There's a news program on BBC called 60 Seconds that runs between their standard shows. It’s like a Reader's Digest of TV news, with the hosts delivering a synopsis of the day’s news, sports, and entertainment happenings in (you guessed it) 60 seconds.
As the Brits would say: "brilliant!" It may seem like a relatively brief amount of time, but as 60 Seconds demonstrates, you can convey a lot in just one minute. And there is a lesson to be learned here, folks.
On any given day, I will interview several candidates either by phone or in-person. These meetings usually take between 30 and 60 minutes. After getting the niceties out of the way (how about this heat?), it's time to get down to business. What often follows is a tactical error I observe with candidates, regardless of their age or level of experience –the inability to be concise with responses to questions.
“Tell me about yourself” should not elicit a 5-10 minute answer, but that’s about the average these days.
Effective business communication is a requirement for professional success, yet many are surprisingly ineffective at telling their story or getting a point across in a concise timeframe. If your answer is longer than one minute, you are taking too long. For realz.
If that doesn’t sound like plenty of time, go to one of those internet stopwatch sites, click ‘start’ and talk for one minute straight. You'll be surprised by how much you can say and how long it actually seems. Now imagine being on the business end of a five-minute (or longer) answer to a question. As Jack Nicholson once said, "I'd rather stick needles into my eyes."
Executives must be adept at bullet-point communication. Given the nature of their roles and requirement for attending multiple meetings and making hundreds of critical business decisions a day, VPs and C-levels naturally distill their conversations in the purest form possible in order to crank through their days and simply be effective. If you take the time to observe, you will notice the most successful professionals and communicators condense their thoughts into high-value yet economical speech (aka bullet points). They are the protein bars of the professional world.
Most candidates can benefit from doing the same by practicing more efficient and effective communication during interviews and their everyday professional lives. As the old adage says, time is money. Use your currency wisely, especially during interviews, and maximize your moments by conveying your points as purely and clearly as possible. Keep your responses to one minute or less and you will be a better and more effective communicator. If you cannot get your point across in a minute or less, you're doing it wrong.