In sales training, they teach that if you want to make the sale, you have to listen more and talk less. They also tell you that when you’re presenting information to a customer, remember the KISS principle: “Keep It Short and Simple.”

In an interview – which is essentially a sales situation – these same tips apply.

Our conscious brain is like a small wine glass. You can pour some wine into it until it fills up, but at some point the glass spills over. You know this when a four-year-old tries to tell you a story about his kindergarten experience. You may stay focused for the first few minutes, but then lose interest as the child rambles on.

Sometimes candidates get carried away and talk too much during an interview. They assume that the interviewer’s brain is attentive and absorbing all the information that is being told to them. But at some point, the interviewer’s “glass” begins to spill over.

The question becomes, how do I know when I’ve talked too much?

First, many of us can rely on intuition. Many people are good at reading another person’s body language and are able to detect subtle changes. Some of us are more advanced and can even read micro-expressions. But most of all, we generally get the gut feeling that we’re rambling or simply sharing too many details. As soon as you detect that, just stop. Both you and the interviewer will appreciate it.

Secondly, there are some interesting scientific studies that may help us understand how much another person may be able to absorb.

In the book, “Leadership and the Sexes: Using Gender Science to Create Success in Business,”authors Michael Gurian and Barbara Annis present fascinating information about the scientific differences between the brains of men and women and how those difference may manifest in the workplace.

For example, the book asserts that male brains tend to be more dominant on either using the left or right brain. Females, on the other hand, tend to be able to use both sides of the brain simultaneously. These differences mean that in a presentation situation, women may be able to absorb more information than their male counterparts.

Because of these brain differences, the authors assert, males are more successful with short stories, brief facts, high-level answers and simplicity. (An example many married couples will recognize is when the wife gives her husband a grocery list of ten items and he comes back with two.) Females tend to absorb more details, lengthier stories and emotional nuances. (If a wife asks her husband how his day was, she may often have to prompt him to give her more in-depth information than he initially offers.)

In my interviewing workshops, I teach my students to practice timing the stories they give at interviews. Many of my clients are surprised that their natural tendency is to tell stories that are two, three or four minutes — which is simply too long. I suggest that you keep stories around one minute when presenting to men, and two minutes when presenting to women.

Before your next interview, start practicing with a stopwatch; craft both one- and two-minute stories. If you will be presenting to men, keep your message high-level and factual. If you will be speaking with women, you can probably go into more nuance and detail.

Regardless of whether you’re interacting with men or women in your job search, remember to keep it short and simple. Next time you leave someone a voicemail, let the system play it back and notice if you’re talking too much. And if you haven’t gotten an e-mail response from someone in quite some time, go back and look at your message and see if you could have made it shorter.

Live Seminars in December

The Career Search Excellence seminar is packed with only the hottest tips and tricks for professionals seeking a new opportunity – giving you a competitive edge over the competition. The seminar is free (sponsored) and there are three dates to choose from in December.
  • December 5 (Bellevue, WA)
  • December 8 (Bellevue, WA)
  • December 10 (Bellevue, WA)
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