Long, rambling answers don’t win job interviews. If the interviewer is bored, they won’t remember you afterwards. Or they might remember you as “somebody I’d never want to listen to in a staff meeting!” So, let’s look at how to be concise in an interview.
Edit your interview answers.
To avoid verbal wandering, plan a clear path. Put together a list of questions you’re likely to be asked, then write a simple, bare-bones outline for your answer to each one. Think “talking points,” not full sentences, otherwise you’ll end up sounding like you’re reciting a script.
Next, edit your outlines. Ask yourself, Which details will “sell” me as the right person for the job? Make sure you include those! Which details could be left out? Delete them.
Then practice saying your concise answers aloud until they flow easily.
After going through this process multiple times over several days, you may find yourself speaking more succinctly even in answers you haven’t prepared.
Know how to stop.
Sometimes interviewees ramble because they don’t know how to end their answers. Practice these techniques:
- If you’re telling a story, end with the successful results you achieved.
- Refer back to the question: “So that’s how I’d describe my management style.”
- Relate what you’ve been saying to the job you’re interviewing for: “…and I imagine you’ve had similar situations here. Does that sound like a strategy that would work here?”
See my article How to End Interview Answers Smoothly and Effectively for more examples.
Err on the short side.
Practice giving answers that are actually too brief, followed by a question, such as: “Would you like me to go into more detail?”
Use the “bottom-lining” technique.
If you catch yourself rambling, interrupt yourself with a statement like “To get straight to the bottom line…” or “The most important part of this story is…” Then get straight to the point.
Make a long story short.
The SOAR story structure can help you boil your stories down to a powerful minute.
It’s one thing to read tips, but quite another to build skills you’ll use when the pressure is on. Practice, practice, practice – with the video recorder on your phone, a buddy or a job interview coach. Practicing turns tips into skills – and winning interviews.
This post was originally published in 2016 and has been updated. Now that you know how to be concise in an interview, check your overall interview skills with my post, 12 Tips for a Winning Interview.