You may be a true expert in your area of network management, cyber security, or application development. And during a 30-minute interview in a room containing only a table and a few chairs, you may feel like your only tool will be your ability to speak like an expert and say the kinds of things an expert would say. It might seem logical to walk in the door, shake hands with your interviewer, and then launch into an unbroken 30-minute blast of technical jargon that will present indisputable proof of your experience and insider status.
But before you choose this tactic, think twice. Effective problem solving starts with situational awareness and assessment of the circumstances, and even though you’re trying to prove your technical expertise, an interview is—first and foremost—a conversation. So you’ll need to put your tech skills on the back burner for now and bring your conversational and interpersonal skills to the foreground. Here are a few moves that can help you accomplish this.
1. Remember that you aren’t necessarily speaking to a tech pro.
Your interviewer (and possibly your boss if you land this job) may not possess a technical background that mirrors yours. This person may work in a different area of the network, she may be an upper level executive, or he may be an HR pro with no technology background at all. If you don’t know for sure, listen for contextual clues. Or you can simply ask.
2. Keep your channel set to “receive”, not just “transmit”.
Tech jargon or no tech jargon, if your conversational partner glazes over or loses interest while you’re talking, something is wrong. This is the case during an interview, a meeting, a cocktail party, on an airplane, or any place where people gather and talk. Here’s a rule of thumb: Never speak for more than 20 seconds at a time without pausing to ask a question or hand the floor back to the other person.
3. Too much chatter can reveal gaps and weaknesses in your knowledge base.
Ironically, those who talk the most are often identified as those who know the least. And there’s a reason for this. As with any system or machine, reducing the number of moving parts will reduce the number of things that can go wrong. As you describe your experience and capabilities, keep things simple, straightforward, and close to the ground. Keep your ears open for direct questions, respond with clear and accurate words, and once you’ve answered a question, stop speaking.
For more interview guidance and IT job search tips, turn to the MA job search pros at Tech Needs.