Thursday, August 12, 2010

vague vs normal vs specific answers in nontech interviews

My communication style is detail-oriented and I tune in to specific details. (That's why I can write.) When another person's or my own answer is rather vague or very specific, i often notice it before others do.

There are vague answers, normal answers and specific answers in any job interview. You can actually observer the interviewer's own styleFor tech questions, the more specific, the better. For personality questions, probably not.

After you pass the tech interviews, you don't have to sell any more. Non-tech interviewers are already sold and basically sniff for potential personality weaknesses. Non-tech interviews need to see "nothing suspicious" in you and not seeking "star qualities". If a non-tech interview is busy or have seen many candidates, he can only remember very few things about you. If you just give stock answers, you might be less memorable, but that's perfectly fine. They always notice that you can explain complex things, can understand and speak English -- you pass.

Very specific answers to non-tech questions often show a type of personality. Leaders aren't always that type. High-level thinker/communicator. As a leader, you often need to communicate to different team members. Not all of them detail-oriented communicators.

Non-specific answers don't sound evasive and fake.

I often react to surprise questions with slightly vague answers. (These answers could be **better** than the detailed but contrived answers I sometimes come up with.) I feel rather bad about my imprecise *words* therein because I'm sensitive to individual words. I think most people are less sensitive to individual words but rather listen to the whole sentence and the whole person. I think a lot of IT candidates aren't particularly articulate and eloquent and often beat around the bush with vague, bland answers.

If you can't think of specifics to substantiate your answer, then it's probably ok to be less specific. In your effort to sell yourself and demonstrate your personal quality, you might reveal a very strong flavor of communication style. I think for technical non-lead roles, most candidates answers are not that specific but that's fine.

If you are detailed-oriented, story-telling may come natural to you, even if you tell the story backward, even if you use imprecise words. Most of my stories are relevant, and most interviewers are interested. Some may be too busy, so it's good to stop and test their appetite. See other post on a list of good stories.

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New York (Time Square), NY, United States