contributed by Dr. Stephen E. Bangert, PhD
Recently when having lunch with a friend we simultaneously reached for the check. He argued that it was his turn and besides bragged that he just received his bonus check. As Vice President of Sales and Marketing for a $200+million manufacturer he had been successful in leading a revenue increase of 18%.
I’ve always challenged others to define success and their formula for achieving success. My friend was quick to repeat a principle we’ve all heard many times: KISS, “keep it simple, stupid!” I probed further, but he insisted that was the foundational principle he had adopted and readily preached to his sales team. I realized too that this was the principle I so often encouraged my clients to adopt as they prepare to interview. Although I changed a couple words in the formula, it was the same message: “keep it short and succinct!”
As simple as this advise is, it can’t be over emphasized. I like to call the end product a soundbite.
When interviewing it is important for the candidate to keep their message short and succinct. This requires some preparation, for as so many of my clients confess, “I tend to say too much.” And that is only natural. Your are excited about the opportunity to interview and enthused about the position, and so you want to give the interviewer the benefit of knowing everything about you. But it is not a benefit, for most people can’t remember vast amounts of information and need some time to order and digest what you are so familiar with. The interviewer will also have their own agenda and may not be interested in what you find so compelling.
When interviewing you have a message to convey; namely, that you have the skills and experience to address a company’s corporate needs. If you try to deliver that message in one massive information dump, you are likely to loose the interviewer’s attention and perhaps form an impression that you will never recover from. You need soundbites—short, succinct responses that are manageable and that promote good communications.
Consider this parallel. An interview is like delivering a position paper. When writing such a paper you posit a concept and logically proceed, supporting your position by introducing new information. Each piece of information might be introduced in one or more paragraphs consisting of a topic sentence, supportive information and perhaps some examples. You then draw your ideas together in a concluding paragraph.
As noted above, when interviewing you have a message to deliver. That message consists of a number of soundbites which are supported by facts, figures and examples. With every question you are asked, you have the opportunity to weave part of your message into your response. You start with a short, succinct answer. Should the interviewer want more information, they will ask you; or should you want to expand on you answer, you might prompt it with the suggestion that a fuller response might prove helpful. Be prepared with examples, and try to link your skills and experience with their expressed, corporate needs. As the interview draws to a close, you will want to add some summary comments that logically promotes continuing the relationship.
The KISS principle works every time. A soundbite is more likely to have impact and be remembered, than a five-minute oration detailing your career.
A short and succinct response is not only easier for the interviewer to handle, but also tells a lot about your style, how organized your thoughts are, how you communicate and what they might expect from you if you were part of their management team.
On your next opportunity KISS the interviewer. They’ll respond favorably.