“Awkward Pauses”: Good or Bad during an Interview?

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
communication skills.

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.

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  • 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).
  • Don’t
    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.
  • If
    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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From the Desk of Damen Choy.
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One Response to “Awkward Pauses”: Good or Bad during an Interview?

  1. Pingback: You are Stumped by a Question in a Job Interview - What to Do? | Instant Career Advice

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