Interview Science: Slow Talkers Don't Get Hired

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Across WSO you can find some great advice on how to approach an upcoming interview, but there's a paucity of science on the matter. However, the April 2015 Journal of Business and Psychology offers a study that looks to the effects of anxiety and other factors that may affect the quality of one's interview. In particular, "Behavioral Expression of Job Interview Anxiety" aims to:

[I]nvestigate (a) the behavioral cues that are displayed by, and trait judgments formed about, anxious interviewees, and (b) why anxious interviewees receive lower interview performance ratings. The Behavioral Expression of Interview Anxiety Model was created as a conceptual framework to explore these relations.

ScienceDaily has written an article summarizing the study that delves further into the results obtained by the researchers. Not surprisingly, anxiety is a bad thing, but one of its manifestations is particularly interesting:

Feiler and Powell found that the speed at which someone talks is the only cue that both interviewers and interviewees rate as a sign of nervousness or not. The fewer words per minute people speak, the more nervous they are perceived to be. Also, anxious prospective job candidates are often rated as being less assertive and exuding less interpersonal warmth. This often leads to a rejection from interviewers.

The researchers go on to say that an interviewee should strive to be assertive and interpersonally warm, rather than focus on other displays of anxiety like nervous tics.

How would you monkeys suggest an interviewee go about being assertive and interpersonally warm? Have you ever dealt with a slow talker during an interview? Anyone come across someone who talks too fast?

Comments (22)

Apr 9, 2015

agreed. slow talkers, whether smart or not, are missing out on more than just jobs.

Case in point, here's a quote from a girl I recently dated: "I never date guys who talk slow"

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Apr 9, 2015

really hope you chose to not continue with her

happy to give advice; no asking for referrals please

Apr 10, 2015

Ask her if she ever took the elephant test. If she says she doesn't /know what it is, tell her you don't date elephants ['cause they're gross].

Best Response
Apr 9, 2015

I feel like anxious people talk faster than normal people

    • 3
Apr 9, 2015

well there's talking too fast, and then there's talking at an efficient pace which is beneficial to both parties.

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Apr 9, 2015
superandy241:

I feel like anxious people talk faster than normal people

Agreed. I think a steady pace shows much more confidence and composure than a faster speaker.

Apr 9, 2015

Some people speak fast because they have no filter and can't organize their thoughts effectively. Some people speak slowly because they are actively lying to you. I think eye contact and posture demonstrate a lot more than any judgement of speed.

    • 2
Apr 9, 2015

So it sounds like in order to speak good I should talk averagly

    • 1
Apr 9, 2015

The University of Guelph did the study? Sounds credible.

Apr 9, 2015

No that is not true. I find that slow speaker are more sophisticated because they are able to gather their thoughts and phrase their sentence more precisely. Thinking fast on your feet is a different story.

Apr 9, 2015

I am pretty sure speed of talking and confidence is not a linear dependence across the whole possible spectrum. There is a difference between a guy who is so stressed he can't push the words out of his mouth, one who speaks in a confident moderate pace, and a guy whose words race ahead of his thinking.

    • 2
Apr 10, 2015

What do we rate as talking slowly? I try to sound as close to the Allstate guy as possible.

    • 1
Apr 10, 2015

In an interview I was once told "you seem very intelligent; you talk very quickly; do you work quickly?" My takeaway was that being able to concisely and intelligently move through a conversation, especially in an interview is attractive in job candidates. My answer (paraphrasing) was that I admire efficient work, as well as efficient dialogue, but do not work quickly in the sense that it would lead to missteps, oversights, and errors, etc.

Bottom line: Cohesiveness and logical approaches to thought processes result in quick/efficient convo which results in the appearance of intelligence.

    • 1
Apr 10, 2015

I relate talking quickly to anxiousness. Being concise is different. Being able to craft sentences without being wordy and getting the point across effectively is a key skill (I suppose you might create the illusion of speaking quickly to someone since you might end sentences quickly...no idea). In my opinion, if you talk slowly then I'm going to get uninterested and bored very quickly. It's a no-go if you sound like you're reading the side effects of Lipitor or something at the end of a commercial.

Apr 12, 2015

what about the people whose first language is not english? Many employers have said it's better if they speak a little slowly

Apr 13, 2015

the calmest and most confident peers I've met tend to talk at a slower pace than the average.

Observe. Learn. Share.

Apr 13, 2015
Whita:

the calmest and most confident peers I've met tend to talk at a slower pace than the average.

Agreed. Not always 100% true..but one of the most successful guys I've met speaks very slowly and deliberately.

I guess he'd be dinged by these interviewers.

"When you stop striving for perfection, you might as well be dead."

Apr 13, 2015

Most job candidates are probably saying nearly the exact same thing in each interview, especially with widely known questions. If you say the same things as everyone else much more slowly, it will seem like you are trying to figure out the right answer to the Q and are unprepared. If you answer the questions too quickly, you may seem over-prepared or foolhardy. I think the best solution is what others have come to, speak at a reasonable rate.

    • 1
Apr 19, 2015

Interesting...

kqrckfls

Apr 20, 2015
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