Facts and details in Interview

There's one fact which applies to all interviews:

Stay on topic.

It's vitally important that you remain on the subject of the question:

  • You have to base the facts in your answer directly to the subject.
  • Every name, noun, verb and situation has to be relevant.
  • Information is only useful when it can be applied to a subject. If your answer can't make a direct connection with the question, you're wasting time and not actually answering the question.

Say you get a question on teamwork:

How do you work in a team environment?

We have a great team, and I'm one of the senior people so I mentor some of the new people. Our manager, Fred, is a great team-builder and he reinforces team values by swapping us around and creating relationships within the team. I try to help by filling in where I can and supporting Fred's ideas and decisions.

That's some of an answer. But it's very far from being a full, comprehensible, answer to the actual question. All the interviewer is going to find out from that response is that Fred is a good manager, and that the interviewee knows that and is supportive.

  • It doesn't answer anything about the actual role of the interviewee except in the vaguest way.
  • The interviewee refers to being a senior team member, which, you'd think, would mean more than just being supportive.
  • The comment about mentoring suggests a training role, vital in teamwork, but that point isn't developed, and the interviewer has to either guess or ask for more information.

For actual information, the interviewee has given about 25% of what's required to know how that person actually functions in that team.

The storytelling approach is almost the exact opposite of that:

  • The team is in X business, comprised of Y number of employees.
  • There's a comprehensible team structure, with Fred as the leader.
  • The interviewee is senior and does ABCDE as part of that team.
  • Training, mentoring, advisory and supervision is achieved by doing FGHIJ
  • There are team functions, in which everybody is involved, and a feedback mechanism so everyone's on the same page.
  • Fred's leadership, which is obvious, is acknowledged, but not made the main subject of the answer.

Bit different, isn't it?

The interviewer has no way of failing to understand the information being provided. Since the interviewer's not interviewing Fred, there's now some chance of assessing how the interviewee works as part of a team.

That is, in fact, an important point, which the other answer practically buried. Information quality is one of the essentials of any successful interview.

Details

In any interview situation, that high information quality has to be achieved in a time frame. This means that you have to refine your answer, keeping all the relevant information, but expressing it clearly in a reasonable length of time.

So too much detail really will be too much, at least some of the time.

However, in some cases you can make a very good answer with some added levels of detail.

There's a way of doing that, and making absolutely sure you're not supplying inappropriate amounts of detail:

Give your answer as a narrative story. That way you know where you extra information fits in, and you keep everything organized.

When you get the point where you want to add detail, say:

I can add some detail here, but I don't know how you're going for time. Do you want more detail, at this point?

The interviewers do know whether they have time, or need detail. You've now made the point that you know that's a possible issue, and you've had the courtesy to check. That adds quite a bit to your own credibility, and if you don't need to add the detail, it saves time.

In professional interviews, the detail may be critical, so there's a balance to be struck between you and the interviewers about relevant information.