Hi everyone!

I occasionally have an interviewee who will seem to wander during the answering of a question and take a very long time to answer it.  My tendency is to let people talk because it tells me more about them, but at times it really can slow things down and make the interview go longer than the time allotted, which is 1 hour.  I do try to steer a bit with probing questions but have had limited success with that. Do you have particular strategies you use for moving people along somewhat gently so as to not rattle them even more than they may be?  I want to find the right balance between getting everything I need from them and using the time effectively.

Thank you for your help!

Chris Zeller's picture
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Hello Edwards,

I can share my experience of how we did things at a Fortune 100 company that I worked at for nearly 8 years.

If you're asking behavioral questions, it's helpful to frame things up front, both before you bring them in for a formal interview (so that they can prepare) and then to reiterate once you're face-to-face. After the introductions and small-talk, here are some word-tracks that you might consider:

"As we dive into the formal questions, I'm going to ask you for examples of times in the past when you've had to showcsase particular skillsets. In your answer, I'm looking for some key components: a description of the situation, the problem that you faced, the action that you took, and the result. These can be examples from your professional or personal life. We only have an hour together, so if you get stuck or start to wander, I'll jump in and help you refocus. What questions do you have? Great! Tell me about a time when...."

If they get stuck or start to ramble, you can say things like, "I'm going to interrupt you there" or "Pause. Rewind. Tell me more about..." or "you said something interesting a few seconds ago. Take me back to....."

Here are some benefits:

  • If all of the candidates have the same questions in the same format, you can more easily compare the content and quality of their answers.
  • By framing it more than once, you set the expectation that you'll help facilitate the exercise.
  • You signal that they should expect and not be thrown off by interruptions that you might make.
  • You're able to more forcefully re-direct the conversation without tiptoeing and wasting time.

Some of the common acronyms for behavioral questions are STAR, SOAR, and PAR:






Paul Edwards's picture

This is wonderful and very helpful!  Thank you!

Chris Zeller's picture
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I'm just one guy with an opinion.

Hopefully you get some more recommendations. Take them for a test drive, iterate on them, and tweak them in whatever way gets you the results that you need.

Happy interviewing!

Jollymom's picture

Wow! This is a great help. In general, its hard for the interviewers to just say stop to the interviewee since it would be rude.