jobinterviewWe have all been there; responding confidently to a trick question an interviewer is using to try to catch us out, only to be faced with intimidating and unnerving silence. What many job seekers do not know, is that the silence is often used as part of a tactic. Whether your answer was good or not, that remains unsaid.

Knowing how to handle an intimidating interview silence is half the battle in an interview as it tells the interviewer that you are calm, able to cope in a pressured situation, and capable of ‘holding your own’.

Here are some essential tips on how to handle the dreaded interviewer silence:

#1 Prepare prior to the interview: This means drafting answers to commonly asked interview questions. The more trick questions you prepare for, the easier it will be to judge if the interviewer’s silence is genuine or not.

#2 Do your homework: Find out the type of interviewer the employer is, his likes/dislikes in candidates, etc. You can do this by researching the interviewer on social media or by speaking with former/current employees you know well. Do not approach current employees about an interview – this will not go down well at all!

#3 Take a deep breath and collect your thoughts before answering a question.: The silence may be awkward while you collect your thoughts, but it is better to do this than to rush into answering a question. If the interviewer is making you nervous, play him at his own game and utilize your own awkward silences to your advantage.

#4 When asked a controversial or awkward question, answer honestly: If you lie or respond with an answer that makes the recruiter question your motives, this may cause him to unleash the dreaded interview silence and the infamous stare out. You look at him hoping he will ask another question; he just stares you out.

#5 If faced with interview silence, be strong. Do not deviate from your position or response. If you change your response, the interviewer will question your motives, and if you try to backtrack – the interviewer may think you have lied.

#6 If the silence becomes overly awkward, ask the interviewer if he wants you to add anything else to your response. This will hopefully get the flow of the interview back and force the interviewer to resume a more ‘talkative’ position.

#7 Bring a portfolio of your previous work samples and other forms of evidence to display your skills and expertise: When there is an awkward silence, you can bring out your portfolio to showcase your work. Note: only do this if the silence is linked to a question related to your skills, work history or career achievements.

Whether the interviewer is deliberately putting you under pressure by staring at you and maintaining an awkward silence, or he/she is simply taking some time to prepare the next question, you need to remain calm and undeterred. If it is a test, you will pass with flying colours, and if the interviewer really is taking his time in organizing the next question, it shows that you are not rushing him through it or eager to get out of the room! Keep calm and carry on.

*excerpt from