Question Proposed on LinkedIn: How to answer the interview question, “So Tell Me About Yourself”?
– Focus on the professional you. The interviewer does not want to know about where you took your last vacation or what your favorite pastime is. Provide an introduction to your relevant experience, education, skills and knowledge that will be discussed more in-depth over the course of the interview.
– Generally, I employ Bill Cosby’s first thought…"I started out as a child". Actually, employment is a two way street. It’s about a mutual fit and the value you can provide to the entity. No company hires you to pay you a salary. Do your homework, know your target company’s challenges, tailor your response to allow your life experience and career expertise to be the problem solver, value creator for that business!
– Interesting perspective. However, the contacts I’ve had with private sector executives is this: I’ve already introduced myself professionally in the materials I have provided pre-interview… and the goal at the beginning of an interview is to get them to see you as a person with whom they can relate and envision being able to work with. So, what I have learned is there needs to be a balance. Human interest to see you as a person, and professional competence to perceive you as a peer.
– Now that we have addressed what really is being asked of the Tell Me About Yourself question, let’s look at the proper structure to the answer. To do this, I will use myself as the guinea pig. First, who are you? Easy enough right … “Hello, I’m Christopher Harris” (in an interview, the interviewer will already know who you are, thus you can skip this introduction, but don’t skip this when attending network events or in situations of initial introductions). Next, you need to identify why the particular person should listen to you or consider you for a position. To do this, you need to explain your background (what you do and what you’re looking for); this needs to be specific. Going back to myself: “I’m an Employment Program Representative under the Veterans Program with the local OneStop Career Center.” Now that what I do is out on the table, I would need to plug in my qualifications: “I provide one on one case management services through an integrated, coordinated, and facilitated approach in assisting job seekers look for and secure suitable employment. I do this by conducting an initial assessment and identifying the clients barriers to employment. Upon completing the initial assessment, I assist the client with establishing an employment development plan. I explain the current labor market information and coach the individual how to better market their skills and experience as they pertain to the desired occupation. As a case manager I provided resume assistance and go over interviewing strategies. In addition, I educate client’s of the tools and resources available, and conduct job searches and make referrals. I keep the client informed of upcoming events and opportunities; making sure I keep detailed documentation of all services rendered as well as client’s progress.” In addition to explaining what you do and how you do it; you will want to throw in any training or certifications you hold to back up your qualifications: “I hold a Bachelor’s Degree from Illinois State University.” Once you’re done identifying your skills and qualifications, and you have the ear of the person you’re trying to sell yourself too, you’ll want explain why you’d be a fit. This is where you’d explain your attributes: “I am a dedicated and goal driven individual and as a NAVY Veteran, I have learned to provide efficient performance under pressure with a “Can Do” attitude. I look forward to the various daily challenges and face them with the integrity that one can be proud of. I strongly believe in Teamwork and work closely with my coworkers, as we are only as strong as our weakest link.” Now, you turn it back over to the interviewer: “I look forward to this opportunity and discussing more of my specific qualifications with you.” Putting together your personal commercial will take some work and practice, but I promise you that if you make an introduction following this structure (Name, Qualifications and Skills, and Attributes) to an employer, you’ll have their ear. This is something that you should have put together and able to say at a moment’s notice, when you least expect to have to. You never know when you’ll actually bump into someone that could possibly be the door to opportunity.
– In “Captain America: The First Avenger” Red Skull captures Captain America and asks, “So, what made you so special?” Captain America responds, “Nothing. I’m just a kid from Brooklyn.” How long should a response be when asked to introduce ourselves? At the risk of sounding cliché, it depends. What would you say if you only get one sentence? “I’m just a kid from Brooklyn,” packs quite a punch. He could have gone on for a while. Give yourself one sentence. What would you say? It might wind up being just the first sentence; it might be the only one.
– Totally agree! I think you can be creative with your response without sounding cocky or cliche. Although you will take the employer by surprise by a short succinct sentence as opposed to,“I provide one on one case management services through an integrated, coordinated, and facilitated…”, but it is also a risk you take because they will either applaud you for your unconventional response or they will hate it, thinking you are trying too hard to be different. I think that is where you need to find a balance. I also agree with Steven Anderson, as having been an employer myself, I looked for personality and character, if the person has the potential and will fit in well. When I was in the work force, my employer later told me, out of so many candidates that applied, she liked me the most because of my approachability and personality. I definitely think the interview is an expansion of knowing you in person and tell the story of how your experiences can contribute to the company.
– Name, Qualifications and Skills, and Attributes – the interviewer would already have. You would be repeating the same information. Plus you current/last position might not even be the most relevant one. Considering their time is limited, how about doing some initial research on the position/company and specifically map relevant skills with the position/company needs as a prerequisite? How about talking about what is specifically of value for the company in your list of Qualifications and Skills, and Attributes or at least prioritize them accordingly. No two such targeted presentations should be the same, even though they present the same person. This is how this is not a typical elevator pitch. Pitching a person would always be more complex than pitching a product/service/idea, hopefully…
– I would add that you need to be aware of the culture and vocabulary of the interviewer. If somebody came around here and said, “I provide one on one case management services through an integrated, coordinated, and facilitated approach in assisting job seekers look for and secure suitable employment”, we’d probably want to throw him in the Chicago River.
– I would agree with Steven Anderson’s perspective that there needs to be a balance. My view is that some people do have a gift to talk their way to success (natural sales man) but whilst any job can be learned (most of them are not rocket science), I believe that one’s personality and character are high qualities that should be considered.
– In many instances, companies are looking for folks with experience. However, with that experience comes an entitlement mentality, poor attitude and going over and beyond is non-existent. This isn’t always the case of course. However, for many people they have been in the industry or business so long, they lose the passion or desire to perform above average. The drive just isn’t there. I think character, integrity, and drive is much more appealing than credentials. A balance between personality and education is definitely necessary.
– You have 3 minutes to make an intuitive, empathetic and effective impression. To show yourself and explain yourself with words that are you. Show some passion, but don’t get too personal either. Make it professional and somewhat personal. Find that balance.