I talk too much in interviews

I’ve just completed a mock interview and the main piece of feedback was disappointingly familiar. I can’t answer a question without loading it with so much detail that the interviewer loses interest. I also write that level of detail when I’m doing interview prep – pages and pages of it. I know my subject and I don’t suffer with nerves. How can I train myself to be more succinct?

Working in endless amounts of detail is a form of nerves. You feel as though you have to tell the whole story, not just the headlines, and you’re scared to leave anything out in case it’s important.

But the truth is, your interview will be more successful if the interviewer is allowed to ask all the questions they need to ask, and if you are able to get over everything you want them to know about you. This can only happen if you learn to précis or shorten down what you have to say.

Tackling the waffle

If you can, work with a friend. Work back through previous interview questions and this time, aim to answer each question in three short points, as though you’re talking in bullet points. Get the friend to stop you as soon as any bullet point becomes too long and waffly. The first few times you try this, you’ll stumble over what you want to say because the instinct to add detail will be very strong. You may not even realise that you’re adding too much detail.

To help keep your answers short, imagine that each point has to fit into 6 lines written on a standard Post-It note. Another useful tip is to count off the points on your fingers (without waving them in the air, obviously). This sends you a subtle physical message about how long you’ve been talking on one point.

As you practice, the discipline of answering in three points will become easier and more instinctive. Next, add in a follow-up question, and aim to answer it in just one bullet point.

Notes, not reams

When you do your interview prep, don’t allow yourself to write reams of detail. Prepare a short dossier on the employer (eg, ‘the top ten things I really need to know about this organisation’), and then prepare against possible questions.

Discipline yourself to keep the three-bullet-point format without making longer notes to cut down from. Simply think and prioritise on what your three points should be, and when you’re ready write them down. Eventually, you will need less thinking time to formulate your three points, because answering briefly will come naturally.

December 11th, 2009 | Category: answers, feedback, interview, preparation | No Comments »

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