Have you every wished you could shut-up the person who’s talking? Well, interviewers often feel this way. The more job seekers want to make an impression, the more they talk. All that over-explanation and embellishment actually detracts from the message, clouds the picture, and leaves a negative impression!

The older and wiser people get, the more they like to talk about it. I’ve noticed this with my 50+ clients, especially. They are working hard to appear young, dynamic and hip. Then, they launch into a long story, instead of just answering the question. In a business relationship, this is annoying. People have to put up with it if the person speaking is a C-level someone. But, when YOU are the job seeker, over-explaining, storytelling and questioning the questioner is very uncool. In fact, it is devastating to the young, dynamic, hip persona you’re trying to create.

Duct tape isn’t the answer. Rethinking the purpose of conversation is. Before you go into any important business meeting, networking event, or job interview, readjust your thinking a little:

“I’m here to learn.” You can only find out about other people by listening to them, to their story, to their advice. Remember, you’re not there to deliver your Elevator Speech like some kind of crazy robot. If you go in with the idea of learning, you are much more likely to learn.

“What can I ASK that is interesting?” Think about questions you can ask to engage your audience. I find a great question for a high-level executive is: “You would have been successful in any type of business. What drew you to this one?” In a networking situation you might say, “How do you interpret the new regulations on X?” Or, in a job interview you might ask: “I can see you love the culture here. How is it different from your last position?”

“What can I SAY that is interesting?” Before you go to an association meeting, go out on the internet and read a blog, an article or a news story about a current issue in that industry or profession. Have a point of view, and be able to say where you got your information. Then, promise to follow up with the website, so your listener can check it out, too.

“What can I give?” Do you know about a job opening? Have you heard some positive news about a company that’s hiring? Dwelling on the negative is soooooooooooo easy. We all have FOX News for that. Think about how you can contribute something positive to another person’s life. It can even be a song lyric or a famous quote that you find inspiring. Give the gift of positivity.

Speak in sound bites. Because of our mass media, mobile world, people expect and NEED short, concise messages. Prepare for interviews by creating three main points for your selling proposition. Then give one at a time. If the person still seems receptive or asks a follow-on question, give another point.

You can never say it all. Choose carefully for a better professional image.

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