Interviewing: Finetune Your Verbal Skills for Greater Success

Candidates responding to interview questions with the right level of detail. Increase their ability to convey important information needed to advance in the selection process.

Participating in a multi-step selection process requires a lot of communication by the candidate.  Questions will be asked and answers will need to be delivered.  Good interviewers will spend only 20% talking so that they may allow interviewees to share information for up to 80% of the interview time.  How the candidate presents information verbally during this time will have an affect on how well the interviewer may interpret responses and then make important decisions about eligibility.  Applying the concept of conversational levels will help candidates to read interview situations correctly and present themselves as effectively as possible.

Levels of Conversation: Food, Vegetable or Snow Pea

Using the metaphors of Food, Vegetable and Snow Pea, approximate levels of detail in verbal communication may be targeted.  The goal is choosing the right level for the right situation:

The Food level is at the highest level of the communication hierarchy that inversely carries the lowest amount of detail.  In an interview the questioner may ask, “Could you quickly walk me through the progression of your career?”  Translated, the interviewer is requesting a brief overview of your professional journey.  This type of question may be best answered with a Food-level response: brief and just hitting the highlights.  Any response with more details (i.e. Vegetable or Snow Pea) could bog down the interview.

The Vegetable level of communication carries a medium-level of detailed response.  In an interview a questioner may ask, “Let’s focus now on your last role… what were your specific responsibilities?”  Translated, the interviewer is asking to target a specific part of your background to find out more about you.  This type of question suggests a Vegetable-level response: more thorough than Food but with enough detail to specifically answer the question, and no more.  Remember, if you have not supplied your interviewer with enough “veggies,” he or she will ask for more with a follow-up question.

Lastly, the Snow Pea level of communication is at the lowest level of the metaphorical pyramid and carries the highest level of detailed conversation.  An interviewer may ask, “When providing feedback to your co-worker at that time, what specifically did you say or do?”  Translated, the questioner is asking for the exact details about how you handled a specific situation.  At this time, bring on the Snow Peas!

Skilled conversationalists – whether being interviewed or not – will “read” situations correctly and then communicate with the appropriate level of detail.  A mis-match of levels can cause conversational friction.  Frustration may occur when one party is communicating at one level and the other party is not, such as when a Food-level question receives a Snow Pea-level response.  Or when in an interview, if a few details are being requested (Vegetable) and the response is at the Food-level, it may appear that the candidate is being evasive or does not actually have the experience being requested.

As with so many conversational situations, listening carefully to both the words and intent of the questioner is critical.  Candidates who respond to interview questions with the right level of detail will increase their chances for successfully conveying important information needed to advance in the selection process.