Why Less is Sometimes More When Preparing for a Job Interview

I once went for a job interview for a management role I was very capable of doing. I had enough of the skills, knowledge and experience required and believed that with some planning and preparation I would be able to give a great presentation and competently answer subsequent questions.

The problem was that although I knew this, while planning and preparing, I lost sight of my personal skills and the specific areas outlined in the job description, spending far too much time reading masses of information which I then tried to cram into my presentation and commit to memory.

I did a 20 slide presentation with a ridiculously large amount of text on each one in my attempt to cover every possible scenario, in great detail. I then rushed through it in the allocated 10 minutes which on completion left me physically exhausted from the adrenaline rush and speed at which I presented and mentally drained from the weeks, days and hours I had spent preparing the presentation and researching every minute area of the business.

This left me with very little mental capacity to perform well at the actual interview questions; I had so much information in my head that my brain felt as though it was going to literally explode. Needless to say, this was not a great start to what turned out to be one of the most excruciating 45 minutes of my life.

When I think about this interview it reminds me of the time my wardrobe collapsed due to the sheer weight of content it was trying to hold: most of which I either never or hardly ever wore and I was unlikely to ever wear again. It had been losing its battle to stay upright for quite some time and then one day, the battle was lost. First it began to lean to one side, then the plywood and tacks that held it together simply popped out and the whole thing collapsed.

My head felt the same pressure in that interview. I ignored the fact that it was struggling under the weight of all the information I was stuffing into it, some of which was insignificant, unimportant and unlikely to be a focus in any part of the interview.

The busyness of my head and the amount of information I had tried to commit to memory in a very short space of time made it very difficult to retrieve the relevant information required to respond to specific interview questions. When trying to form intelligent and dazzling responses, I was frantically throwing items from the shelves in my mind, searching for the right piece of information.

This resulted in my becoming very obviously anxious with physical symptoms such as a bright red blotchy face and neck (such was the extremity of this reaction that this was still the case once I had returned to the safe haven of my car), sweating and I am sure I even twitched a couple of times. Not my finest moment.

On the plus side, I learned three important lessons: stick to the important points, don’t put every detail of what you have researched into the presentation and don’t be afraid of a little improvisation.

How to avoid over planning

  1. Stick to the important points. Consider the values and mission statement of the company and taking guidance from the job advertisement and job description develop 12-15 questions you may be asked around role competencies and prepare answers with key words and phrases you are more likely to remember.
  2. Don’t put every detail of what you have researched into the presentation. When preparing the presentation stick to the specific question or subject area you have been asked to cover. Keep the presentation brief and to the point. If the panel want to know more about anything discussed in your presentation, they will ask. Keep to within the allocated time scale.
  3. Don’t be afraid of a little improvisation. No matter how much time you spend preparing, it is likely that you will be asked one or two questions on an area that you are not particularly knowledgeable about. Use this opportunity to speak with confidence about a similar area of expertise and outline how these skills could possibly transfer to that area of the business.

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Vicki JOnes (2)


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