Saying less to say more

Q: I’ve often been told I talk too much. Guilty, as charged, I’d say. I haven’t done well in interviews – well, I haven’t got jobs even when I definitely had the experience. I fear I may have rabbited on too long. How might I curb this tendency? (UK).

In any interview, candidates should veer away from what I call unprofitable cul-de-sacs, writes Deirdre May, Career Coach, Sli Nua Careers. 

In an effort to explain, you may indeed tend towards over explaining. Out of the desire to give context, and to be helpful, you may only confuse. Nervousness can cause some people to go into verbal overdrive, too.

Remember that the panel listening can only take so much information on board and, while I am a generally an advocate of speaking at length in interviews, it is important that what you tell them follows a coherent logic.

There is a law of diminishing returns whereby the more you tell them, the less they actually retain.

As you prepare for the interview, pulling together the key information you want to transmit, ask yourself the question: “What do I need to tell them so that they will understand?”

Sit in front of friends for a mock interview. Ask them to evaluate whether or not you went on too long.

A good habit for those who tend to talk too much is to ask the interview panel if they would like some further information. If they say yes, offer more; if not, sit tight and wait for the next question.

Clarify, yes; over-clarify, no. It is not chapter-and-verse each time. It’s the very story you want the panel to see here. Bear this in mind next time you’re going for interview.


Mixing it up for CEO jump

Q: I am expecting a CEO role to become vacant in the next month. On paper it might look like a bridge too far for me but I feel confident if I can get the interview I’ll be in with a solid shout. My question is: do I need to do something different with my application, given that it’s a step-up from my current level? (CS, email).

A: I think the answer is in your question – you probably do. You have a sense that you need to pull something out of the hat,

Even if you were the clear favourite – or, indeed, particularly if you were the clear favourite – I would advise you to take great care with your application.

What else can you do that will highlight your skills and make you stand out? Could you produce an infographic that you could drop into your CV with relevant achievements highlighted? Or a section in your cover letter where you outline some ideas you have for the role?

I wouldn’t go for too many bells and whistles but as you are trying to jump a level, you have got to give them reason to consider you. It will be easy for them to jettison you based on your experience to date: what gems can you put in front of them that will give them reason to assess your candidacy in a more benign light?

Don’t go crazy, and don’t be gimmicky, but do try to find something extra to justify your inclusion in the short list.

Deirdre May is a Career Coach with Sli Nua Careers.

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