Learn from my mistake……..
I recall, early in my career, when I responded to that interview question with a not so brief biography, starting with where I was born, where I went to school, my family members and do I need to go on?
The recruiter stifled a few yawns but didn’t interrupt me. I was well into my 10 minute life story when I suddenly saw the look on his face and knew I was doomed; it was no surprise that I was not hired. I couldn’t even chalk this faux pas to a case of the nerves; I was just not aware how to interview. Interesting that I later found a career in human resources management and was responsible for selecting candidates.
No one teaches you how to interview.
Guidance counselors and career services offer overviews and there is information on the internet but you probably haven’t had someone guide youthrough the process, role playing the interview and providing you with feedback based on your responses. I learned by being on the other side of the table and as a recruiter. I spent many hours shadowing other human resources professionals and completing formal training which culminated in certifications.
As a job seeker, the question, “Tell me about yourself” can be intimidating because you don’t know how much detail the recruiter wants to hear. I assure you – not much. This is an icebreaker type of question and used for assessing your ability to present yourself and your qualifications for the job. So here are my recommendations for how to respond:
- WHY: Explain why you applied for the position
- WHAT: Briefly summarize your current role and share a bit of information about previous positions with the emphasis on your achievements in those roles. Think of this as a two minute advertisement airing on prime time. What do you want the recruiter to know about you?
- STRENGTHS: Share your strengths and expertise by referencing what others have pointed out as your strengths
- BRIDGE: Now share how what you have accomplished will benefit the prospective company. Shift the focus from YOU to the COMPANY – very important.
- CLOSE: Having assumed you did your research of the company, reference something you find relatable to the position and what you can do for the company. Here’s where you can really shine because many candidates simply don’t do their homework. Let’s say that you are in customer service management and the prospective company is expanding with a new call center. Ask the recruiter what is considered the biggest challenge of the growth and be prepared to respond with an example of how you may have handled that specific obstacle or issue.
You may ask, “Why not ask the recruiter for more clarification?” The short answer: Timing. That type of response, especially for the first question of the interview, may lead the recruiter to think that you may need constant clarification if hired and you won’t be able to work effectively in ambiguous situations. Wait to ask type of questions of the recruiter later in the interview.
Practice makes Perfect:
Be prepared by knowing what strengths and experience you want to share the most. Write down your response and say it aloud a few times until you gain confidence. Your prep work will keep you focused, provide the company they are seeking and you will be confidently in control of your response.
Want more career advice or assistance preparing for an interview? Contact me at Patricia@CareerWisdomCoach.com. Based on a career of selecting top talent for Fortune 500 companies, I can help you succeed at showcasing your experience. I specialize in developing compelling resumes, linked in profiles and helping you design a laser-focused job search strategy. Contact me for a free consult.