Talking like Scotty – 5 communication mistakes candidates make in interviews
I appreciate this may not be a question you expected to be asked when you started reading this blog, but have you ever heard of “Treknobabble”? Apparently, when the writers would produce scripts for Star Trek series they would often just write “(tech)” in the dialogue where a science-based explanation was required because it needed to be written by someone who understood all the background and pseudo-science of the show. The point here is that for the dialogue to work it needed to be translated by someone other than the writer because they were often not aware of the science or the specialised dialogue needed.
Basically, they needed to make sure that people understood what was happening while still using the correct terminology.
When you are in an interview situation you need to do the same thing because it doesn’t matter how good you are at what you do, nobody knows what you can do if you don’t communicate it well.
Five common mistakes
These are five common mistakes we know from experience that people make in interview situations for IT and Technology roles.
- Not assessing the room. Sometimes interviews will be by panel; others may include an informal ‘meet the team’ session then a one on one, and others may be a ‘pop in for a chat’ kind of thing. Whatever the format may be, it is still an interview situation, so you need to know who you are talking to. Make sure you listen to introductions and remember names but also pay close attention to their job roles. Knowing what people do will help you decide how to respond.
- Listen first then speak. I remember reading a description of someone once that sums this up. It read something like ‘he was the kind of person who didn’t hear what people said because he was too busy thinking up a clever answer’. In an interview, they are looking for an honest and satisfactory response, and you can only give that by listening to the question.
- Don’t talk like Scotty. Although you are being interviewed for a technology role, you may not be being interviewed by specialists. The chances are that there will be a handful of people at most even in the largest institutions that will fully understand your specialism. Save the specialist talk for them and for the rest, keep it simple. If you can do it for them, they will assume you can do it for the wider workforce.
- Make sure you expand and contextualise. You will almost certainly be asked about your previous experience. IT needs to be contextualised for most people, and that includes the interview panel. Don’t just tell them that you were part of the reorganisation of the SQL approach. Explain how the database reorganisation paid off in terms of efficiency. It shows that you understand that you need to have a practical outcome.
- Remember to show them integration. There is a skills shortage in IT, so many departments have teams that are in flux or lacking team members with particular key skills. For the day to day business that means they will be looking for someone who can see the big picture and help the team ‘work’ as well as do their own job. Take the opportunity to show that you understand the wider state of the workplace and where your role fits into it.
When you are at an interview, it really can be all about how you communicate because, in a skills tie-break situation, they will almost always go for the clearest communicator.