By Joe Stein
This edition features a Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) focused on an inquiry that is generally considered the ice breaker of interview questions. This question or request is almost always at the beginning of the interview in the form of the first question asked.
It is easy for a Job Seeker to consider this a “throwaway” question, holding little meaning for the rest of the discussion. In reality, it is a crucial time to establish the mood for the interview, introduce your main themes, and build an instant relationship with the Interviewer. Even better, it is something that can easily be practiced by the Interviewee.
As we continue to review the most frequently asked questions in an interview, let’s explore tips for when you are asked to, “Tell Me about Yourself.”
Why Is It Asked?
· Establish Confidence – Most Interviewers really want their interviews to succeed for many reasons, including a chance to fill an open position and because a bad interview wastes valuable time. This question or request allows the Job Seeker to calm their nerves while talking about themselves. The goal is often to relax the candidate.
· Create a Conversational Tone – This question necessitates an answer different than your typical “describe a time” behavior based inquiry. It generally leads to a more conversational answer. The Interviewer may want to see your skills in this type of conversation, or may simply want to create this type of tone for the rest of the interview.
· Find Out What You Value – The question is a great opportunity to quickly determine what you value. Obviously, the skills you have obtained that you value the most will be the ones that you think of first in your answer. It provides a little snapshot of your prioritization, which the Hiring Manager can match to the position.
· Test Humility – Self-confidence is good, but in most circumstances this question is not an open opportunity to present a long soliloquy of how perfect you are.
· Opportunity to Buy-Time – Many Interviewers are very busy people who, unfortunately, may have had very little time to review your Resume prior to the appointment. This especially may happen if they have one appointment after another, back-to-back. This question sometimes will be used to “buy” a little time to place the last appointment aside, review your resume, and mentally focus on this conversation.
How Should It Be Answered?
· Be Concise – This is not the time to take 20 minutes without a breath talking about yourself instead answer the request in less than a minute. Do not lose your focus or begin to ramble. Finally, refrain from referring to yourself in the 3rd person format.
· Quickly Sell – Use this open forum to briefly convey recent accomplishments, education, awards, special projects and skills/strengths you possess. You can also include a brief personal summary of your work style. It will help set up your future answers when the behavioral-based questions begin.
· Show Enthusiasm – If you can’t get excited about yourself then what will you be passionate about? This question is not the time to go monotone.
· Communicate You are Ready for More Questions – Close this answer by informing the Interviewer that you are ready for the rest of the interview and you welcome his or her questions.
What Not To Do:
· Come Unprepared – You can be pretty confident that this question will be asked, so prepare for it. The nice thing about your answer is that the core themes will probably be interchangeable with whatever position you are interviewing for. You may have heard the term “elevator speech”. The idea is could you convey a message to someone in the time it takes for two people to share an elevator ride. In this situation, have your “30 to 60-second elevator speech” prepared ahead of time and make minor adjustments as necessary to customize. A key will be to make sure your preparation does not cause you to sound robotic in nature.
· Ramble On – Since this is truly an open-ended question with no obvious “right” answer, it is easy for a Job Seeker to fall into the trap of losing focus and providing an endless answer. This is why preparation is so important. State your answer and then be quiet, so you do not repeat yourself. The silence, even though seconds, may be excruciating but it will lead to the start of the rest of the interview in due time.
· Be Arrogant – As mentioned earlier, a long-winded answer will most likely solicit groans from your Interviewer. You will want to convey your key messages, but too much time spent on this one will cause the Interviewer to potentially draw lots of conclusions about your ability to follow direction, work with others, profess humility, etc.
The opportunity to talk about yourself in an open-ended forum is a crucial period in your interview. You have the center stage and the attention of your Interviewer. Anticipate the question and prepare your answer ahead of the interview. Practice your response with friends and family so that you will have the confidence necessary in your answer. This is a great opportunity to sell yourself!
As always, best of luck in your job search.