Can something as interpersonal as a job interview be reduced to a formula? While there is no way to calculate chemistry and charisma, these simple equations can help take your performance from intermediate to advanced.

Three quick calculations for successful job interviews?

The Three Second Rule

    I learned this in public relations training in order to represent brands when speaking to the media. In stressful situations, such as talking to a journalist on camera, or in the pressure of a job interview, people tend to speak very fast.

    When asked a question, we often rush to begin talking immediately, filling in the silence that can sound thunderous to our own ears. This causes people to fall into verbal traps, like starting sentences that they don’t know how to end, becoming overly repetitive, or using filler bridge words such as ‘like’ or ‘um.’ This can make you sound less articulate than you really are.

    The ‘three second rule’ is simply to take that time, pause for three seconds before beginning to answer. The length of silence always seems much longer in your own head than it does to the people you’re talking to. Take a few seconds to think about the question and formulate your answer before speaking.

    You will be able to craft a more eloquent and intelligent sounding response, and won’t end up tripping over your words as much.

The 50 / 50 Rule

    A job interview is a conversation. The employer has read your resume and believes that you have the skills to do a job that they need done. You’ve researched the company and believe that they have a role that you would like to fill – for an agreed upon fee. So in the interview you’re just confirming what you believe about each other and seeing if you can work together.

    The 50 / 50 rule means that you should each speak about half the time. If you do all of the talking, you may come across as self-obsessed, only interested in your own ideas and opinions, or simply nervous and babbling.

    Have a dialogue; converse with your interviewer; ask smart questions. People feel warmer towards others who really listen to them, with whom they’ve had a genuine interaction.
    Plus you’ll learn more about the culture of the organization and the job itself if you let your interviewer do half the talking.

    Answer the questions you’re asked, of course, but answer them briefly. How briefly? That’s the third rule.

    (I learned the 50 / 50 rule from my friend, acclaimed career advisor Colleen Clarke, but I have since heard that credit is due to Richard Bolles who coined it in his book ‘What Color is your Parachute.’)

The 30-2 rule

    The third rule is about the length of your answers. Stay focused on the questions asked, and answer in anywhere from thirty seconds to two minutes. That allows you enough time to adequately share your perspective without rambling on. Remember to answer each question in a way that is relevant specifically to the job that you are interviewing for. Don’t give terse or one-word answers, speak for at least thirty seconds, but keep them short. You can use your three-second pause at the beginning to formulate a concise response before you start speaking.

    If your interviewer wants you to elaborate or needs more details about a specific aspect, they’ll asked. That keeps the conversation flowing organically.

And that is the point of all of these mathematical rules. They’re easy-to-remember cues for making the best possible impression on an employer. Job interviews can be situations that trip many people up, precisely when they’re trying to put their best foot forward.

Oh, and never forget the first rule of job interviewing, based on a true story that happened here at Workopolis: remember to wear pants.

Peter Harris

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