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Are Your Interview Answers Too Long? Use Expandable Answers!

A common complaint of interviewers is that many candidates talk too much in interviews. There’s a list of questions the interviewer needs to get through, and there’s only so much time. How can you give concise interview answers while still sharing enough about your skills and accomplishments?

Here’s your secret weapon: the expandable interview answer. (Thanks, E.B., for giving my little technique a name!)

How to use an expandable interview answer:

First give an answer that’s no longer than 60 seconds or less. In fact, err on the side of being too brief. Then simply end with an offer to say more:  

“Would you like more detail about any part of that?”

This works well for the end of an interview answer. You can use it often (just not every time, lest you sound like a broken record).

There’s a slightly different way to do this in the middle of a multi-part answer such “Would you tell me a bit about yourself?” Your answer to this first interview question is a bit more complex because (as you know if you’ve read the post I just linked) you’ll want to give an answer that includes your key selling points. And if you’ve read my book or my post about key selling points, you know that for key selling points to be “verifiable” (believable) you may need to back them up with stories.

How are you going to do all that in less than one minute?

Let’s say you’re emphasizing three key selling points – your technical skills, your big accomplishment last year that saved your company $5 million, and your reputation for exceptional people skills. You might have time to tell a super-short story for one of these points, but not for all three.

Use teasers. As you mention a key point, add something like “. . . and I have a story I’d love to tell you about that at some point.”

Voila! You’ve given a concise answer that leaves ‘em wanting more – while making clear that, in fact, there is more to tell. They may ask for the story right off the bat, or you can watch for the right moment to tell it later.

By using offers to say more and teasers, you allow yourself to err on the side of too-brief answers, knowing that your answers are easily expandable.

More help with giving concise interview answers:

For more tips, read my post, How to Be Concise in Job Interviews.

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