One of the most challenging interview questions for job seekers is, “So, tell me about yourself.” Answering this question requires preparation because it is open ended and carries the potential for rambling. Many job seekers flounder at this prompt, because they have not prepared ahead of time with a short “commercial” about themselves that they can pull out and use for just such an occasion.
But that won’t be you! Because you will follow these pointers:
First, the question is not an invitation to recite your life story. Rather, it is a great opportunity for you to briefly explain what makes you good at your job and how you can help the company. You will be prepared with a short explanation of your job history and a thorough understanding of how what you have learned to do connects with what that employer needs. You have been researching the company, and you should be able to show how you are a good fit for the role.
You will know that this is your chance to deliver a great first impression by showing how well you communicate. That’s important for any job, but there are many industries that lend themselves particularly well to this type of showcase question. Customer service is one example. It is conversationally focused, and this could be a really good chance for you to show how you smoothly respond to a question.
You also will remember not to give away personal information about yourself. An employer isn’t going to hire you because you have cute children or a wonderful spouse. In fact, that type of information could exclude you from the job. Focus on the position at hand. You might wish to start your answer by asking, “I would be glad to. Could you give me an idea of the type of information you would like to know?” By starting this way, you can direct your answer better and be more conversational.
Next, you will keep it brief with a simple structure. You will give a few details about what you have been doing, talk about one or two crowning achievements from your career, then explain how it positions you for success with the interviewers’ company.
Here’s a fictional sample answer:
“I spent 20 years as a print journalist, and during that time I learned a lot about our community and its needs and I was able to point the public to very important social causes. I realized over time that what I wanted to do was actually work for one of those causes. So, I switched fields, and went into nonprofit work, raising about a half-million dollars as a grant writer for various organizations. I have honed my organizational skills and learned how to tell an agency’s story in a compelling way. In my most recent position, my proposals have raised $40 million for a community college. This included large federal workforce proposals. I enjoy assembling the details and making the case for important work, and this has prepared me to position your organization for similar fundraising success.”
Here’s another example:
“I was born and raised in Franklin County and have an excellent knowledge of the area as well as Central Ohio. During the last 9 years with Federal Express, I have progressed through positions of Package Loader, Courier, Dispatcher, and Team Lead. In my most recent position, I have had the opportunity to complete numerous management training programs, provide supervision and leadership to all positions within the station, and participate in special projects in conjunction with Senior and District Managers. I enjoy being a Lead and the opportunity to empower and motivate my team. Last year I received the top award for gains in productivity. I believe this experience and training has prepared me to take the next step and pursue a management position with Acme Trucking.”
Remember: It’s your opportunity to show you fit the position. It’s not about your life outside the office (unless you have an unusual hobby that might enhance your candidacy). It’s not about your years growing up. It is about the value you have earned and can share with that company to enhance its growth and achieve its goals.
It’s a good idea to format an answer, and then practice it with a friend, your spouse, or a trusted mentor. Once you have the format down, you can adapt it to any role for which you are interviewing. Just adjust the details.
Not sure if the answer is good enough? As with any interview question, you can always end with, “Does that answer your question?” If it doesn’t the interviewer will tell you.
Let’s work on your speech. Contact me now at Ruth@ConfidentCareerSearch.com