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Keeping it brief

The art of the interview: Keeping it brief

How many times have you heard, “It’s not about quantity, it’s about quality”? When it comes to the job interview, that golden rule also applies.  Ever catch yourself rambling during an interview and thought, “I could have said that better”? Sometimes you’re given a second change; sometimes you’re not.

Keeping your answers short and to the point could be the deciding factor in whether you land a job.

Below are some suggestions on how to stop your tongue from flapping uncontrollably during an interview.
Listen to yourself

Have you ever been in the middle of a conversation and found yourself distracted by the number of times a person separates their thoughts with “umm” or “do you know what I mean?” These conversation stunters appear universal, in any language and in any country.

Slang or conversation fillers (a.k.a. bad speaking habits) have become habitual for some. These fillers oftentimes become prominent and too consistent during times of nervousness, much like an interview, and illustrate a sense of low confidence and uncertainty. No matter where in the world you have a job interview, employers like candidates who sound confident and get straight to the point.

Become an active participant in critiquing and fixing your own speech. Concentrate on what comes out of your mouth while in relaxed, social settings, for example. That’s when you’ll find the most infractions.

Job Interview

Prepare your concise answers in advance

Don’t walk into an interview believing you can talk your way into a job. It doesn’t work that way, in China, Europe or anywhere. Remember, it’s not about how much you say but what you say that counts.

Brevity is the key. Overselling yourself can culminate into interview disaster, and job seekers who don’t know when to stop talking, can actually make HR managers run in the other direction (subsequently ruining the job seeker’s chances for new employment).

Prepare a list of possible interview questions and prepare your answers, something you should do anyway for a job interview. But then do this: write down your answers in a first draft and edit them for conciseness in a second draft. In fact, edit your answers as many times as it takes until you’re satisfied.

Remember, you answers should follow the STAR formula: situation, task action, result.

“I Could Have Explained That Much Better. What I Briefly Mean Is…”

Even under the best of circumstances, we have all found ourselves in a position where we could have explained something better. It’s perfectly acceptable to revise and consolidate your answer, even shortly after the incident in question — presuming your second stab at an answer is short and sweet, of course. Take this sample Q&A between an HR rep and an interview candidate:

HR Rep: “Tell me about your time with ACME Tool Company.”

Interview Candidate: “Well, I joined the company in 1993. I started as a machinist where I stayed for about 18 months. I was then promoted to an interim manager, which required the management of three full-time machinist and two seasonal members. The original manager went on sick leave — the reason I was only an interim manager for a while. I guess they liked me within management, because I was promoted to a full-time shift manager when my predecessor decided to take an early retirement and not come back to the company. I served as manager for about five years, before leaving the company. I left the company because they decided to bring in an outsider for the executive position I applied for.”

Wow, what a mouthful!

Do you think this is what the HR rep had in mind for an answer? Could the above be whittled down into something far more concise, yet just as informative? Yes, I believe so, too. How about this instead:

HR Rep: “Wow, it sounds like you had quite an adventure over at ACME.”

Interview Candidate: “Yes, let me give you the shorter, less painful account of my time at ACME. I worked within management for five years before moving into my current management position, where I’ve been for the last three years. No doubt, leadership roles are a perfect fit for me. I consistently reduced employee turnover by 3-5% year-after-year; and I had great success as a change agent, which reduced my employer’s dependence on certain vendors for example.”

Better, right? Did you notice how a couple of achievements were strategically placed in the answer?

Why Bother Changing Your Speaking Habits At This Stage Of The Game?

If you’re someone who works in a back room, and your only career ambition is to stay employed beyond lunch, well, you’re probably staying just the way you are… and where you are.

But, for those individuals who are seeking professional advancement, promotions, pay increases, respect from colleagues, and a slew of other benefits, it’s probably time to raise the bar and reach for it.

Speaking habits — whether excessive tongue action, slang fillers, or misguided interview answers — give an impression. You have the choice whether it’s a good or a bad one.
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