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One very common pattern that I have noticed in my conversations with EXCLUSIVELY non-technical (HR and/or recruiters) is that they ask me a question, I give them a succinct answer (e.g. "Yes" or "I am fine with that") and then, upon my closure of the answer, there is silence on the other side as though they are fishing out a more elaborate answer from me, suggesting they want more verbosity and explaining why I think so. Two most common questions on which I get this are:

  1. Do you prefer contract, FT, or temp-to-hire ? (to which I respond that I prefer contract but the other two are fine under the right terms)
  2. Is this location fine with you? (and I say yes)

It is particularly annoying because I sense they almost want me to get into dispelling their initial suspicion that my answers are B.S. aimed to appease them (they are not, I really am that flexible.

There is nothing I hate more in a conversation than when I finish answering and the other side is silent, seemingly suggesting I need to be less terse and more verbose. I prefer being hung up on. I am a bottom-line minimalist introvert by nature, I follow Occam's razor in everything I do, if say YES will suffice, I typically don't go further.

MY QUESTION: Should I stick with minimalism and if they want more answer, let them ask me for more and if they are silent, should I be silent too as I gave them an answer? Should I stick to my preferred communication of giving succinct yet sufficient answers or should I start injecting fluff to satisfy these people's hunger for detail and grandeur?

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    Perhaps their silence is because they are updating their application system with your responses. – jcmeloni Mar 29 '13 at 15:10
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    I suspect that even if you elaborate they write yes in the box and go on. My favorite axiom is those who can do, those who can't Teach, and those who cant even teach are in HR. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Mar 29 '13 at 15:15
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    You could.... ask them if they are looking for more – enderland Mar 29 '13 at 15:27
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    You might want to look again at the definitions of passive-aggressive and Occam's razor. – pdr Mar 29 '13 at 15:57
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    Giving someone an opportunity to offer more information is not passive-aggressive. And Occam's razor is about minimalist hypotheses, in terms of assumptions, rather than minimalist responses, in terms of information. – pdr Mar 29 '13 at 16:12
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My suggestion would be to consider answering in a way that gives flow to a conversation. Thus, if you answer, "Yes, next question please," that may be a way to move things along rather than just saying, "Yes," which may be seen as part of an answer rather than the full answer. While you may answer the question, you don't want to be ending the conversation with your answer, do you? That could be where this is perceived as they may not see this as the full answer that you do, particularly if this is on the phone. There is also the potential for something else be updated or answers written down that may take a little time, so do consider the idea of what is the other person doing at that point which could mean you asking a question or two here.

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    this is an excellent suggestion. basically, it means i should modify my answer pattern to inject a segue for progression after the answer itself. i think i will start doing it. it is almost like wiring my response structure in an aspect-oriented programming fashion, if you are familiar. i like repeated patterns and routines. – amphibient Mar 29 '13 at 20:00
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    ugh. "Yes, next question" is so controlling (and/or dismissive depending on tone). – Telastyn Apr 1 '13 at 13:47
  • Im thinking of Sheldon when I read this.. – Petter Nordlander Apr 5 '13 at 0:24
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+100

Enough is Enough

You say you give "succinct yet sufficient answers" and that providing additional info would be "injecting fluff".

They are interviewing you to determine if they think you are the correct candidate. They are the ones who decide how much information is enough information. They decide if your answers are sufficient. They will decide what is fluff.

After all, if you were interviewing yourself, you'd have already hired yourself.

Business is People

Like it or not, business is about interacting with other people. That means sometimes we have to go outside the bounds of what we are comfortable with in order to make the other person see things our way.

Refusing to step outside your comfort zone or anticipate the needs of the people around you is a giant red flag because it suggests you haven't realized that business is about people.

When you Assume...

You assume that the interviewer is looking for a simple item on a checklist to mark off when they ask a question. You assume that the goal of a question like "Do you prefer contract, FT, or temp-to-hire?" is just to determine if you are okay with whatever type of contract they offer. You assume that "Is this location fine with you?" is asking whether or not the location is acceptable to you, the candidate.

Of course they want to know those things, but much more importantly is getting an idea of you as a candidate on the whole, not just whether your specifications are good enough to complete the job. And asking questions (with reasoning) is a good way to figure out how a candidate thinks and feels and deals with people.

Pop Quiz

Which candidate do you think an interviewer would prefer?

Candidate 1

"Are you familiar with widgets?"

"As I wrote on my resume, I got a masters of widgetology and have been working as a widgetologist for the past three years for company X. Recently I have been really interested in using widgets to solve more complex problems involving ghotification."

Candidate 2

"Are you familiar with widgets?"

"Yes."

Both candidates answered the fundamental question, but one acted like a human and sold themselves to the interviewer, while the other simply gave a one-word response and didn't even try to communicate.

This tells the interviewer that the first candidate thinks their masters is important, their experience is important, and that they are actively involved in finding ways to put their education and experience to use. And it gives the interviewer a sense of how prepared the candidate is, how well they know what they put in their resume, and how they handle themselves with an open-ended question.

If You Don't Fill in the Gaps...

...the interviewer will. You even acknowledge that the interviewer is assuming you're just trying to say what they want to hear. That's because you aren't allaying their fears. If they ask you if the location is okay (especially if you knew the location beforehand), they probably have a good reason to ask about it. Perhaps you live particularly far away, and they are wondering what your experience with the commute is? Perhaps your last job was incredibly urban, and this is an office park in the suburbs and they want to know if you really prefer the city? There are many different aspects to every question, and the lack of an answer will make them guess about it.

And guess what? Generally speaking interviewers are worse advocates for you than you are for yourself. So it's in your best interest to sell yourself, even if you believe that is "injecting fluff".

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    You said it better than I did. – HLGEM Apr 3 '13 at 18:01
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I'd say you need to look in the mirror for the problem. This isn't passive-aggression (well it is on your part), it isn't fluff, it isn't any of the negative things you ascribe to it. You are so tied to your unconventional communication style, you can't see that you are sabotaging yourself with it. You are making them uncomfortable with your hostility to answering in anything more than monosyllables. I'd even bet your tone is annoyed at having to go through these stupid hoops to get hired. People are not expected in interviews to answer with one word. You are supposed to be selling yourself not annoying people. Making people who have the power to decide if you will get hired uncomfortable or annoyed with you is a losing situation for you.

  • so basically, talk more – amphibient Mar 29 '13 at 15:53
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    The example questions don't need longer answers, IMHO. Especially the second - it certainly reads like a binary question. What elaboration is necessary when asked a direct yes/no question? If anything, giving a wordy answer to a simple yes/no question could hurt the candidate by demonstrating that they have a penchant for saying too much when it's not needed. – alroc Mar 29 '13 at 16:29
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    @alros, I doubt that it woudl huirt as long as you don't run on forever. But if an interviewer pauses to let you say more, that almost always means they want you to say more. – HLGEM Mar 29 '13 at 16:47
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    @alroc there's a difference between being too wordy, and responding with "Yes, I actually like this area quite a bit". "Yes" makes it sound like you're at best anti-social, and at worst one of those sanctimonious holier-than-thou types. You come off as a prick more often than not. However, elaborating even a small amount shows you actually have a personality. – acolyte Apr 3 '13 at 15:34
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I love and upvoted jmacs answer as well.. but wanted to add a corollary that's somewhat technical.

By default, English and most English language speaking cultures, put the responsibility for information transmission on the sender. If if it doesn't seem that the receiver understood or recognized what the sender was saying, it's encouraged for the sender to keep trying.

It's also a heavily redundant language with a lot of room for error, with a lot of failsafes built into how people communicate.

So... yes this is a redundant communication:

HR: Are you open to any location?

You: Yes, I'm open to working anywhere, I'm not tied to my current location.

Certainly, you said the same thing 3 times here. But in a phone call where the listener may have noise, distractions, or may simply be tired or not good at listening, the 3 time repetition gives them a chance to catch up.

Also - particularly non-technical folks, seem to be trained in giving a long and polite pause in almost any case where they are asking someone to express themselves. Because they need to be culturally sensitive, and different people take different lengths of time, they are very likely leaving you the space to take a sec, think it over, and formulate a longer response, if such should be your preference.

Occam's Razor

Keep in mind that Occam's Razor grew from philosophy, not day to day communication. It's a great construct when doing a proof that is, or borders on, the mathematical, where excessive language or steps in the proof merely add extra effort. But at that point, we're not talking about daily communication for the purpose of shared understanding and agreement, we're talking about a process of description and proof that should be specific, clear and terse.

1

Look at the questions from the employer's point of view.

"Is this location fine with you?"

Assuming you don't live in the same building as the company, there are quite a few underlying questions. Are we going to be taking on someone who quits for a job closer to home, or chooses to relocate, after six months? Are we going to be taking on someone who ends up with a poor attendance record? A plan "YES" says nothing to reassure them - in fact it comes across as "I'm saying this to terminate discussion, because any hint of a NO would be an obvious red flag". You need to show them that you have thought through all the issues properly:

  • that any inconvenience from the journey is more than compensated for by your desire to work there,
  • the reliability of your means of transit,
  • how flexible your means of transit is to unexpected and unavoidable changes such as working late (they won't want someone who has to dash off at 5.30 to catch the last bus, leaving colleagues to clear up)
  • how you are going to fund your transit, and how comfortable you are to do so, if any (relevant to me as my train ticket costs GBP4500 a year, employers are surprised I'm easy on that because of the lifestyle gain from living out of the city)

and so on. Answering something like "Yes, it's only ten minutes on the subway to where I live and it runs all evening if I need to stay on after hours occasionally" may sound like an awful lot of unnecessary information but it answers the hidden questions before they have to be explicitly (and potentially embarrassingly) asked.

-3

Exercise :) : try thinking that you yourself is the "interviewer",

You: Do you prefer contract, FT, or temp-to-hire ? They: I prefer contract but the other two are fine under the right terms

You: Is this location fine with you? They:yes

There is many things to note, i split it up in 3 points, because you seem the kind of person that likes it, point for point.

Point 1:about Q1, what is the right terms, , can the hirer fulfill this, what is acceptable to them(they) etc.

Point 2: about Q2, this is not necessarily a binary question, even though you could answer in binary fashion: answers could be "it is OK" even though commute opportunities is a bit scarce. (meaning if there is some other job, maybe at the same distance, but with better transport that might be preferred) a2: Its far to long, but i can take it for a short xyz duration (a time limited job) if there is nothing that matches better.

Point 3: On purpose i wrote "They" who are they?, you don't know them, when people answer "yes", you do not really know what it means. You don't know who they are, maybe one of them think it is your(interviewer) responsibility, to elaborate further questions, maybe they think like you, and think any questions answered is THE answer and if it requires more detail They would have provided it. But you as the interviewer doesnt know how the person you talk to is thinking.

Point 4: Damn i got another point, You never! expect the Spanish inquisition, there a 3 points, no i mean, there are 4 points.

When you talk with a person, you can make it a conversation that makes the person feel they can do something with your information and help" you or "do" their job properly, when your answer in mono syllables or short sentences, it might feel like a non conversation, especially when it's over the phone. you provide no context, since you cannot project your personality style over the phone without words(not so much?).

It's the context,baby!

Also on the human level or the "fluff" level if you want, you can make a difference both how they feel about the conversation and how they act after they conversation (unconsciously and consciously).

This might affect the post processing after the monosyllable "conversation", they file your basic information, file you unconsciously under, "i don't know this guy", and promptly forget about you. :)

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