One of the most dreaded questions for a candidate: So, tell me about yourself! How do you best answer that question when asked at the beginning of an interview?
There’s never a perfect answer, but there are some helpful guidelines: Always try to be positive and crisp with your answers. Focus on your work experiences, with special emphasis on your measureable results with past jobs. Focus on recent accomplishments, especially those that parallel the position description for which you’re interviewing.
Usually an interviewer will not ask personal questions, but if they do, you have a choice to make: Answer the question as it relates to the open position or ask the interviewer how the question relates to the position, as personal questions are, in fact, personal.
If you assume the question is going to be asked, you can practice your answer beforehand until you have a mental script of the best response. Don’t lose yourself in the answer by focusing on your life’s story or babble on about items of little consequence, like when you were a lifeguard at a country club. Here are some ways to give the best response to the question:
FIGURE OUT HOW YOU ARE UNIQUELY QUALIFIED – Usually the first 3 to 5 items on the position description are the most important and the hiring organization identifies as critical. Focus on your results in those areas. If you can show you can solve their issues, you’ll be higher on their list. If you don’t know your unique capabilities it will show.
DEMONSTRATE YOUR ABILITY TO DO THE JOB – Demonstrate your result in the key areas, but also show confidence in your knowledge, skills and abilities. Discuss potential solutions to short-term issues, but also highlight your longer-term potential strategies. Don’t be boastful, but identify the actions you took to get the high performance results. It will speak for itself.
GIVE EXAMPLES OF ACHIEVEMENTS FROM THE PAST, PARALLELING THE JOB – Nothing can “sell” your candidacy better than giving them examples of your results in similar situations that parallel the job for which they are interviewing. If you’ve successfully done it before, the chances are you can do it again at the highest performance level.
STAY FOCUSED AND CRISP LIKE A LASER BEAM – It’s easy to get sidetracked when story-telling. Don’t forget that the interviewer is not only listening to what you say, but how you say it. A rambling story demonstrates an inability to organize your thoughts into a coherent sequence. Think in bullet point terms while communicating in a logical step-by-step way.
Open-ended questions are a trap for the unprepared. Yes or no questions are easier, but you can’t market yourself with one-word answers.
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