Illustration by Dionne Kitching for this article.
Great wisdom for almost anyone in almost any situation, but especially for those interviewing for their next job: slow down. Doing so will do more for your interview than racing through a jumble of words or slides or motions. This is true for both the person being interviewed and the person conducting it.
Before you answer a question, when speaking about your past work, as you move through the real or virtual space: slow down. Give yourself a little time to take a breath. To reflect, consider, or open space for ideas and opportunity.
Slowing down can often feel like a waste of time. Like if we’re not moving at 100mph toward something then our time—in limited quantity—will slip away from us, unused. What if we don’t cover everything we need to cover in the conversation? What if we fail to make a point? What if there’s more to be said or done?
If you don’t say everything that needs to be said in an allotted amount of time, it’s ok. The reality is not everything needs to be said.
Each conversation in an interview should be setup to help you prioritize what needs to be said as well. You should ask: "What signal specifically are you looking for from this conversation?” Or "Is there a specific detail you’d like me to speak on?”
You can also always ask for more time, or a follow-up conversation.
Or you can work on improving how you communicate so you can say more with less (practicing an interview at home or with a friend is a great way to improve).
Undoubtedly there are times to move quickly, time to leap, but an interview is not one. Because when you’re interviewing you’re working on building a, hopefully, long-lasting relationship, and you can’t build a strong relationship without giving serious consideration to what’s being said or what’s moving (and what’s not).
Slowing down can feel like you’re leaving the interviewer hanging, but it really comes across as being thoughtful about what comes next. Slowing down means you’re thinking, not reacting, and thinking is a major part of what many of us today are hired to do.
If you want to improve your work, your relationships, and especially your interviewing skills: learn to slow down. Give yourself a little time before you ask or answer a question, before you make a statement, or before you move on to another slide.