Bob Larson, CPCCareer Report
March, 2008 — Issue 97

Don’t Talk Too Much on a Job Interview

Here’s a scary thought to ponder: You can blow a promising job opportunity by talking too much during an interview. According to an article in The Wall Street Journal, many nervous job seekers blabber endlessly about irrelevant information, creating a poor impression and cutting short the hiring manager’s time for further questions.

That’s how one facilities administrator ruined her employment chances at a small accounting firm in Bellevue, Wash. Asked to describe her strengths, the applicant delivered a long-winded reply focusing on her cleaning of every cabinet in her home. “She probably went on for three to four minutes,” Tracy White, the firm’s human-resources director, told the newspaper. “I doubted she could get the job done in an eight-hour day.”

“[An] official won’t pay any attention to you unless you prove you’re sharp during the first five minutes,” cautioned Robin Ryan, a career counselor, author and speaker in Newcastle, Wash. “Oversharing in an interview is the most dangerous thing you can do,” added Annie Stevens, a managing partner at Clear-Rock, a Boston executive coaching and outplacement concern.

Don’t despair, though, if you consider yourself someone who sometimes answers questions with lengthy answers or has a tendency of dominating a conversation. According to The Wall Street Journal article, here are four ways to steer clear of verbosity during a job hunt:

Prepare short statements on how your background matches the job and rehearse.

When a hiring manager says: “Tell me about yourself,” you can offer a few war stories that recount a work problem, your corrective action and the measurable result. “The stories have to be powerful as well as engaging,” lasting no longer than two minutes apiece,” said Richard Gee, an executive coach in Stamford, Conn.

He helped Ward Smith, a talkative golf pro and instructor, to win a marketing spot with Black & Decker. During practice sessions with the coach, Smith supplied elaborate detail about golf irons that he recommended to students. A hiring manager “doesn’t need to know this,” Gee interjected.

Smith soon realized he should translate “what I was doing into what Black & Decker was looking for,” and keep it succinct. During his job interview, he used marketing lingo to describe briefly his teaching methods, explaining how he identified students’ objectives, forged a rapport and enabled them to reach solutions. He soon became an Atlanta field-marketing coordinator for Black & Decker.

Embracing a similar approach, a jobless organizational-development consultant landed follow-up interviews with three possible employers, the article pointed out. Callbacks rarely occurred when I “was running off at the mouth,” he remembered. Defining yourself concisely also “builds an enormous amount of confidence for the next interview,” he noted.

Make sure you understand a question. Stop every couple of sentences to check.

If the interviewer requests your career history, you might inquire, “do you want me to start with my present situation or at the beginning?” This type of response demonstrates a candidate “is preparing mentally for what he’s going to give me,” said Peter D. Crist, head of recruiters at Crist Associates in Hinsdale, Ill.

Pausing after you speak lets you collect your thoughts—and seek permission to continue. Before you resume, White suggests asking, “Did I answer your question enough? Do you want more examples?”

Watch the interviewer’s body language for hints that your answers are getting boring.

He may stop taking notes, check his watch or glance at his computer. A loquacious middle manager ignored such warning signals after spending 15 minutes telling a West Coast recruiter about several extraneous issues, including her husband’s problems with his boss.

“I was rolling my eyes and tapping my pen on her résumé to indicate we should get back to work here,” the exasperated recruiter told the newspaper. He finally cut her off because he had many more questions to pose.

Solicit feedback following an interview.

The West Coast recruiter decided against referring the middle manager to a client. “You had a number of stories to tell but they weren’t relevant,” he told her. “Use each minute to its best advantage to sell your background.”

With practice, you’ll be able to polish your pitch too, adjusting the length of your responses until someone says, “You’re hired!”

News from BLK

Berman Larson Kane was recently named as one of the Best Places to Work in New Jersey.

The award program, created in 2005 is produced by NJBIZ and sponsored by Gibbons, P.C., Sobel & Co., LLC, Staffing Alternatives, Novo Nordisk and Atlantic Health System.

Berman Larson Kane is celebrating twenty-eight years of success in the recruiting and consulting profession. In addition to providing customized search options from reduced fees to executive search, the firm recently added retention management services to its consulting competencies.

This survey and award program was designed to identify, recognize and honor the best places of employment in New Jersey, benefiting the state’s economy, its workforce and businesses. The Best Places to Work in New Jersey program is made up of 50 companies split into two groups: 25 medium-sized companies (25-249 employees) and 25 large-sized companies (more than 250 employees). Berman Larson Kane has been named one of the Best Places to Work in New Jersey in the medium category.

Berman Larson Kane will be recognized and honored at the Best Places to Work in New Jersey evening awards ceremony on Tuesday, April 22, 2008, at the Hilton East Brunswick. The final rankings will be revealed at the ceremony.

For more information on the Best Places to Work in New Jersey 2009 program, please visit