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Post-interview feedback - I talk too much!

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Post-interview feedback - I talk too much!

Postby SCT » Sat Dec 09, 2017 10:50 am

Alas, of the two interviews I recently attended, I did not get a job offer from either - even though I thought I had done well enough. Here's feedback I received from one of these interviews - it was for a project management position in a point-of-care diagnostics devices company. They wrote:

"It was a pleasure to meet SCT and the panel thoroughly enjoyed his presentation. SCT is very passionate about his work, but we felt he had a tendency for lengthy explanations and often deviated from the main point. This could be an issue when dealing with situations or processes where being succinct is critical."

I understand this to mean that I talk too much! Or rather, that I should have answered the questions more directly - and stopped, instead of babbling on. Its something I am aware of and its something I wish to bring under control. How can I know when I have said enough and its time to stop ? Are there any techniques for keeping one´s self in check and not going off at a tangent with unnecessary background/context ? Can anyone relate a similiar experience - did you learn from feedback in time for your next interview ?

My next interview is on Wednesday 13 December for a Senior Scientist position. While I'm happy getting interviews, I need to capitalise on them and not scupper my chances with verbal overload!
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Re: Post-interview feedback - I talk too much!

Postby Dave Jensen » Sat Dec 09, 2017 3:44 pm

Yes, that's exactly what that feedback meant. In companies like this (all employers really) there is no room for a bunch of superfluous information. Project meetings would go on forever if they were to allow people to ramble past the nuggets of information needed.

For most people, this happens in an interview but they are able to control it in a day-to-day situation. "Interview nerves" can create this -- you might want to note this to them, that you even noticed the fact that you were providing more info than needed. Also, there's a temptation for people to want to fill in "uncomfortable" silences. In doing so, they sabotage themselves.

The best way to deal with this is to go into an interview with a specific formula -- I like the expression CAR or PAR, for Challenge (or Problem) Approach and Results. This means you speak briefly to the issue that you had, the example of a similar problem to whatever they asked you about, then describe your approach, and finally what the result was. Each section gets exactly a couple of sentences, and no more. Wham -- you've answered their question and you've shut up. That's all that is necessary. They can ask details, and they will, to probe deeper, but you've set out the example and provided a succinct answer to their question. This works particularly well in what are called "Behavioral Questions" -- this type of interview is focused on examples of situations you have encountered, which are perfect for a brief three-piece response in the CAR format.

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Re: Post-interview feedback - I talk too much!

Postby SCT » Sun Dec 10, 2017 7:58 am

Dave Jensen wrote:Yes, that's exactly what that feedback meant. In companies like this (all employers really) there is no room for a bunch of superfluous information. Project meetings would go on forever if they were to allow people to ramble past the nuggets of information needed.

For most people, this happens in an interview but they are able to control it in a day-to-day situation. "Interview nerves" can create this -- you might want to note this to them, that you even noticed the fact that you were providing more info than needed. Also, there's a temptation for people to want to fill in "uncomfortable" silences. In doing so, they sabotage themselves.

The best way to deal with this is to go into an interview with a specific formula -- I like the expression CAR or PAR, for Challenge (or Problem) Approach and Results. This means you speak briefly to the issue that you had, the example of a similar problem to whatever they asked you about, then describe your approach, and finally what the result was. Each section gets exactly a couple of sentences, and no more. Wham -- you've answered their question and you've shut up. That's all that is necessary. They can ask details, and they will, to probe deeper, but you've set out the example and provided a succinct answer to their question. This works particularly well in what are called "Behavioral Questions" -- this type of interview is focused on examples of situations you have encountered, which are perfect for a brief three-piece response in the CAR format.

Dave


Thanks Dave. You made a very good point about wanting to fill in the "uncomfortable" silences. There is a temptation to say more either because (a) you think you haven't answered the question fully yet and/or (b) you want to show off a bit. My other problem is repetition - I tend to repeat something because I think I may not have hammered the message home. Things can get even worse if an interviewer is friendly or informal because then I let my own guard down and lose character. Not good.

I have heard it said many times that you should try to be "yourself" and act "naturally" - but if I were to do just that at an interview, I would end up talking too much. I need to keep a check on this. CAR seems like a good place to start.
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Re: Post-interview feedback - I talk too much!

Postby Dave Jensen » Sun Dec 10, 2017 12:41 pm

Thanks -- I'm one of those who always suggest one should "be yourself." I guess, the advice should be to be the very best version of yourself that you can be. If you know you are a bit too talkative, that's something to prune back.

Appreciate your input.

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Re: Post-interview feedback - I talk too much!

Postby Rich Lemert » Sun Dec 10, 2017 3:59 pm

My suggestion is that you rehearse for your interviews - several times, and well in advance. You've been to enough of them that you have an idea of the questions you'll be asked, and you can always figure out what questions you would ask someone else. Record yourself answering the question, and go back a day or two later to see how your answers came across. If possible, get a trusted friend or family member involved to make things more conversational.

Recognize also that you are fighting traits that have been instilled in you for years. We've been trained throughout our education to always be thorough and complete, and to make she we understand completely what we're talking about. Industry is more focused on "what do I need to do to solve my problem."
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Re: Post-interview feedback - I talk too much!

Postby D.X. » Mon Dec 11, 2017 3:14 am

Hi SCT:

Yes I also agree on your Interpretation of the feedback. To add to Dave's Point, most employers want crisp Communicators - there is alot to do and time wasted on non-relevant Information is not an efficient use of time. Also - in an interview all aspects of presentation performance in Terms of interview Panel assessment are intensified say contrast day to day operations you interview Panel may be involved in so that's a confounding issue.

There are a few tips and techniques you can use - Dave already mentioned one which relates to bringing structure to your answer. There are many ways to do this - one way I like is actually using a numerical structure as part of an over-arching executive summary which I verbalize. I give 3 to 4 main Points and then guide through those Points. This takes some practice but something to reflect on for the future.

One technique you can implement now - is something called "The Pause". If you "Master the Pause" then you'll find its one of those techniques that give many returnes if you use it well. Basically - you're introducting that Moment of silence which you're unfortable with.

When you're presenting you "pause" and you do it by saying "Let me Pause here..." At this Point you can ask anything of your audience, such as questions. So "Let me pause here for a Moment, do you have any questions?". Then Count 10 seconds. It sounds super unconfortable and you may perceive that your audience is looking at you negative. Not true. You've just put them on the spot, they're thinking hense the blank stares - they're formulating questions or considering what you've just said. Silence...is Good! You can then ask say after 7 seconds "are there any Points you want me to clarify further?" --start counting again! If you hear nothing you can say "ok i'll move on". You can even get feedback on what the audience wants to here, you can ask "is this too deep, do you want me to stay more top Level?" This way you open yourself to getting feed back and for ...discussion!! part of good presentation skills is faciliating discussion - which is good.

Just a note alot of People get uncomfortable with silence due to insecurity - they don't want to open themselves up to critic so they Keep talking and babbling. So watch it, if you Master the Pause and embrace opportunities for you to introduce silence and solice feedback, you come accross as confident. With the Pause you can also control tangents - so you can say "I'm going to pause here and bring it back to main Point"...then you can follow by asking the audience for questions.

So a Little tip you can use NOW - practice it a bit and get confortable with using silence to your Advantage. Use it to get feedback - use it to Trigger discussion. Then also consider how you control discussion, ther is something I use call the "stop and park". But for now, just Master "The Pause" OK? And consider Dave's CAR in the context of structing your answer.

DX
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Re: Post-interview feedback - I talk too much!

Postby SCT » Mon Dec 11, 2017 9:33 am

@Rich Lemert: Earlier this year I had a remote interview which consisted of answering 5 questions on video and uploading the answers on the company's online platform. I had one chance to see each question and one chance to rehearse/record my answer (2 mins) and view it. The second time it was recorded for real and automatically uploaded. It was a bit cringe-worthy seeing myself (gesturing with hands, wandering eyes) and listening to my voice in the practice run. I knew then I had a habit of talking too quickly and too much. So nowadays I do practice the generic type of questions I get asked, such as "Why are you interested in this role? Do you have any weaknesses? How do you handle conflicting requests? etc. I still have a tendency to waffle a bit - so I just need to calm down and keep answers succinct!


@D.X: Thanks for your considered reply. Yes, I think Dave's CAR idea is helpful and I also like your idea of the "pause." When I am giving a presentation, I am OK with pauses and I ensure the audience is still engaged. My main problem comes when I am asked an open, non-technical question - then I tend to babble! For example, I recently spent some time working abroad. So invariably, interviewers ask me what it was like living there (or why did I choose to go there). With this type of non-technical, open question, I tend to talk too much and give too much background. Perhaps the pause idea can work here also - just to remind me not to go overboard.
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Re: Post-interview feedback - I talk too much!

Postby JM » Mon Dec 11, 2017 11:17 am

Just to throw out another thought - there is another factor, which is attention. Even if someone has set aside, say, 15 minutes to talk to you, it doesn't necessarily mean they can "spend" 15 minutes of their full attention on it. So keeping this in mind might help prioritize what you lead with.

JM
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Re: Post-interview feedback - I talk too much!

Postby J.B. » Tue Dec 12, 2017 9:48 am

Let me add something here. Try to be concise for more than just the interview. Being overly-talkative generally rubs people the wrong way. At the interview stage people can filter out that behavior. Once you start working at a place they're not going to suddenly warm up to your chattiness. It's still annoying when meetings go long just because someone can't be quiet. You won't get fired over it, but you won't ingratiate yourself to your colleagues either. I like Dave's advice to just answer in a couple sentences. Give people the option to ask for more information rather than pelting them with it upfront.
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Re: Post-interview feedback - I talk too much!

Postby SCT » Thu Dec 14, 2017 7:50 am

Thank you everyone for your inputs. My interview yesterday morning lasted 2.5 hours + a tour of the labs + 20 mins with the HR manager. So a bit gruelling overall, but that's how it is. I used Dave's CAR suggestion for the technical questions and I remained conscious of using the "pause" during the general discussion. Both methods helped to slow me down and actually engage with the interview panel, rather than just blurting out. I was much more in control of my thought processes and hence not letting the occasion get the better of me.

I will know about the outcome of the interview before the end of December. In the meantime - its back to job hunting - even if it is just 2 weeks to Christmas.
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