It is not a new concept by any stretch of the imagination.

Emily Dickinson said: “Saying nothing … sometimes says the most.” Fast forward a few years to 1988 and country singer Keith Whitley claimed, “you say it best when you say nothing at all.” In 1995, Gene Hackman applauded Denzel Washington in the action-drama movie “Crimson Tide” for knowing when “to shut up and enjoy the view” when “most eggheads would talk it away.”

On the surface, they weren’t referring to that awkward silence that often occurs in a job interview. However, there just might be a kernel or two of comparison to consider.

Anyone who has endured a painful moment of unnerving nothingness in an interview can understand the dilemma at hand. How should you handle the situation? Fill the void with inane chatter or suffer silently?

Silence, intentional or not, may happen in a job interview for a couple of reasons.

Incompetence is one reason. Just because someone is interviewing you for a job doesn’t mean that he is skilled in the process.

Lack of obvious chemistry is another reason. Let’s face it. Sometimes it’s clear from the beginning that you and the employer just aren’t a match.

And then of course there is your basic distraction action, a close relative of incompetence. A telephone rings. A co-worker interrupts. A totally unrelated “ah-ha!” moment occurs deep in the recesses of the employer’s mind.

Who knows why those untimely hushed moments really happen. They just do, and how you handle them can make a big difference.

Here are two options to consider:

Option one: Do nothing. You can outlast the deafening silence and, as a result, come across as a confident individual not intimated by a little quiet. You are a bold, audacious risk-taking, silence-loving warrior.

Option two: Open your mouth. The key, however, is not to insert your foot as a result. Instead, reiterate a recent and relevant point or ask an intelligent question to resuscitate the conversation.

There is also a third option to consider: Before you go to the interview, prepare for it.

Practice answering basic interview questions in advance. Prepare thoughtful answers and be able to offer them up on demand.

Do your homework on the company before you show up. Know who the main players are as well as their management style. Have a firm grasp on the company mission and goals. Be well versed in any related headlines beforehand. Just looking through the company literature in the waiting room before the interview isn’t sufficient.

Investigate the company as if you were going to invest money in it because if you are actually hired, you will be investing your valuable time and expecting a financial return as well.

Janet I. Farley is the author of “The Military-to-Civilian Career Transition Guide” and “The Military Spouse’s Complete Guide to Career Success.” Her column appears monthly in Stars and Stripes. She can be contacted at:

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