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Less is More. Speaking Concisely is a Critical Skill.
Author: Ada Tai, MBA, CPHR, SHRM-SCP
“Today’s interview is for 30 minutes in total. The panelists will ask you questions in turns, and we will each take notes. We have about six questions, so please make sure that you time yourself well.” After the interview panel greeted and welcomed the Project Manager candidate onto the virtual platform, we opened the floor up to learning more about the candidate by asking a very typical question: “Can you tell us about yourself? In particular, please summarize your career and education highlights as they pertain to this role.”
To prepare candidates for their interviews, I provided information on the panelists, the interview structure, and emphasized the interview length, all in advance. The panelists and I were very excited to meet this candidate, given her accomplishments as described on her application. As I was enthusiastically getting ready to listen to her story and type up the notes, I heard the candidate saying, “Mmm… ok, where do you want me to start? Ha… How about when I graduated from high school. Oh, well, that was 28 years ago…” The self-introduction question took the candidate 12 minutes to answer if I did not interrupt and direct her to the next question...
Working in Human Resources, I often facilitate the hiring process. A structured interview is one of the most used selection methods, in combination with a few other methods to assess the suitability of the candidates. Although people have different opinions of the utility of interviews, they do showcase one’s communication skills. Many times, when unsuccessful candidates seek feedback, I find myself reiterating: “Less is more! Relaying your answers logically and concisely takes planning and practice.”
Two weeks ago, I was invited by a client organization to sit in on a presentation. This was a pitch delivered by a vendor company that would potentially provide a high-value contract for this organization over the next three years. The meeting was booked for 1.5 hours, in the evening. A day before the meeting, I received a well-written agenda. Given the agenda, I was envisioning that the presentation would take about 45 minutes, Q&A would take between 15 and 20 minutes, and the rest of the time would be for casual socializing. That sounded good! Despite a long day of work, when the evening came, I mentally prepared myself to stay attentive for the entire 1.5 hours. I even prepared two questions to ask the presenters. When I joined the meeting, the shining spring sun was still waving to my west-facing office window, high and energetic.
As the sun set and the sky turned completely dark, the presentation was only 2/3 done. After 2.5 hours, the meeting was finally over, and most of the people had not had a chance to ask questions. Despite all the fancy animations and exciting data shown, this vendor was not awarded the contract. The feedback that they got was short and simple, “Less is more. Simplifying your message and being conscious of others’ time can reveal your professionalism and expertise.”
What finally triggered me to write on this topic was the event that I attended this morning. This was a fast-paced online networking event with a group of professionals from different regions of the country. After a few activities in the main room, the host laid out the ground rules and broke us into breakout rooms. After each round of breakout exercise, a room representative had two minutes to summarize and share the findings with everyone in the main room. All room representatives precisely articulated their thoughts in less than two minutes, except one. This gentleman used the two minutes to sell his business and then took another few minutes to summarize the findings. After two rounds of this type of behaviour, the audience started to zone out. The host did an excellent job of cutting the person off and politely asked him to focus on the topic at hand and stay within the time limit. With no change in behaviour after two warnings, the host removed the person from the platform. After a tense pause, everyone applauded. I typed in the chat box, “Less is more. Speaking succinctly is being respectful and demonstrating credibility.”
In this day and age, our life is never short of presentations and meetings. I recently came across a Forbes article that revealed an alarming fact that we are tired of information overload and desire simplicity:
- “The average human attention span has fallen from 12 seconds in the year 2000 to eight seconds today.
- Each day, the typical office worker receives 120 emails.
- Every time a person is distracted it takes over 23 minutes for them to regain focus.
- 86% of employees blame lack of good communication for workplace failures.”
To sum up, communicating concisely and still get your points across is a critical business skill.
How To Be A Confident, Concise Communicator (Even When You Have To Speak Off The Cuff). Retrieved from:
I see. I hear. I experience. is a new column created by and written by Ada Tai, a chartered member of CPHR Alberta. The column is written in a blog format where Ada and invited co-authors will present their own experiences and interpretations of the world of human resources and its impact on business management. This and the subsequent posts are copyrighted materials by the author(s) and only reflect their personal views, not CPHR Alberta’s.
Author bio: With an MBA Degree, a CPHR, and an SHRM-SCP designation, Ada Tai has been working as an HR professional in a variety of industries for over a decade. Through her consulting firm, Ada and the team provide strategic and pragmatic HR services, corporate training, diversity & inclusion programs, and job search skills coaching. Ada’s public speaking skills have enabled her to be regularly invited to speak about HR, people management, career search, and networking topics throughout the province. She is also a well-respected Instructor at the University of Alberta and MacEwan University.
BadaB Consulting Inc. provides a wide range of human resources solutions, including Strategic HR and Succession Planning, Organizational Design & Development, Diversity & Inclusion Program, Merger & Acquisition Support, Recruitment, Skills Development Training, Compensation Design, Performance Management, Workplace Investigation, Policy Development, etc. Another specialty of BadaB’s services is personal job search and career coaching. The team has effectively helped over 500 people to find work.
Recording of recent webinars on people management best practices and diversity & inclusion recommendations can be found at https://www.badab101.com/webinars.