I conducted hundreds of interviews, from screenings to determine if someone is a good to fit to final interviews as a part of the last phase of the interview process. As you can imagine, I experience a wide range of interview types from highly prepared, nearly scripted responses to individuals that can’t answer basic questions without fumbling or lacking coherence. No matter the preparation, qualifications of a candidate, nothing irritates me more than hearing someone say, “as I said before”. Every time I hear it, my level of annoyance and irritation shoot through the roof! There could be a number of reasons why the phrase is used and I’m not even saying that some interviewers wouldn’t appreciate you making the connection to previous shared information. What I am saying is that a few things go through my mind every time I hear it!
#1 ⇢ You rehearsed to the point of inauthenticity. You either prepared by yourself or with someone with a narrow list of standard responses and you didn’t practice adjusting in the moment. There is NOTHING wrong with preparing or rehearsing. I’ve coached tons of people in preparation for an interview. The problem is that If you stick to the script, I don’t get to know you as a candidate.
#2 ⇢ You don’t have depth. I highly value people who can bring a different perspective to the team and has a variety of experiences that have informed their point of view or approach. I’m also looking for candidates that are not afraid to highlight or showcase their experience with several specific examples that give me insight into parts of their career that I’m not privy to as someone in an external organization or on a different team internal to the organization.
And here’s the one that drives me the most crazy and massively offends me. Mind you, I have no way of truly knowing a person’s motives or assumptions without them telling me, but here is a possibility that drives me crazy despite my ignorance of what conclusions you have drawn. Are you ready for it?
Here it is…
#3 ⇢ You assume that I haven’t prepared. I spend time thinking about and planning questions that I’ll ask in an interview, and unless it is something I’m asking in response to what you have shared, the question is INTENTIONAL. If I am asking a question that seems to be repetitive or share the same themes, it is because I am likely looking for different angles, you didn’t answer clearly or with enough depth the first time, or I am trying to get more granular detail. What I am not doing is asking you the question again because I didn’t listen or because I don’t have a well-planned list of questions. I would never insult you or your time and if I’m interviewing you, I definitely believe you are worth the time it takes for me to show up prepped and with intention on getting the most important details about you that will help me make a decision.
So, you may be asking, “what do I do instead”. I’m glad you asked!
#1 | Just don’t do it! There’s no need to preface a response or allude to your previous unless you are adding on new information or making a meaningful connection. If you absolutely feel like you need to repeat a part of one of your answers then, be bold, take the risk and just repeat yourself. Let the risk be in coming off as repetitive versus offending your interviewer and sending the unintentional message that they’re not a good listener.
#2 | Give an example. Think of something that spotlights a specific part of the information or experience you previously shared. If you already told me about the time you led a kick butt product launch and led your team to an amazing, record breaking sales quarter, you may highlight a specific portion of the experience in response to a different question. You might say, “the time when I led my team to a record-breaking sales year was an example of me leading a successful project. One of the ways that I showed leadership adaptability was when 6 members of my team of 8 felt passionately that the tone of our marketing was off track. I listened to their ideas and we followed a framework I put together to help us execute the new ideas without compromising the outcomes of the launch”. Now you’ve shown me that you have a track record of success, you listen to your team, you are open to ideas not your own, and that you utilize frameworks to ensure repeated success. Yes!
#3 | Ask a clarifying question. If it sounds repetitive, then it likely is. Asking questions will help you understand why your interviewer is asking you for what sounds like the same question. Find a tone that balances humility and assertiveness and try “would you prefer that I give a specific example”, “is there a part of my experience that I should highlight”, or you can ask, “do you mind rephrasing the question so that I make sure I’m targeting my response”. Good employers will value your detail orientation, self-advocacy and your wanting to be clear before communicating.
You may be reading this and thinking, I’ve said, “as I said before” a ton of times with no consequence and have even gotten jobs or promotions. I’m not saying you won’t succeed if you say it, I’m definitely saying there are practices that help you show up in a stronger way during your interview and this is definitely one them.
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Born and raised in Kansas City, MO (not Kansas), Tiara graduated from the University of Tulsa (B.S.) and Dallas Baptist University (M.Ed). Tiara is a career educator and leadership coach, who has a passion for abolishing injustice in education, coaching/mentoring leaders of color and empowering women to be their best.
Tiara is the founder and editor in chief of The Affinity Blog for women, mother to Ayden and Micah, wife to Austin, and lover of snickers and popcorn. Her favorite quote is from MLK, "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere", she loves to write, talk and eat almost anything. When she retires (one of these days), Tiara plans to teach 5th graders, open a weekends only brunch restaurant, and rewatch every Marvel movie.