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Interviewing: The Art of the Short 'n' Sweet

As one with a tendency to ramble, I have focused for years on becoming more concise! Being succinct, without being terse, and giving just enough information encourage a dialogue in an interview, is so important to showcase what you bring to the table.

I know, I’ve screwed up enough in interviews myself to have learned!

A great (and hella funny) blog post I stumbled upon summarized it perfectly why this is so important: No one likes to listen to a 5-minute answer to a 4-word question.  You may think that it makes you sound smart, but you are wrong.  A clear, concise message shows confidence in your knowledge.  A longer answer to an interview question could lead your interviewer to believe that you’re dancing around the issue.”

As a recruiter, I love to prep my candidates for interviews with the hiring teams.  Isn’t this cheating, some ask?  Heck no.  It shows if they are willing to listen to constructive feedback or if they’re cocky and don’t think they need to improve.  As a recruiter, in any type of business relationship, I want to see the candidates I like move forward – I’ve got a pretty good eye for core qualities my clients are looking for, and understand how nervewracking the process can be.

Often perfectly awesome people crash and burn.  Sometimes candidates get in their own way with certain communication , and my job is to say “OK, Sally/Bob, you have some great skills and I really like you but the manager is going to go batty if you ramble on and on”, OR “hey, this executives really wants to see your passion for the product, so do extra homework and be prepared to articulate that really well”, OR “I found it really hard to keep up with you as you speak really quickly, so remember to slow down when you talk to the next group, OK?”

The rambling is often merely a symptom of enthusiasm and nothing to do with being evasive, as some might expect, so one thing I’ve had to remind myself, and others, is that my demeanor will demonstrate excitement – but a thousand extra words?  Notsomuch.  It can even hinder one’s chance for success.

The good judges of talent, of course, can differentiate this but hey, how many of those are on a hiring team?  Usually just one or two.  People are on hiring teams for different reasons, and sometimes involuntarily.  So make it worth their while.

What helps me is stopping before I think I’m done, to ask “shall I elaborate further?” or “does this answer your question or should I continue?”.  It respects their time, and helps keep you reined in nicely.

And think about how you communicate in that nice concise way as well, which works well both in how I interview others as well as how I try to frame things when interviewing for jobs or meeting with prospective clients.  Just like you need to customize your resume to the job you apply for in order to ensure they see you are a great potential fit, you also need to be sensitive to those on the hiring team you interact with.  Where’s Lefty’s blog again mirrored my thoughts on this area:

“Once introductions are made in the interview, you must absorb every piece of information and method of communication coming out of your interviewer.  Is this person receptive to humor?  Is this person interested in any of your personal interests?  Do you have any common ground with this person?  Does this person clearly not care about you or the job needing to be filled?…These are the types of things to consider when crafting your message.”

And don’t BS your interviewer.  None of this advice is saying “don’t be yourself” – instead it’s about focusing on putting your best foot forward.  Let them see the best of you.  

It’ll be worth it, I promise.


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