Tag Archives: interview prime time

5 ways to get and use 20 second interview prime times

Here is an example of how to blow an interview, and how to fix it.

I asked what time it was. George told me how to build a watch.  Then he went further and told me how to refine the metal, hunt jewels for the movement, and make the glass to cover it.  I was never so grateful for silence as when he stopped.

You only have 20 seconds before the average person stops listening to you, according to one study.  For some people you have less.  In interviews, you may never be listened to.  Often the interviewer merely asks a question and then starts thinking of what to say next. Nervousness and unfamiliarity with the task at hand makes the task of really listening harder for interviewers.

Some good ways to refocus the interviewer every 20 seconds are:

  1. Pauses and silence, especially when accompanied by a sudden smile.
  2. Say how many things you will talk about, then count, “First…., Second…”
  3. Stop to ask, “Is this what you wanted to know?”
  4. Summarize.  Say, “The 10 second summary is…”
  5. Change your mood: notch up your intensity, humor or passion.

The more safe or technical the subject, the more likely the answer is to be long. The listener is also less likely to pay attention.  Shorten your answers and use refocusing techniques.  You’ll be more likely to get the job because the person listened to you.

Something to do today

Listen to yourself talk.  When asked the time, do you tell how to build a watch?


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