Connecting the Dots

contrtibuted by Dr. Stephen E Bangert, PhD

Although short, succinct responses are recommended when interviewing, don’t assume the interviewer fully understands, you may need to connect the dots.

Perhaps you recall in your youth, or more recently as a parent, working on puzzles that required you to connect the numbered or lettered dots to form a picture. For some of the very elementary ones the object or picture was rather evident even before you began. Obviously not advanced enough for your precocious little mind. But of course there were others with hundreds of dots that were more complex and required some work before the object or picture took shape.

I mention these puzzles and the connecting of dots because I think there is a simple parallel with conversations that occur in an interview. In most interviews you as the candidate are asked a number of questions as a means of understanding your skills, experiences, motivation and personality. For the most part the interviewer asks a questions and you respond, perhaps reflecting first. Generally the question is a simple one that can and should be answered in a short succinct fashion. Avoid the temptation of rambling on and saying more than necessary. To do so only invites problems.

So the process plays out where a question is asked and you respond. Another question is asked and again you respond in a concise fashion. I like to call such responses sound bites.

But as the process continues, there may be questions that require a further explanation, either because the question is a bit more complex or in situations where the interviewer is not likely to appreciate the full impact of your answer. In other words you need to connect the dots for the interviewer.

For example a question is asked and your first response is short and direct, but you sense that the interviewer is not on the same page and you decide to expand your answer by explaining yourself. You reference the logical relationship between your answer and the point under discussion. You attempt to show the value this has for the company. You connect the dots.

And there are occasions where you may take this a step further. After expanding your answer you may invite feedback in the form of a question back to the interviewer. In sales this is termed a close or a tie down. It is simple getting the other person to respond affirmatively. The process is one of responding, expanding and affirming. And when this is done several times throughout the interview, it gives you a basis for suggesting that you fit their corporate needs and are a strong candidate.

I purposefully like to give a silly illustration of this process because I think it brings the point home. Let’s say you are asked the simple question: “What is your favorite color?” Your response might be: “Green is my favorite color.” But with such a short, direct answer you may sense that the interviewer does not appreciate the full meaning behind your response, and so drawing on the points discussed above you continue: “You know I mention green as my favorite color, because green is the color of money, and in my work I have always been sensitive to issues of productivity and impact on the bottom line.” Wanting to gain some closure you may challenge the interviewer with a question, such as: “I suspect that green would also be a favorite color of this company?”

As the interview continues, you hopefully gain support or closure on several issues, this gives you leverage when the interview draws to a close. In most cases the interviewer will signal the close with a comment, such as: “it has been nice meeting you…” At this time you may wish to summarize by reinforcing your strengths as they apply to the corporate needs, and emphasize the points that have been previously agreed upon. That would be followed with the suggestion that discussions continue with a further indepth interview.

So once again, keep your interview responses short and simple, yet don’t assume that your audience fully understands or appreciates your point. Expand from time to time, connecting the dots. And where appropriate, capitalize on the chance to gain closure and agreement.


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