Less Is More: Why Don’t They Get It?

Photo credit to Stuart Miles

Photo credit to Stuart Miles

Nowadays we depend more and more on using the Internet. And that’s inevitable because companies are under pressure to reduce expenses. In many cases, services once provided by people have been shifted to resolution via technology. I get that. But why are the systems so overwhelmingly complex? And when job candidates interview, why do they sometimes give overly lengthy answers to interviewers’ questions?

Recently, I had to resolve an issue via a state government office. Finding out what I was supposed to do, locating the right form, and attempting to fill out the form took me hours. No kidding! Finally, I got to talk to a real person who was willing to assist me and who resolved the issue within minutes.

When looking for information nowadays, we’ve been trained—à la Pavlov—to maneuver ourselves through a web of Web sites. When was the last time you saw a simple, easy-to-understand, and friendly Web site? Why do Web site designers think more is better? Sure, Web sites provide information, but too much information has the effect of overwhelming and paralyzing the user—same as too much information in a job interview might overwhelm and “paralyze” the interviewer.

For years I’d read about the Library of Congress in Washington and had wished to visit and explore that largest library (one of two) in the world (the equal of the size of the British Library) with its almost 23 million cataloged books. So one day my desire was satisfied when I was in town and had the opportunity to walk in. The enormous size of the entrance with practically endless shelves of books paralyzed me. I didn’t know where to begin exploring. I began to feel embarrassed and within minutes, walked out. The memory of that experience comes back to me often when I come across a Web site so packed with information and options that I feel overpowered. And that’s when I move on. And too-lengthy answers to job interview questions might make interviewers move on, too—to the next applicant.

Many Web sites provide lots of information and at the same time attempt to sell—or convince visitors of—something. Yet too much and too repetitive information may have the opposite effect. And so might answers to job interview questions.

As a practicing career coach I counsel people to answer interviewers’ questions without going overboard, without overselling, and without length. It’s true, though, that one never knows how much information the other party wants to hear, but it’s good advice to stop short before being considered long-winded and instead to let the interviewer ask for further elucidation if any is needed.