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Talking too much at interviews-- 
and how to avoid it

by Andrea Kay    

If you have a tendency to give too much information when asked a question in an interview—or even before you hear one--it’s usually because of one of several things:

     • You’re nervous

     • You aren't prepared to talk about yourself effectively

     • You don’t know what to say in response to a question, so you share every iota of data you can think of

     • You didn’t understand the question

     • You’re worried about something in your background and that you’ll have a lot of explaining to do

     • You’re not used to talking about yourself

How can talking too much hurt you, besides boring the interviewer to tears or losing their interest?

A poorly thought-out response can give the impression that you don’t know how to prioritize information in terms of relevance. So, your competency will be judged by your communication skills. Also, communication skills are an extremely important skill in the workplace, so you’re doing a poor job of demonstrating that ability as well.  Overall, you blow your big chance to show someone you’re well-prepared, mature and competent.

     Here’s what to do instead to show that you know your stuff:

     Understand that an interview is a conversation--not a one-way dialogue with you jabbering away. It’s an opportunity for the interviewer to get to know you through what you say and how you say it. It’s a chance for you to get to know them by listening and talking and creating a connection.

    Listen carefully to the question you’re being asked so you know what to share.  If you don’t understand (or couldn’t hear) what they’re asking, ask for an explanation. 

  Answer the question--in about two minutes or less--then zip your lip.  Take the cue from the interviewer on whether they want more detail.

   Before your interview, think through the information an interviewer wants to know:

     1. Who are you? Your answer can include relevant information about your work experience, strengths, knowledge, how you’ve progressed in your career and what kind of person you are.

    2. Why are you here? In other words, they want to know: Why are you looking for a job?     You can start off by stating the facts of your situation. If, for example, there was a downsizing at your company, you might say: “Our company is laying off due to the economy.” But avoid editorial comments about how bad or stupid they are. Quickly move on to explain your objective.

   3. What can you do for me? This is where you share your understanding of their needs and the job and show them how you can contribute your strengths, knowledge and experience to meet those needs.

To do what I just described, you must sit down and outline on paper a three-minute overview of your career that includes where you've been, what your skills and qualifications are, applicable education and why you're looking for a new job.

Then write about two minutes of detail on each of these items, so that—when asked—you can answer each question succinctly.

If you do this, you’ll be more likely to stay out of the danger zone of talking too much. The interviewer will see you as a mature, capable professional who knows who they are and connects with people—someone they’ll want to have around every day.

© 2001 by Andrea Kay. All Rights Reserved. Copyrighted work used with permission.

Career consultant Andrea Kay is the author of: 

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