Help! I can’t stop talking in job interviews.
One of the favorite aspects of my job as a Resume Writer and Career Consultant is running through mock interviews with my clients. It’s a time for them to work out the nerves and develop strong answers to the interview questions that trip them up. I’ve recently worked with a few clients who do not know when to stop talking when answering interview questions. They get caught in the trap of thinking the more they say, the better impression they will make. They often lose sight of the original question and aimlessly wander back to the main point wasting precious time and failing to effectively highlight their strengths. Most of them know they are doing it but don’t know how to stop themselves.
Another reason for a rambling answer may be you don’t know what the interviewer wants to hear. That is always tricky. It is best to analyze interview questions, identify what they are really asking and work up some answers that speak specifically to that point prior to the interview. Remember to be yourself, make sure you answer the question and put yourself in the most positive light showcasing how your strengths and unique talents can help the potential employer achieve their goals. Practice your answers until they flow smoothly off your tongue. Stress has a way of derailing the most eloquent, thoughtful speaker.
SITUATION – TASK – ACTION – RESULT (STAR)
There is another well-known way to stay on track when it comes to answering interview questions. It is very similar to the tool I use to help clients write great accomplishment statements. It’s called the STAR method. STAR is an acronym for
Situation-Task-Action-Result. When applicable answer each question with that acronym in mind. Using that acronym should work for the majority of questions that are posed during an interview unless you have a weak interviewer (and they’re out there.)
Sample Job Interview Question #1: “Tell me a time when a supervisor criticized your work.”
The interviewer wants to know how coachable and/or manageable you are as an employee. An answer following the STAR format would look like this.
Sample Job Interview Answer #1
SITUATION: I am used to getting high marks on my 360 feedback and performance reviews. However, last year my manager pointed out that he thought the quality of my work was not up to par. Hearing that stung because this was the first I’d heard of it.
TASK: I asked for more clarification and specifics to better understand his statement. He told me he thought I could be getting more from my team and increasing their level of production. I understood what he was saying and clarified his expectation.
ACTION: Moving forward I refined my approach to my team and began to set firmer goals and deadlines to ensure all projects were delivered on-time with every “t” crossed and “i” dotted. This required that I establish greater professional distance between my team and me and that I hold them accountable for delays or inefficiencies.
RESULT: This year my team and I have exceeded expectations and delivered each project early and under budget.
Sample Job Interview Question #2: “Tell us about a problem you have faced between one department and another.”
Here the interviewer wants to know about your problem solving skills.
Sample Job Interview Answer #2
SITUATION: A project we’d been working on in another country had come to a standstill due to a misunderstanding with the local project management team. The project had recently been handed over to my department so I was not up to speed on any issues. Our client informed me they were aware of the problem and were reconsidering the contract because of the stand still and the inability of our engineering team to resolve the issue.
TASK: I directed my team to comb through all correspondence, emails, project plans, reiterations, etc. and identify the issues causing the misunderstanding.
ACTION: I prepared solutions in advance and called a meeting between our engineering team and the local project management team via Skype and we were all able to agree on what standards to use moving forward.
RESULT: The project is on track for completion two months ahead of schedule.
Remember when answering interview questions, tell a story with a beginning, middle and end where you’re the hero. If you find yourself digressing or wandering, clarify the question and remember the STAR acronym. Every client who has embraced this technique has performed excellently in interviews and gained greater confidence in their ability to interview well.
To your success,