Can you talk yourself out of a job? Unfortunately, the answer is often “yes.” Rambling and disjointed answers can tank an interview and leave you out of the best opportunities. That’s why it’s crucial to keep your answers concise and focused.
The length of time you should spend on each interview answer varies based on the type of question. Experts recommend less than a minute and a half for basic questions and somewhere between two to four minutes for more complicated ones.
In most cases, you’ll have less than an hour to convince an interviewer you are the right choice. Some phone screening interviews last an even shorter length of time. You need to give a complete answer to each question, while still allowing the maximum amount of time possible to hit every subject.
Meanwhile, mastering the art of presenting material in a concise and engaging way will raise your chances of scoring the job. In a survey conducted by GMAC Corporate Recruiters, employers ranked oral communication at the top of their list of desired skills for job candidates.
Ace your job interviews by learning the right way to answer questions. Here are a few tips that will let you keep your answers concise and focused:
Prepare for Common Questions
Every prospective employer wants basically the same information. The exact wording of the questions might change. But they are aiming for the same fundamental facts.
In other words, a few interview prompts shouldn’t take you completely by surprise. Some companies might purposely try to throw you off with things like riddles or puzzles. But you should still master the basic “what’s your biggest strength” type questions before you even reach the interview.
Follow an Answer Structure
Baking gets easier with a recipe. Math becomes simpler when you know the formula. The same dynamic can improve your interview answers.
Not that you should create stock answers for each potential query. If you do, you might come off as a robot. Instead, follow a basic pattern in your response to help you keep things tight.
- Start with a direct response to the question: “My biggest strength is my ability to learn quickly.”
- Add in a relevant detail or two: “In my last job, I was able to master our new sales program faster than anyone in my department.”
- Closeout with a pivot back to the current position: “Given the fast pace of innovation you described in your company, this skill makes me a perfect fit.”
Practice, Practice, Practice
Like anything, you’ll get better at keeping your answers short if you practice. It may feel silly, but you should walk through the process ahead of time, so that your delivery becomes nearly automatic.
Here are a few tips to consider:
- Write your answers down to start
- Say them out loud, like rehearsing a play
- Record yourself and listen back
- Role-play the interview with friends and family
- Get rid of the “ums” and “uhs”
One warning here: you don’t want to become over-practiced. This can limit your ability to connect with your interviewers. Work on keeping your presentation engaging, while still remaining efficient.
Get Better Next Time
Maybe you wandered off track with one of your answers. Perhaps you blanked on an easy question. In retrospect, that story about junior high might have been a bit much.
Whatever the case, learn from your mistakes. Conduct a post-game review of how you answered each prompt and consider how you’d like to improve for next time. That way, you get better over time and increase your long-term chances of landing the perfect job.
Acing an interview gets easier when you find an ideal position. A top staffing agency, like Recruiting In Motion, can steer you toward a career-boosting opportunity.