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Interviews: Stop Talking, Start Asking

Posted in: Career Development and Networking
Interviews: Stop Talking, Start Asking

Often, when we interview, our primary concern is explaining the variety of ways that we can benefit the organization. Unfortunately this often results in the interviewer talking incessantly about themselves and it can be perceived poorly. Additionally, if you keep talking about yourself, you may make yourself out to be a generalist (someone who is good at everything, and not great at anything), as opposed to a specialist. Remember, that in an interview, what you say matters, as does how much you say. Instead of answering a “yes or no” question with a 5-minute dissertation about your background in that area, ask the interviewer what level of specificity they would like. Asking a few pointed questions can help you expertly navigate an interview and leave the hiring manager impressed with how well your background fits their needs.

Answer your interviewer’s questions succinctly and ask follow-up questions to ensure you hit the most important points. For example, if the hiring manager asked you about your experience with XYZ, answer the question succinctly with a couple of sentences and then ask something like, “Is this experience in line with what I would be doing at your company?” If the answer is yes, great job! If the answer is no, ask why and have a candid discussion about your experience. Asking questions is something you can do throughout the interview, not just at the end. Asking questions will also make sure you stay on point and don’t say too much (especially too much that is irrelevant) during the interview.

Refrain from talking, talking, talking.

Don’t try to discuss everything; discuss what is most important to the hiring manager. If you want to know what is most important – just ask! Appropriate questions could be, “What are the most critical skill sets you need this person to have?”; “What would be my primary responsibilities in this position?”, or, “What type of previous experience would be most relevant in this position?”. Just be mindful that once you have the answers to these questions, use the information wisely, stay on topic, and keep using questions to make sure you continue on the right path.

Now make sure you say enough 

Now that you are saying less during your interview, you want to be sure you have said enough. Toward the end of the interview, make sure nothing critical was left out. A great question to uncover this is, “Do you have any concerns about my ability to succeed in this position?” This question often elicits a direct answer and gives you an opportunity to clarify any points you may have missed.

As with most things in life, balance is key. Make sure you explain how you can benefit the company with your skillset, without getting on your soap box. If you find that you are getting off course, ask a few questions to make sure you are focusing on the relevant attributes that they company is looking for in their next employee.

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