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Interview Strategy: It’s not about quantity, it’s about quality. If you keep your answers short, and bite that “flapper of a tongue,” you may actually land a job. One of the most critical times to have poise while speaking is during an interview. Talking too much is one of the problems hirers have with interviewees.

What If Your Tongue Has A “Mind” Of Its Own?

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?” 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. Solution: 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.

Convincement And Its Side Effects

Too often job seekers walk into interviews “cold,” somehow thinking they can talk themselves into the job. Remember, it’s not about how much you speak, but the quality of what you say. Job seekers could learn a lot from successful sales professionals. They will tell you the sales process isn’t dominated by lengthy conversations intended to wear the prospect down so they eventually give in and buy. 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). Solution: Create a list of potential interview questions and jot down your instinctual answers. Then, treat your instinctual answers as first drafts and proceed to writing more fine-tuned answers. Keep your answers tight, yet thorough. Fine tune your answers several times, if you have to. To help with the process, and to ensure your answers meet the mark with employers, try following a situation, action, result (SAR) formula. For those answers where you can’t identify bottom-line results, highlight achievements generated by your team or department as a whole.

“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.”

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Dear J.T. & Dale: I recently went through a series of interviews. I thought I had the job until I got a voicemail stating that, while I was wonderful, the department had decided to go with someone they'd "worked with previously." She also said that perhaps I was a little overqualified. OK, I'm out of college less than a year — how could I be overqualified? During the interview, I did stress I like to work hard and feel a sense of accomplishment. Did I overdo it? — Michelle Dale: "Overqualified" is nothing but a weak, generic excuse. I get so frustrated by hiring managers relying on such a lame excuse that here's a new formula: Anyone who rejects an employee for being overqualified is under-qualified to be a manager. Great bosses hire the best people they can find, and are good enough managers to know that they can keep them engaged and involved and, as the economy improves, help them move up. J.T.: A bit of an overstatement, perhaps, but Michelle, just so you know, one of the reasons companies start worrying about "overqualified" candidates is because of bad experiences — they chose candidates with too-good qualifications, only to have those people leave them shortly thereafter. The result becomes a fixation on hiring someone who'll be satisfied with what he or she has got. Dale: Which is another way of saying they develop a fixation on high-level mediocrity. J.T.: Well... more like "Goldilocks and the Three Bears" — just right. Dale: So, Michelle, what can you do to be just right? You can search for a great boss who wants ambitious people, but the great ones are hard to find, and rarely use the traditional job market. Meanwhile, here's what you do: In interviews, don't just sell yourself on how terrific you are — by doing that, you can come across as cocky and overly ambitious. Instead, sell your skills as a team player, emphasizing ways in which you helped your previous managers and made them look good. And also emphasize that you're eager to learn. What I'm about to say is corny but useful: Instead of coming across as a know-it-all, come across as a learn-it-all. J.T.: And, during the interview, mention that you hope to find a company and manager to work with long term. If all goes well, you'll find a great boss, and you'll work together for many years, moving up together. © 2012 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.
Feel free to send questions to J.T. and Dale at advice@jtanddale.com or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th Street, 15th Floor, New York, NY 10019.
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