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How to Make it Past the First Interview

Q. I have been lucky enough to land interviews in my job search, but I haven’t made it past first interviews; I haven’t even made it past an initial phone interview. I asked a few friends what they thought the problem might be. They told me I ramble. I know I talk a lot, but I don’t think I do that in the interviews. I always give good answers to the questions. Am I talking too much?

A. Landing interviews proves that you are doing right in the job search, so take the time to review all of the successful parts of the process. You must have developed a strong resume, well-written cover letters and a strong network. Thank your friends for constructive support and deconstruct what happens in successful interviews.

Prepare. Information is easily accessible about the company, the challenges it faces, the industry issues which affect the firm and the people you are scheduled to meet in the interview process. There is no reason not to be knowledgeable about all of these topics. Do the research.

Anticipate. Develop a list of questions you expect to be asked. Many interview questions are standard and though they may not be exactly the same, represent general topical areas. These would include the ever popular, “Tell me About Yourself,” your education, experience, why you left each of your jobs, what your colleagues or boss would say about you, areas of pride and areas of weakness.

Script. Write out the answers. Practice the answers out loud. Do you ramble? Stay focused and develop a crisp message that delivers the information you want the interviewer to know.

Time it. Find out if you are talking to much. Many people spend four or five minutes on one answer in the first few minutes of a meeting, only to lose the interviewer's interest. Talking more doesn’t make the response better. Good content that engages the interviewer and sells your skills is what make a good response.

Listen. Many people who are accused of talking too much do not listen well. Do you understand the question? Is your answer to the point and delivered with just the right level of detail, or do you do a deep dive long before it is called for?

Click and double click. Take a lesson from finding information on the web. Consider initial interview questions as general or directional questions to be answered at the first click level. Answer in greater detail, or make the double click, after the interviewer probes more deeply. If you provide too much detail too early in the interview process, you may never have the opportunity for the interviewer to ask the questions he or she really want to ask.

Ask if you have provided enough information. Let the interviewer tell you if you have provided enough detail. Look for cues you may be rambling. Are you and the interviewer maintaining eye contact? Is the interviewer engaged in a conversation with you or just moving through a list of question? The cues and body language can help you stay focused on our goal.

Have a goal. Every interview needs a realistic goal. The goal of a first interview is a second interview, not an offer. Understand the process and develop a plan to achieve that next goal. Often, people talk too much when they try to skip steps in the process.

Share. Asking questions of the interviewer, which you have prepared in advance, helps present a more balanced conversation. You will be less apt to ramble and this activity will help you plan your time better. Follow these tips and you will most likely be communicating at your best leading to a second interview.

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