indication of how the interview is going at this time.
the interviewer pauses after an answer and is not taking notes, it
could be a signal that your answer was not quite what he or she was
looking for. It’s ok to ask if you misunderstood the question, or
whether he or she would like you to elaborate.
As awkward as pauses and silences may feel to us naturally, they are
actually a vital part of effective communication skills. Try to retrain
your reaction to them, and use pauses to your advantage in your next
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