When a hiring manager, recruiter, or HR poses interviews questions, they’re not only trying to figure out if you meet the minimum qualifications, they’re trying to establish other things like:
Are you a good listener?
Can you communicate in a confident, clear, and concise manner?
Can you think quickly “on your feet”?
Do you seem to be well-prepared for the questions?
Are you being genuine and transparent?
How well you answer the questions will greatly determine if you will be considered for any subsequent interviews or even a job offer if you’re nearing the finish line.
Don’t underestimate how important your performance level is during the interview!!!
I can’t tell you how many times the employer would comment on how well (or not) the candidate “interviewed” which largely meant how well they answered the questions and “presented” themselves which included many things from how they dressed to their body language.
It’s not only about the content of your answer, but your delivery that is critical.
#1: Giving too long an answer
I recently interviewed someone who confessed that they love context. I love context too, but if it makes your answers too long, that’s information overload which is not good.
Be careful how much back story you provide, if any. You don’t want to end up rambling on and get off course and then forget what your answer was supposed to be. This can also make the interviewer lose interest and their mind might start to wander……
Being too verbose can make you look like you haven’t prepared for the meeting or that you can’t communicate well. A potential employer doesn’t want to hire someone who, when asked a simple question, can’t get to the point quickly.
Stick to the most important facts that they must know and leave out the rest. The answer should be 1.5 to 2 minutes in length with a clear beginning, middle and end.
After you deliver your response, you can always ask the interviewer if they need further clarification. Then, you can continue but not past a minute or so.
Remember, the interviewer may have already met with one or more candidates in the morning and may have another one or two later that afternoon, so the last thing they want from you is your life story.
It’s creating a balance of giving just enough detail while getting to the point quickly.
#2: Giving too short an answer
I interviewed a highly experienced candidate who kept giving me short answers with virtually no detail.
This created an abruptness to the verbal exchange which forced me to keep prodding her to get more information, but she kept resisting.
This annoyed the crap out of me because I like people who are forthcoming. My immediate impression of her was that she was either a total idiot or being purposely difficult or both – none of which was acceptable.
Additionally, I felt I was wasting my valuable time trying to “help” someone who clearly wasn’t trying to help me help her.
So, I cut the interview short and noted on her file that she was “difficult, evasive, and arrogant.”
Let’s face it – the employer wants to hire someone who is confident and capable, but also easy to get along with, forthcoming with information, and modest.
To display those qualities, you need to give just the right amount of enough detail in your answers so that the interviewer can understand the scope of your contributions, your qualities, and whatever else they’re trying to uncover.
It would also help to deliver your answers in a way that is more conversational as opposed to creating awkward silences. And as I already pointed out, your answers should be about 1.5 to 2 minutes in length.
#3: Not giving a direct answer
Any time the candidate answered “around” the question as opposed to answering it directly (think politician), it would drive me totally bonkers.
Even if your answer is appropriate in length, by not answering the question in a direct way, it looks like you’re trying to dodge giving an answer. This could make you come across as being evasive, difficult, smug or some other negative thing (see above).
Or, it could make it look like you haven’t heard or not understood the question, given your poor answer.
I always tell candidates to first listen intently to the question, pause for a second or two (not too long because that can get weird) and then “mirror” the interviewer’s question by including the key points in your answer.
This technique will help to slow the process down a bit and will buy you a bit of time to come up with an appropriate response.
If you don’t understand the question, it’s better to ask for clarification and give a good answer than to not ask and end up offering something that misses the mark.
#4: Not answering the question in the first person
This is a pet peeve of mine.
I remember interviewing a young man for a role that would have been a great opportunity for him. He had the experience, education, and skills and looked good “on paper”.
The problem was, he kept answering all my questions, staring with “We” as opposed to “I”.
Why would I care about what your team or co-workers did? I’m not interviewing them – I’m interviewing YOU.
The problem with his answers beyond the fact that he wasn’t telling me anything about his specific contribution, was that it made him look like he was trying to avoid giving a direct answer.
What was going through my mind was:
“What is he hiding?”
“Why didn’t he prepare for the interview?”
“Did he exaggerate his contributions in his résumé and Linkedin profile, or worse, lie?”
When you interview for the job, everything you talk about should be about the level, scope, and kind of contribution that YOU specifically made. Always start the sentence off with “I”.
If you were in more of a support position, you will start your sentence off by saying something like:
“I helped the Procurement Manager with….”
“I was called upon to assist the Director of Finance with….”
“I supported the Senior Accountant with the bookkeeping by….”
If you were a single contributor to an initiative and took more of a leadership role, you will start your sentence off by saying something like:
“I steered a group of ten sales reps through a one-month customer engagement project that…..”
“I planned, designed, deployed, and managed a 6-month continuous improvement initiative that achieved….”
“I initiated an intensive training and coaching programs for 50 customer service and sales reps that….”
I other words, find strong action verbs that clearly and accurately express the scope of what your contribution was with each activity.
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