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Job Interviews: “Tell me about yourself”

Job Interviews: "Tell me about yourself"The most important interview question may be the most dreaded: “Would you please tell me about yourself?”

Suddenly you’re tongue-tied. Where should you start? What should you say? You don’t want your answer to be dull, awkward or unclear.

Your best answer to this question is virtually the same as a good “elevator intro,” which is a crucial networking tool.

It’s also known as a “positioning statement,” because if done well it positions you memorably in the listener’s mind.

Being remembered – for the right reasons! – is huge in job search. So is making a great first impression.

First tip: When you hear “Tell me about yourself” in an interview, think of it as “Tell me why we should hire you.” Don’t distract with personal details or a dull career obituary starting from your oldest job to the present. Instead, give them your best stuff right off the bat!

What are your top five selling points? What’s your Unique Value Proposition? That’s the kind of information to include here.

Keep those key points in mind as you tell who you are, what you do and have done, where you’ve done it and why you’re the one to hire. Then there’s a little extra step I’ll call “wow” – which I’ll explain below – and ending with a question to keep the conversation flowing.

So these are the basic elements of your statement: Who, What, Where, Why, Wow – and then ending with a question.

Who?

First, introduce yourself with your professional identity, in the present tense. You may no longer be Regional Vice President of Sales and Marketing, but you’re still a sales and marketing professional. You may no longer be Alumni Service Associate at University of Gotham City, but you have a professional identity: “I’m an experienced customer service rep, most recently with UGC…”

What?

What are your competencies and expertise? What are you likely to be doing for your next employer? Briefly summarize your strongest, most relevant, most in-demand skills.

Where?

What types of organizations have you worked in? You can name specific companies if they’re well known and relevant; or categories like “Fortune 500 or larger Telecommunications companies” or “software startups” or “large nonprofits and higher education.”

Why?

Why would a company want to hire you? What qualifications or skills make you stand out from the competition? Tell one or two brief stories that illustrate the value you bring to employers.

Wow!

Add something that makes your statement more interesting, gives some insight into who you are, or brings some excitement into your voice. This might start with phrases like “I’m passionate about . . .” or What I really love is . . .” or mention an impressive or interesting example of your work.

Here’s an example, off the top of my head: I love my work because I meet interesting people with varied backgrounds. I recently coached a former Olympic athlete to negotiate a better salary at his new job.

End with a question.

Ending with a question turns your answer into the beginning of a dialog, and may gain valuable feedback. In an interview, the question might be (with a smile) “How does that match up to what you’re looking for?” In a networking situation, it might be, “How about you – what do you do?”

Of course, all of this needs to be adapted to your situation. The best positioning statement is the one that gets results for you!

In the next post, “Building Your #1 Interview Answer,” I lay out steps to developing and perfecting your positioning statement.

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