Do you hold it against a candidate when they exhibit either of the following behaviors during an interview:

  • Take a longer than average pause at the end of a question?
  • Write key words from your question?

I have usually been quite forgiving of those behaviors unless they have the proverbial "deer in the headlights look."

I ask because those two behaviors do make me wonder if the candidate is as qualified as someone who doesn't need to pause or take notes.  In the past I have assumed both behaviors are a technique to manage interview nerves.  When candidates don't pause or need to jot down keywords from the question, they do come across more convincing / persuasive - but some people are simply nervous - which I forgive (to a degree).  I also disregard both behaviors when interviewing someone whose native language is not English.  

Should I continue to disregard longer than normal pauses or note taking during the question?

donm's picture

The best I could say would be "go with your gut instincts." If someone is considering the question and making notes to reinforce, this could be behavior they were coached to do, or it could be something to calm themselves and gain time to come up with an appropriate answer.

What I would probably do is expect an answer that is commensurate in quality with to the pause length. An extraordinarily long pause with a great, inciteful, and probing reply would be a good thing. The same pause with an off-the-cuff answer would be discounted accordingly. Stephen Hawking has long replies before he answers, but so does Forrest Gump.