The "Just Enough" Technique
By Chuck Cusumano and Jillian Broaddus
Be clear, be concise, be compelling – advice that we believe to be just as true for the written word as it is for the spoken.
Don't get us wrong; we love (and often do) write creative lines of prose. We love to insert flowery imagery from time to time. And there is unparalleled magic in utilizing storytelling to captivate an audience. (You have been reading our blog for the past two years, right?).
But there is a time and a place for superfluous language. In most cases, it pays – literally – to be clear, concise, and compelling.
As consultants, we have the opportunity to get involved in a truly limitless range of activities, defined by our abilities and our clients’ needs.
One area where our abilities and our clients’ needs perfectly align? Interview preparation.
Have you ever wondered why some people get the job, snag the award, or reach that promotion while others – who might have seemingly or even better credentials – do not win out?
We contend it is all in how you answer the questions.
Enter Our “Just Enough” Technique
To stay true to today’s theme (clear, concise, and compelling), we are giving you the answer upfront before elaborating.
Our solution is the technique we call “Just Enough.”
It looks a little something like this:
That might seem a little cryptic. But before we go into the mechanics and practice of this “Just Enough” Technique, it is first important to understand the pertinent definitions.
If you are a regular reader of our blog, you know that defining stuff is sort of our thing (if you did not know this, we highly recommend you check out this blog).
But first, let us define the following:
Technique: proficiency in a practical or mechanical skill; a method of doing something.
Muscle memory: ability to reproduce a particular movement (or activity) without conscious thought, as a result of frequent repetition.
Selection: the action or fact of choosing someone as the best or most suitable option.
Deselection: the action of disqualifying someone based on a set of criteria.
We developed the “Just Enough” technique based on psychological principles, effective selling methods, and the principles of selection vs. deselection.
At first, the technique may feel and sound a little rehearsed – but that is because it is.
That is actually the point of the process. To formulate your answer in a prescribed format that, over time, becomes muscle memory. Or in other words, this process rewires your brain to think in this pattern. This way, you can do it by not having to think at all (well, at least consciously)!
Why This Method Matters
You might be thinking to yourself, “Why would anyone want to practice thinking and speaking like this?”
Allow us to explain.
Great question! (complimentary response)
I believe that many people would want to practice thinking and speaking like this… (restate the question)
…for several reasons, but three factors really jump out at me. (Quantitative Bracket)
Effective communication, controlling the interview process, and confidence while answering questions. (Answer)
Effective communication starts with being clear, concise, and compelling when speaking to someone. If someone practices a system for answering questions then they can spend the time normally devoted to thinking how to formulate an answer and invest it in actually thinking about the answer.
Most communication is somewhere between 70-90% non-verbal, therefore if the person is trying to think of an answer and also how to answer the question, then they do not have the time or mental capacity to observe the non-verbal cues that are present – in this case, there is a lot of other stuff going on!
If a person masters this technique, they will be in a better position to control how they answer questions and can solicit affirmation from someone (in this case, an interviewer), which allows them some control over the interview.
All of this adds up to extra confidence for the person being interviewed. And honestly, who does not want a humbly confident person to get the job (or award, promotion, etc.)? (Explain)
Did that answer your question? (Solicit).
See what we did there?
There you have it – that is the “Just Enough” Technique.
Now that you have the script and an example of how to do it, let us explain why we developed it in this manner.
The “Just Enough” Technique
After the question is asked, DO NOT jump in as soon as you can to answer it. Answering fast does not make you look smart; there is no prize for the fastest answer, after all. Take a moment or two and consider the question. If you train yourself to pause, then you will become a better listener because you are not spending time thinking about what you are going to say, effectively missing what was said or asked in the first place. Contemplating an appropriate answer to an interviewer’s question demonstrates respect and consideration. Pausing can demonstrate how smart you really are.
Great question! Thanks for asking. I have never been asked that question before. Hmmm. I will need to think about that for a second. These are just a few examples of what you should say next. Do not overuse the same expression. Change it up. What you are really doing is complimenting the person asking the question. Even if they want to, they likely cannot stop the chemical serotonin from making them feel good after you gave them the compliment. And If they feel good, they may associate it with you!
So far, you have waited for the interviewer to ask and complete their question. You paused to gather your thoughts about the question. Then you used one of several preprogrammed phrases to buy yourself some more time and goodwill. Now, you pause once again so you can deliver your thought-through answer to their “great question.”
Restate or paraphrase the question back
Do this for two distinct reasons. First, you can avoid a major mistake of going down the wrong trail or misunderstanding the question. Both situations throw you into an awkward moment. Secondly, by restating the question or paraphrasing it back, you are really mirroring the interviewer. Without going into all of the psychology of mirroring, suffice it to say that mirroring is a subconscious behavior that conveys acceptance, attraction, and allows the other person to feel comfortable with you. And that is what you are trying to do in an interview after all, is it not?
While you were doing all that thinking, you were trying to formulate your answer into a numbered response, like “I believe there are 3 main points to your question” or “The answer really falls into 2 categories.” The reasoning here? Numbering your answer keeps the interviewer focused on the points you want to make and puts some anticipation into your reasoning.
Give it to them straight and clear. Do not explain your answer. For example, “I believe there are 3 main points to your question. They are effective communication, controlling the process, and staying confident.” There you said it – you answered their question! You said Just Enough! Do not elaborate further. If they want you to explain, they will ask or give you the non-verbal response that signifies you should do so.
Just wait. Pause to see if the interviewer wants you to elaborate or if they are ready to move on to the next question. If you are unsure or you want to have more control in this process, you can easily ask, “Would you like me to elaborate or explain my answer?” This pause also strategically refocuses the interviewer on what you are about to say next.
Be as concise as possible. Explain your answers in the same order as you stated them. Be confident in how you speak. Answer a little more slowly than your normal rate of speech.
Ask clearly, “Did that answer your question sufficiently?” or “Is that what you were looking for? You can even answer with something like, ‘’I hope I did not go on too long about that. As you can tell, I am passionate about what I do.” Feel free to add your own solicitation of affirmation or confirmation – do what is right for you! When they say “yes” or have a similar response, it reinforces their confirmation of your answer. If there is more than one interviewer, they will influence the others in a positive way.
We could go on for many more paragraphs about this, but we will keep it short and sweet. Know that this technique works and that there are many more underlining concepts at play here. If you want more information or help mastering this technique, we have your back. Do not hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Drop us a line if you use this technique and have comments!