How to answer the dreaded "tell-me-about-yourself" question in a job interview

It's a question that interviewers love to ask, and candidates hate to hear: "Tell me about yourself". Where do you even begin? What do they want to know?

Yes, this question can be overwhelming. You have had so many incredible life experiences that you've been dying to share. Maybe you can save the story about your spontaneous weekend trip to California for another time, but your interviewer just has to hear about how you sat only a few rows away from Prince William at Wimbledon last summer, right? Well, not exactly. In case you haven't yet realised, answering this question in a job interview is not the same as answering it on, say, a first date. Your interviewer is not interested in your life story; he or she wants to hear about the events and experiences that are relevant to the position you are interviewing for. Your response to this question will set the tone for the rest of the interview, so you can't afford to wing it (even if you did win a prestigious public speaking award in secondary school). In order to ready yourself, prepare something that highlights your experiences, abilities, and goals, and practice it several times leading up to the interview so it sounds natural and conversational.

FOCUS ON EXPERIENCES, ABILITIES, AND GOALS

The best predictor of future success is past experience. Paint a picture for your interviewer that includes any experiences or successes you've had that would make you an asset to the company. Interviewers don't want to hear general and empty statements; they want you to be able to back it up with a proven track record of relevant experience and, more importantly, success.

Secondly, focus on any strengths and abilities you possess that could translate well to the desired role. Mention your keen attention to detail or ability to consistently meet deadlines. If you can pinpoint specific instances of you doing so, your interviewer will be much more likely to take your strengths and abilities seriously.

Lastly, wrap it up by talking about your current situation and what you hope to accomplish in this role. Think about why you are interested in the company and how you plan on contributing to its overarching goals, as well as how it can benefit you in your career. Identifying your own interests and goals is crucial to any interview preparation. Entering an interview without a clear understanding of your own interests will surely jeopardise your chances of getting the job.

PRACTICE

Once you've put together your spiel, there is only one thing left to do: practice. Rehearse your script several times before your interview until you feel comfortable and confident in yourself as a candidate. Let the script act as a guideline for you to stay on track, not a transcript that you must memorize verbatim. Remember, interviews are meant to be conversational, so your answers should never sound rehearsed or forced.

If you don't get asked this question during your interview, did you just waste all of your time preparing for nothing? Absolutely not. Not only can you use this information to guide your responses to other interview questions, but you now have a more complete understanding of what you bring to the table. After all, the more passionate you are about your product—you—the better chance you will have at selling it.

Joshua Kracoff

 

Published inInterviewing
5 questions to ask at the end of your job interview

A job interview presents an exciting opportunity to take the next step in your career. It gives candidates the chance to talk about all of their life experiences and accomplishments to someone who wants to listen. While some people thrive under the pressure of the interview, others just want to get in and out of there as quickly as possible. For the latter group, the interviewer asking "Do you have any questions for me?" is music to their ears because it signals that the interview is nearly over. A simple "Nope, I think you covered everything" with a wide smile and they're out the door and on their merry way.

Do everything you can to resist this temptation. Even the most elementary information on interview do's and don'ts will tell you that a crucial factor in any hiring manager's decision is a candidate's final questions. In an increasingly competitive job market, being qualified simply isn't good enough anymore. You need to go above and beyond to prove your worth and willingness to learn in your role, and asking thoughtful questions is the perfect way to do just that.

Depending on the length of the interview, you may only have time for two or three questions, so don't squander the opportunity by asking ordinary questions that the interviewer has probably heard many times before. Asking the right questions will give you an idea of what to expect and if the company is a good fit for you. Without further adieu, here are five memorable questions that will surely leave a good impression:

1. Can you tell me more about the day-to-day responsibilities of this job?

This question will give you a chance to learn more about the position in detail than is listed on the job description. By learning about the day-to-day tasks from someone familiar with the role, you will gain insight on what specific skills and strengths are necessary and if you are a good fit for the company (and vice versa).

2. What do you think are the most important qualities for someone to excel in this role?

Similar to the previous question, the interviewer's response will lead to valuable insights on what specific qualities are most valuable for success. Furthermore, it can help you learn more about the company culture and their expectations of you to ensure you are the best fit for the position.

3. What are the biggest opportunities/challenges facing the company right now?

Asking about opportunities demonstrates your interest in the company's future and may also provide a better understanding of where your skills can be best put to use. Conversely, discovering challenges perceived by people on the inside will give you a better idea of the common trends and issues in the industry and identify specific areas where you are needed the most.

4. What do you enjoy most about working for this company?

Your interviewer will be happy to share his own personal experiences from his time at the company, and you will also get a better feel for the company culture that will help determine if the job is right for you.

5. Where do you see this company in five years?

If you plan on being in this role for the long haul, inquiring about the company's future will not only reveal the direction that the company is heading but may also uncover its long-term goals that you will ultimately play a role in achieving.

Josh Kracoff

 

Published inInterviewing

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