Don’t Talk Too Much

by Michael Neece, founder of Interview Mastery
Monster Contributing Writer

The gift of gab can be something of a curse during an interview. You could end up talking your way right out of the job.

common interview mistakes It’s important to remember that interviewers are only human, and their attention tends to wane as you speak. Fully understanding this is critical to effectively communicating during any interview. Your response should be less than a minute and a half when an interviewer asks you to “tell me about yourself.” Why? You’ll have that interviewer’s attention for just about 90 seconds.

The average interviewer’s attention span looks something like this:

  • As you begin speaking, the interviewer is listening with nearly full attention.
  • After about 10 seconds, he begins listening with less intensity.
  • After 60 seconds, his mind begins to wander and he’s devoting less than half his attention to you. The interviewer starts asking questions about your response or begins formulating his next question.
  • After you’ve been speaking for 90 seconds without interruption, the interviewer is barely listening at all.

Six Interview Mistakes

by Michael Neece, founder of Interview Mastery
Monster Contributing Writer

It’s tough to avoid typical interview traps if you’re unsure what they are. Here are a half dozen to watch out for.

1. Confusing an Interview with an Interrogation.
Most candidates expect to be interrogated. An interrogation occurs when one person asks all the questions and the other gives the answers. An interview is a business conversation in which both people ask and respond to questions. Candidates who expect to be interrogated avoid asking questions, leaving the interviewer in the role of reluctant interrogator.

2. Making a So-Called Weakness Seem Positive.
Interviewers frequently ask candidates, “What are your weaknesses?” Conventional interview wisdom dictates that you highlight a weakness like “I’m a perfectionist,” and turn it into a positive. Interviewers are not impressed, because they’ve probably heard the same answer a hundred times. If you are asked this question, highlight a skill that you wish to improve upon and describe what you are doing to enhance your skill in this area. Interviewers don’t care what your weaknesses are. They want to see how you handle the question and what your answer indicates about you.

3. Failing to Ask Questions.
Every interview concludes with the interviewer asking if you have any questions. The worst thing to say is that you have no questions. Having no questions prepared indicates you are not interested and not prepared. Interviewers are more impressed by the questions you ask than the selling points you try to make. Before each interview, make a list of five questions you will ask. “I think a good question is, ‘Can you tell me about your career?'” says Kent Kirch, director of global recruiting at Deloitte. “Everybody likes to talk about themselves, so you’re probably pretty safe asking that question.”

4. Researching the Company But Not Yourself.
Candidates intellectually prepare by researching the company. Most job seekers do not research themselves by taking inventory of their experience, knowledge and skills. Formulating a talent inventory prepares you to immediately respond to any question about your experience. You must be prepared to discuss any part of your background. Creating your talent inventory refreshes your memory and helps you immediately remember experiences you would otherwise have forgotten during the interview.

5. Leaving Your Cell Phone On.
We may live in a wired, always-available society, but a ringing cell phone is not appropriate for an interview. Turn it off before you enter the company.

6. Waiting for a Call.
Time is your enemy after the interview. After you send a thank-you email and note to every interviewer, follow up a couple of days later with either a question or additional information. Additional information can be details about your talents, a recent competitor’s press release or industry trends. Your intention is to keep everyone’s memory of you fresh.

Asking Questions Is Key
Near the end of your response, it’s important to keep the interviewer engaged by asking questions.

Skilled interviewers will pose behavioral-event questions, asking you to describe specific examples of your experience. In these situations, your response can easily last much longer than 90 seconds. In such situations, interrupt yourself by asking the interviewer a question like, “Is this the level of detail you are looking for?” or “Is this the type of example you’re interested in?” This strategy helps to engage your listener and promotes two-way communication.

According to Kent Kirch, the global director of recruiting at Deloitte, interviewers are more impressed with your questions than any selling points you try to make. “What’s really disappointing to an interviewer is at the end of an interview and I ask the candidate, ‘Do you have any questions I can answer for you?’ and he says, ‘Nope, I think you answered them all,’ and that’s the end of it; it’s just really frustrating,” he says. “It all goes back to preparation, and [your questions] tell the interviewer you thought about this interview before you walked in the door.”

Asking questions can also give you a strategic edge. “People love to talk about themselves,” says Austin Cooke, the global recruitment director at Sapient. “So if you as a candidate can kind of get interviewers talking about themselves, you’re one step up.”

Your interview goals are to ensure you are understood and to make the best presentation of your talents. Engaging interviewers in two-way communication by asking questions helps you ensure they are listening while you deliver your response.

The “ONE” question you must ask each interviewer:

The last question you should ask before concluding with any interviewer is: “Do you feel I have the qualifications necessary to be successful in this position?” Listen very carefully to how the interviewer responds. If they give you a resounding “yes”, you have done a good job of covering all the issues that are important to them. If they say something like: “You appear to have all the qualifications we’re looking for, but…” Listen for that “but” and whatever comes next is an area you need to strengthen in any future interviews or discussions.

“Tell me about yourself” Interview Question

A good format to use when answering this question is:

  • Introduce yourself
  • Tell what your current status is (i.e. last job title)
  • Describe what you do at work
  • Describe one or two things you’ve accomplished or excel at that directly relate to the position
  • Mention why you decided to apply for this position

A few sentences, and around 30 seconds, should be enough to give your interviewer a positive idea of who you are and what you’ve done, as well as put your application in a good context. The following example demonstrates this format:

Example : I’m Kurt Smith (1), and I’ve been a operations manager for seven years (2). I’m especially skilled in resource planning, training, coaching and project management (3), and I was previously the supervisor for the Operational Support team at ABC Company (4). I want to work for your company in particular because you are the leader in ….”

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