If your mom was like mine, she said “don’t toot your own horn.” During job interviews, however, whether or not you get the job may depend on how well you toot your horn. However, there is a fine line between adequately answering interviewers’ questions and talking so long that it hurts your chances of getting hired.
Executive search firms such as ours are in a unique position to hear first-hand the comments interviewers provide about the candidates we submit to them for interviews. All too often we see comments on evaluation forms (or hear specific comments) that a candidate spent an unreasonable amount of time answering a question.
While it’s only natural during job interviews to want to answer questions completely and fully, we’re hearing that candidates often provide overly verbose responses and extraneous details when answering questions. Executives want their peers to be knowledgeable in discussions and presentations, yet succinct at the same time. We all know how much we enjoy having someone present or speak with us who goes on and on and on.
How Long Is Too Long?
And so the question is, how long should you take to answer an interview question?
We advise our candidates to keep their answers to no more than two minutes. There are very few questions that should take more than two minutes to answer. Don’t be afraid to list your accomplishments, but do it in a succinct manner. If the interviewer wants more detail, they will ask you for it. Normally in initial interviews, the interviewer has an hour or less to talk, and a specific list of questions they need answered to determine whether you will move forward in the process.
It’s not hard to predict the standard interview questions you will be asked. Practice responses to common interview questions with a timer in hand to see how you measure up to the two minute answer recommendation. You’ll likely be asked to:
- Provide an overview of your current responsibilities
- Discuss where you want to be in five or ten years
- Describe an accomplishment you are most proud of
- Analyze a goal you did not achieve
- Share your most difficult management situation
- “Sell” yourself and why you’re suited for the open position
Practice makes perfect, and delivering concise answers will likely make all the difference to whether or not you move forward in the process.
Steve Bennett is VP and Healthcare IT and Cybersecurity with Kirby Partners, an executive search firm in Orlando, Fla. specializing in healthcare IT senior management positions. To learn more about Kirby Partners and executive-level healthcare positions around the country, visit www.kirbypartners.com or connect with them on LinkedIn.