What to do when an interviewer won’t shut up

April 8, 2010 at 11:02 am 1 comment

Though it doesn’t happen often, sometimes a job or informational interview can turn into a one-sided conversation — with the interviewer doing all the talking! An email correspondent writes in with this well-phrased question: “What do you do when the subject of your (informational) interview hijacks the conversation?? You’ve asked for just a few minutes of that person’s time, and want to make the most of it and ask all of your questions. And you encounter a chatterer who spends 20 minutes answering your first question!”

The correspondent goes on, aptly, to state that she didn’t want to “interrupt or cut them off,” but did want to get some key questions answered. This is a tricky situation that requires some diplomacy. Obviously, you’re grateful that this person is taking the time to talk to you, and you absolutely don’t want to appear rude and interrupt them, which journalists sometimes do out of sheer frustration! (See Oct. 14 post, “When the interviewer becomes the interviewee”) The goal here should be to find a way to turn this into more of a conversation and to be able to make an impression as well as to get your questions answered.

Some tips for getting past that chattering interviewer:

*If you suspect that the other person is a long-winded conversationalist (and try to determine this beforehand from those who put you in contact for the informational interview), ask targeted — not open-ended — questions. (Hiring experts usually give the opposite advice, as you want to draw out your subject. But in this case, that would be exactly the wrong thing to do.) For instance, rather than saying, “What do you like about having a public affairs position?” it would be much better to say, “I am thinking about making a transition into the public affairs world. That’s why I’m so glad you agreed to meet with me as I need some pointers on how to make this shift. What three specific pieces of advice would you give me?” And if they start rambling on with piece of advice No. 1, you can try to gently nudge the conversation forward, with a remark like, “That’s great, and very helpful. But what else should I do?”

*Make it clear that you know how busy they are — use the limited time to your advantage and say, once it’s clear they’re a rambler, something like: “I know taking a half hour out of your schedule is a big deal. Do you mind if I ask a series of questions so that we make the most use of this time?” That way you’re not insulting them, you’re keeping them on schedule because they’re so busy!

*In an actual job interview where the interviewer makes long speeches and doesn’t give you much of a chance to talk about yourself or ask questions, you may need to work hard afterward to supplement the interview. For instance, in your follow-up thank you note, you should amplify your credentials and experience to bolster what little chance you got to make your case during the interview. You should also use this opportunity to ask a few questions, and also write to others who you met to make your case as well. And let your references know that you didn’t get to discuss your qualifications as much as you would have liked, and ask them to emphasize some key points for you.

*Try again. If you encountered a long-winded conversationalist in either an informational interview or worse yet, an actual job interview and didn’t feel as though you got to say your piece, try to engineer a follow-up. Come quite prepared this time (perhaps using some of the tactics above) with your targeted questions and strategies, and see if you can accomplish what you couldn’t in the first round. They may be all talked-out this time! (You can always hope.)

*Another round in the debate over paid or unpaid internships….With a link to a Daily Finance piece (via mediabistro.com), there is some good news, and congrats to Atlantic Media for figuring out that paid interns are better, happier, harder-working interns — who are more likely to become future employees for the organization:

Atlantic Media Takes Stand On Intern Pay. Who Will Follow? (Daily Finance)
A lot of young people are performing full-time work but not getting paid for it because they’re classified as interns. Atlantic Media, which counts The Atlantic and the National Journal among its publications, has decided to begin paying all of its interns — with actual money, that is, and not just in the currency of “valuable work experience.”

*The public relations software firm Vocus got in touch after I posted a lead for an opening they have there — to say that they are in hiring mode and will soon have a mod new headquarters in Beltsville, Md., to show off….Here is a link to a recent Washington Post story about plans for their new HQ facilities, and one to their careers page for openings:

Software firm Vocus to move headquarters from Lanham to Beltsville

*And here are some fresh job leads today:

*The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association in Arlington has an opening for a writer with group-benefits knowledge:

Writer – Sr. Group Benefit Communications Advisor
National Rural Electric – Arlington, VA
Writer – Sr. Group Benefit
From Monster

*The D.C. Public Schools has an opening for a marketing and communications coordinator:

Coordinator, Marketing and Communications, Office (Washington, DC)
District of Columbia Public Schools – Washington, DC
communication needs.The Marketing and Communications… and communications requests (e.g. developing communication plans, selecting appropriate communication…
From Jobfox

*The American Diabetes Association in Alexandria is looking for an associate director of external communications:
Associate Director – External Communications
American Diabetes Association – Alexandria, VA
relevant communications plans. * Supports management of corporate brand and reputation. * Works with colleagues in Marketing & Communications, to develop…
From American Diabetes Association

*The Urban Institute-Brookings Tax Policy Center (TPC) in D.C. is seeking a program manager to work with the center’s tax policy experts — this might be a good position for a transitioning journalist who has covered taxation:

Program Manager
The Urban Institute – Washington, DC
candidate must also have strong written, verbal, and interpersonal communication skills, and solid organizational and time management skills. The ability to…
From Bridgestar

*With a hat tip to journalismjobs.com (for these next two leads), the National 4-H Council in Chevy Chase has an opening for a writer:

Company: National 4-H Council
Chevy Chase, Maryland
Job Status: Full-time
Salary: Not Specified
Ad Expires:
May 11, 2010
Job ID: 1161687

Position Title: Writer

Division/Office/Unit: Resource Development

Type of Position: Exempt/Regular/Full-Time (hours per week: 37.5)

Salary Offer Range: Commensurate with experience

Starting Date: As soon as a suitable candidate is found.

Job Summary:

Responsible for writing compelling concepts and proposals that support the fundraising efforts of a $15 million Resource Development team. Develop proposals, letters of inquiry and concept papers for corporate and foundation partners and prospects that are consistent with organizations values and goals. Create partnership rationales that align business objectives and strategies of potential funders with the priorities and capacity of the 4-H system. Synthesize detailed programmatic information into concise corporate documents that are persuasive and align with brand messaging. Create corporate sponsorship packages for programs, special events, and other fundraising activities. Work effectively on cross-functional teams and with external partners to assimilate information and formulate proposals. Identify and review relevant research and data to support proposal development. Perform editing of various written documents to ensure grammar and structure comform to organization style guidelines. Adhers to internal timelines and deadlines. Collaborate with the Marketing and Communications Team to create high-level, value-added marketing and public relations deliverables for donors. Maintain effective working relationship with Resource Development teammates. Assist with other projects as required by the Senior Director, Corporate Development and the Senior Vice President, Resource Development. Adhere to organizational policies and procedures as described in National 4-H Council’s Associates Handbook and elsewhere.

Qualifications: Excellent writing ability; consumer and/or business-to-business writing experience, goal-oriented; proficient in prioritizing tasks; strong project and time management skills; strong written presentation skills; proficient knowledge of fundraising strategies and tactics; excellent interpersonal skills; and intermediate knowledge of Microsoft Office; Powerpoint and Excel presentatuion expertise a plus; must be a motivated team player with a drive to achieve personal and team goals; ability to manage multiple tasks with varying deadlines required; bachelor’s degree in business, marketing, communications, nonprofit management or related education/experience equivalency; 2 to 4 years of demonstrated successful business writing, grant writing, freelance writing and/or corporate communications for fundraising or development purposes; long periods of sitting at computer and CRT screen; lifting up to 10 lbs.; ability to work for prolonged periods of time at high levels of activity; as well as reading, listening, stooping, bending, and manual dexterity skills.

Send fax or email cover letter, resume and a writing sample to:

National 4-H Council,

Attn: Lita Haarer,

7100 Connecticut Ave.,

Chevy Chase, MD 20815.

Fax: (301) 961-2894


*And last, but certainly not least, the Gazette has an opening for a G.A. to cover the city of Frederick, Md. — a great way to gain some experience:

Company: The Gazette
Staff writer
Frederick, Maryland
Job Status: Full-time
Salary: Negotiable
Ad Expires:
May 6, 2010
Job ID: 1160756
Website: http://www.gazette.net

The Gazette, publisher of award-winning community weeklies in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C., seeks a general assignment reporter to cover the City of Frederick.

Duties include coverage of community events and meetings, breaking fire and police news, features and other community-based topics. Some evening and weekend work required.

In addition to filing for our weekly newspapers, reporters contribute to daily Web postings on Gazette.net. The position requires a self-starter with experience in enterprise reporting.

Requirements include a bachelor’s degree in journalism, English, or related field; at least three years of experience covering a municipal government; and the ability to develop and work with sources to uncover stories and produce enterprising reports.

Send resume, clips and salary requirements to Jeff Allanach, The Gazette, 2A N. Market St., Fourth Floor, Frederick, MD, 21701, or e-mail frederick@gazette.net.

Re-location expenses will not be paid. No phone calls, please. EOE.

Good luck on the hunt today!



Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Frank Strong  |  April 8, 2010 at 4:16 pm

    Thanks for the mention Jodi, we’re looking forward to the new place.


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