Job Interviewing and the Electric Toothbrush
by Carole Martin
Many electric toothbrushes have a shut off mechanism that turns off the toothbrush after two minutes of brushing -- which is the time that someone decided was enough teeth-brushing for any one period.
Coincidentally, it turns out that two minutes (or less) is the recommended time period for the desired length of any one answer during the interview.
When answering an interview question it is best to be as focused as possible so that you can be succinct and to the point in as little time as possible -- two minutes. . When you ramble and bring in details that are not relevant to the question, you lose your audience, who in this case is your interviewer.
A successful answer to an interview question is one that addresses the question asked and gets to the point while not rambling. Here are two examples of answers to the same question. Note how one question addresses the question, and one rambles on and is not specific.
Question Asked: Can you give me an example of a time when you worked on a project that required a great deal of written communication?
Rambling Example: "I've always been a good writer. My writing skills have always been my strong point. I have been commended on my writing ability in every performance review that I have ever had. I am very good at researching facts and following through on leads. In my last job I was involved in the creation of our website by writing the content. That was a great experience. Working closely with the designers, I was able to contribute and add to the message that they were trying to get across. Writing isn't the major focus of my job responsibilities but I do like to write very much. I have written some proposals and they have been received very well. When I do have writing assignments it is usually in addition to my regular job. I can tell you that whenever I have had the opportunity to write I have received several comments on what a good job I have done. In fact, I was given an award for my writing skills as a team member on a project that received a grant. I am looking at this job as a chance to learn and develop my writing skills."
The listener -- the interviewer probably had the idea that you have strong writing skills after the first two lines, but you kept be-laboring the point and adding irrelevant facts.
Concise Two-minute Example: "That would be when I took over the responsibility of writing the department newsletter. This was my first experience at coordinating a publication from start to finish by myself. The first thing I did was to consult with the people in the company that had written similar newsletters. This gave me a sense of what to do and what not to do. Next, I did an informal survey of company employees, everyone from the support staff to the director of the department. From their comments I came up with a new idea of getting the people involved. Each month I hold a writing contest and then publish the winner's stories. The employee involvement has made a big difference in my efforts. Recently, the newsletter was awarded "most creative departmental newsletter."
You can see that the first question does not address the question asked and has irrelevant information in the answer. While the second answer gives a specific example of a time when you had a writing experience -- which is what the question asked for.
A tip in interviewing is to take time to listen to the question. Next, take time to process how you are going to answer. Pre-interview preparation will make a significant difference in your interview performance.
When you think about it, two minutes is a fair amount of time for a person to give his full attention to what others have to say. By sticking with the two-minute rule you will find that you will keep your interviewer interested and listening to your answer.
Start getting a sense of what you could say in two minutes -maybe the next time you brush your teeth.
Carole Martin is a celebrated author, trainer, and mentor. Carole can give you interviewing tips like no one else can. Get a copy of her FREE 9-part "Interview Success Tips" report by visiting Carole on the web at http://www.interviewcoach.com
Carole Martin may be contacted at http://www.interviewcoach.com