The most standard of interview questions, “tell me about yourself.” The more often than not answer that trip so many people up. You either are making a great first impression or the hiring manager is wondering how quickly can the interview be finished.
Do you answer by talking about your accomplishments, the passion you bring to the company, the skills sets that you have, a summary of your last job or an outline of what you bring to the company and how you can help manage the responsibilities noted in the job description?
How much time should be spent on this answer? Should you include any personal characteristics? Personal history? How deeply should you dive into any example that you’re talking about. How do you present yourself as capable without over-glorifying yourself?
So many questions.
What not to do.
“So, I was born in Brooklyn…” Or, “My favorite sport is football…”
Unless there was a life lesson that provides context to your professional life, your life story will fall on deaf ears. Your personal life story is not relevant to the job or your abilities or recent experiences that demonstrate what you bring to the company. Reserve these kinds of tidbits of information when the interviewer asks you specific questions. Hiring managers will definitely want to learn more about you after they have established that they have enough information about your capabilities for the position.
“I am the consummate sales professional…” Or, “I am able to solve the toughest tasks…”
Statements like these are an overpromise, an over-exaggeration. You can only underdeliver on the job. The interviewer may see this as arrogant and someone who might be hard to manage. Your achievements, the goals you achieved, the comradery you helped to manage, these are the things that hiring people want to know.
“… Let me now tell you about a few other things I can do for you.”
Time. Too much time to answer the question. 2-3 minutes at most. You want the interviewer to keep paying attention and not glancing around. Remember, it is best to K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Stupid)
Looking at the ceiling.
Count how many times during the day when people you’re talking to look up at the ceiling or elsewhere as they think through how to answer a question. Interviewing is not the time that this should happen. Eyes should be focused on the interviewer.
You know that lying on your resume is not a good thing. Nor is exaggerating your role in achieving what you may have noted on your resume or when answering interview questions. Not just because of background and reference checks, but also in your work product as you onboard into the new company. Be proud of what you bring to the table.
What to do
Re-read the job description.
Study what they’re looking for you to. Note the first several job responsibilities as they are usually in order of what is important. Highlight key words.
Research the company and industry.
Note new products, new services, current market trends, see how they present themselves, and what competitors are doing, Then, think about what they’re looking for based on the job description, how that might tie to the company and industry information, and how the work you’ve done can help add value to the job and the company.
Prepare your story.
Work all of that studying into 2-3 sentences that’ll last no more than 2-3 minutes.
“Let me begin this way. My 5 years in product development has taught me the importance of creating and guiding a team of subject experts, reviewing the competitive market to insure a clear and compelling point of difference in what we’re developing, presenting the market opportunity that paved the way to moving the project forward and analyzing the data afterwards. This is why I was able to introduce two new products for my last company that delivered 10% to the company’s revenue.
“Seeing how important new products are in the marketplace and how product development is a core responsibility for this position, my experience and my interest in joining Company X is why I’m here. If you’d like, I can go through some of the details of what made it work.”
Yes, a lot of time and homework goes into this answer. And, it needs to be customized for each job interview. But, if you do it well, you’ve not only answered the question well, you’ve immediately demonstrated how well you fit with what they’re looking for.