Give More Than Yes/No Answers

by | Mar 8, 2020 | Interviewing

Being interviewed can be a tough and stressful time…I know that…almost no one loves to do it! To a Job Seeker in an interview, it probably comes as a massive relief when the Hiring Manager asks what appears to be a very basic question. A question where the answer can be done with a simple Yes or No. Is this short answer really, however, enough of a response? We are trained, as Job Seekers to take every opportunity to sell ourselves in an attempt to differentiate from other candidates. So, in many cases, you do not want to just provide a simple one-word answer to the question, even though the Interviewer may be OK with this response. Instead, you will want to use the time to showcase yourself.

Of course, you do want to avoid sounding long-winded when answering these questions. So, having concise responses will be critical. You will need to gauge the Hiring Manager to determine whether you are in a position to give more detailed answers. For example, if you are near the end of the discussion and your Interviewer is asking you some rapid-fire questions in attempt to get them finished, it is probably not the time for elaborate responses. There are a variety of reasons why a Hiring Manager may ask a question so basic that it could be answered with a Yes or No. It could be that the Interviewer really only has a surface curiosity in this area, perhaps reading off of a mandatory “Interview Checklist” provided to him or her by Human Resources. It might also be that the Interviewer has never been told any better and has never received training on conducting a more progressive interview. Finally, perhaps the Interviewer would like to see how engaged you are and it is his/her style to ask the questions this way to see if you are going to give the extra effort to provide more than what is being requested.

The Yes or No question is usually formatted around whether you know, can do, or have done something. These inquiries usually focus on key areas related to the position, since each item is being singled out amongst all the potential activity or knowledge needed. So, it is safe to assume that, in most of these situations, the Interviewer will actually be disappointed if you do not elaborate your answer beyond the one-word. A good rule of thumb is to always look to elaborate if the answer to the question will be “Yes”. A “Yes” means that you will be providing a positive response to the Interviewer, so why not give more detail. For example, if you are asked if you are proficient in Microsoft Office (instead of just saying “Yes”), state that you know “Word”, “Excel”, “Power Point”, etc. and that you use them on a daily basis. Both answer the question, but one of them provides a much better picture of your skill set.

On the flip side, if you need to answer “No”, then you need to determine if you leave it at that or try to salvage your answer with more information. For example, you may be asked if you have used a specific niche software program. You can just answer “No” and move on to hopefully a more appealing question, or you can respond with a “No” but then outline similar programs you do know along with stating that you are an eager and fast learner. If you feel real comfortable with the Interviewer, you could respond with a cheekier answer such as “I always wanted to”, or “Not Yet”. Given the usually critical nature of these questions, a “No” without any further detail may cause you to automatically be rejected.

This is where your interview preparation can really pay off for you. You should come ready with various examples and success stories that can be plugged into an appropriate question. A study of the job opening posting and any job description language will also probably “tip you off” to what you may be specifically asked in the session. This will allow you to seamlessly move to the enhanced response without keeping the Hiring Manager waiting too long. Every question you are asked in an interview is a potential opportunity for you to impress the Interviewer. If presented with a simple question, do not automatically take the “easy way out” and provide a one-word response. Consider whether this is another opportunity to provide an example or detail that will help you against your competition.

As always, best of luck in your job search.

The following has been prepared for the general information of WNYJobs readers. It is not meant to provide advice with respect to any specific legal or policy matter and should not be acted upon without verification by the reader.

Joe Stein
WNY Human Resources Professional

Feel free to contact Joe Stein regarding questions or comments at:
Joe Stein

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