As more and more companies receive hundreds of applications for each open position, the number of companies that call people before they invite them to an in-person interview is going to continue to rise. Phone interviews ensure that companies can quickly narrow down the applicant pool without the hassle of meeting each individual applicant in person.
The Awkward Pause of the Phone Interview
Phone interviews are difficult for both applicants and hiring managers, as they are impersonal and usually a bit rushed. They are even more difficult for applicants when the interviewer is the type of individual that likes to take pauses.
In person, you can read the reaction of the interviewer’s face or see what they are doing. But on the phone, there is often suddenly an awkward pause, and it’s not uncommon to feel like you need to say something to break the awkwardness.
What to Do When There Are Numerous Awkward Pauses
There is no magic answer, because the reason for the pauses may be different for each interviewer. Some may be writing things down. Others may be pausing because they are thinking of what to say next while others may be pausing on purpose to see if you will elaborate further.
That said, there are some strategies you can use to break down the tension.
- Ask “Would you like me to elaborate?”
Some interviewers will always say “yes” even if that’s not why they paused. But others will let you know the reason for the pauses. For example, they may share “oh sorry, I am writing down your answer.” Even if they simply say “yes,” at least you have permission to keep talking and will perhaps feel less pressured.
- Avoid Awkward Noises, Unnecessary Elaboration (and Keep Yourself Busy)
Don’t try to fill in that time by whistling, clearing your throat, or making other sounds that are designed to stop the silence. You also shouldn’t elaborate on a long, great answer unless you are asked. It’s unlikely that your elaboration will add to your chances of being hired. Instead, consider jotting down questions or thoughts yourself. This will take your mind off of the pauses, and will give you valuable notes to work from in future interviews.
- Ask a Good Question
Asking questions to the interviewer is a great way to fill silence and show you’re interested. You should not do this with each pause, because if you do you will never give the interviewer a chance to finish. But breaking up a few pauses with a good, smart question about the company can make the pauses less stressful.
Pauses Likely Do Not Mean Anything
It can take interviewers more than 10 seconds to determine the next question. It can take them as long as a minute to write down their answers. Some interviewers leave pauses in case you were not done, because they do not want to interrupt you. With so many potential reasons for pausing, you shouldn’t let the pauses cause you stress. Chances are they mean very little about your candidacy.