My kids have a knack for answering my questions with concise, factual answers like “I don’t know” or “I guess so” or “nothing happened.” They’re young people, so I don’t expect enlightening answers that open doors to stimulating conversations. On the other hand, I would like to know what happened at school, if they had a good time at the mall, how they feel about their teachers, etc.
The thing about recruiters and employers is that they want direct answers to their questions, not a long-winded response that has very little to do with the question at hand. In order to make the interview go smoothly, adhere to the following 6 requirements:
Listen to the questions: Some people have the tendency to formulate what they’re going to say before the interviewer finishes with his question. This causes you to take off in a direction that is heading the wrong way and is hard to correct. If you need clarification, ask what the interviewer meant by his question…just don’t do this too often, lest you come across as daft.
Think before speaking: All too often we want to answer a question as soon as it’s left the employer’s lips. This is a mistake, as you want to deliver of the best possible answer before you blurt out an inadequate one. The interview is not a game where the fastest job candidates to respond win. Occasionally taking time to reflect shows thoughtfulness on your part. It also speaks to requirement number one: listen.
Don’t say too much: When you’re talking with a recruiter, elaborating on an answer may be more harmful than helpful. Recruiter Mark Bregman says in his article Don’t be De-Selected this about being loquacious:
“You risk boring the screener, or worse, they don’t ask all their questions, because you wasted too much time on early questions. Then, the screener might not have an opportunity to really get the key info they need to screen you in.”
When you go into too much detail, you come off as someone who talks too much. For me, and I imagine others, this is a great irritant and makes me want to walk away from any conversation.
Don’t go off on tangents: Everything you say must be relevant to the interviewer’s direct question. “If the question is ‘How did you improve processes?’, don’t start describing in detail the products you were making; just answer the question,” advises Mark. This is also a sign that you have no idea how to answer the question.
In this case, ask for more time saying, “This is a very important question, one that I’d like to answer. Could we return to it?” Or admit that you can’t answer it.
Don’t ask too many questions: Career advisors encourage interviewees to ask questions during the interview to make it seem more like a discussion, as long as you have enough questions to ask at the end. Mark says this can backfire if you ask too many questions. I see his point. Interviewers are busy people and don’t want you to take over the interview.
Say enough: Finally it’s essential that you effectively answer the interviewer’s questions with enough detail and plenty of examples of your successes. Many times a job candidate won’t provide enough information for the interviewer to make a decision on whether to hire that person. You don’t want to let opportunities to pass you by. Many jobseekers I talk with regret having not sold themselves at the interview, which was due, in part, to not elaborating on an answer they knew they could have nailed.
Effective communications at an interview requires the ability to listen and then answer the questions with transparency and accuracy. Don’t lose your cool in the moment. Listen, take time before speaking, watch what you say, and say what you need to sell yourself.
Bob McIntosh, CPRW, is a career trainer who leads more than 20 workshops on the career search. Jobseekers and staff look to him for advice on the job search. He has gained a reputation as the LinkedIn expert in and outside the career center. Bob’s greatest pleasure is helping people find rewarding careers in a competitive job market. Visit his blog at Things Career Related.