Art of the Interview: Meta-Talk Your Way to a Job

During an interview, even one you’re well prepared for, you might get a question you’re uncertain how to answer. Maybe it’s an important question you could give a long answer to, but you wonder whether that would be okay. Or it’s an unusual question that catches you by surprise. Or it’s a question whether you have a kind of experience you don’t have much of, but it’s not clear how big of a deal that is, so you don’t know how forthright you can afford to be.

To handle this uncertainty, try meta-talk.

Meta-talk is talking about the question you were asked, or about the answer you will give (or could give, or have given), or both.

For example: “Well, [smiling] that’s a big question! I have a long answer to that, but let me start with something shorter.” Then when you finish the shorter version, “If you like, I’d be happy to elaborate on any of that.”

Now you’re covered: you let them know you have something thorough and thoughtful to say on the subject, but you also show them you can summarize a lot of information concisely, that you have the social skill to recognize that this may be more appropriate for the context, and that you have the courtesy not to merely assume that’s the case.

Meta-talk, in other words, can take an anxious, uncertain situation and turn it into one where you feel – or at least appear to be! – poised and self-confident.

Looking for more tips on interviewing success? Check out the Interview section on the CCD website.

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