shut up

The importance of shutting up

I used to work with someone who could never understand why I’d let candidates talk at the start of interviews. He wanted to keep firing questions at them from a list, drilling into the minutiae and ticking boxes off as he went. Each to their own, I guess.

What I was looking for, however, was a little more complex.

I was looking for evidence that the candidate could express themselves. In fact, the more people we interviewed, the less I spoke, and the more I listened.

I was listening for clues.

I was listening because I wanted the candidate to have the freedom to express themselves without me interrupting their flow, and I was listening because I wanted to see if the candidate was able to tell a story without waffling or going off-topic.

Very often, this is precisely what happened. Some candidates would wrap themselves up in words, covering as many topics as they could in a short space of time. Others, however, could ‘nutshell’ their answers and keep them concise – in some cases throwing questions back at me.

It’s a rare ability – and if you’re working in marketing, it’s an ability that comes in useful. Whether you’re in-house or agency-side, you need to express complex ideas about your role that the people you’re talking to may not know as much about. When a candidate is given the freedom to talk, not only is it respectful to the candidate, it’s a great way of finding out if they’re able to express complex ideas without complex language.

There is a place for asking plenty of questions, but you’ll find if you listen more, they’ll probably get answered anyway.

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