“Tell me about yourself”
If you’re like a lot of jobseekers, this is one of the most dreaded questions to be asked.
It sets the stage for the interview, so if you aren’t prepared for it and can’t respond effectively, you’ll probably get disqualified from the running.
While this is the perfect opportunity to “sell” yourself for the job, such an open-ended question can be problematic.
Where do you start?
What do you include?
What do you not include?
How long an answer should you give?
What’s the hiring manager really looking for?
The easiest way to answer that is to understand the REASON behind the question.
What the manager is really asking (in code) is:
Tell me something that matters to me so that I consider you a strong candidate for the position.
They need you to give them concrete examples that demonstrate that you know how to do the job based on your credentials and past successes.
10 top ways to start formulating your answer
#1: Think about the position and the job description
What information did you glean from the research you did before the interview regarding the company, industry, and job? (Yes, you must do research!!)
What are the key requirements the employer is looking for in terms of skills, experience, knowledge, education, attributes, and other things?
#2: Put yourself in the hiring manager’s shoes
What are they going to be most impressed by?
What’s going to grab their attention, so they’re motivated to listen to you intently?
#3: What’s your value?
The whole point behind your response is to clearly communicate the kind of value you can bring to the table and to formulate a value statement or summary that is also known as the “elevator pitch”.
Just to be clear, you value is not just about the duties and tasks you performed. It’s more about how well you performed them that resulted in positive outcomes.
For clarification about how to articulate your value, read this article about quantifying accomplishments.
#4: Start with your credentials
Well, I’m not talking about the very beginning, like when you were in little league or high school – unless it’s 100% relevant to the position.
You can start with your education if that’s something that’s an important job requirement.
What kind of degree do you have? Where did you acquire it?
If you had high grades, then mention that.
You can talk briefly about any professional development (coursework, workshops, etc.) that pertains to the job.
#5: Mention some highlights
Then mention some notable highlights from your background that can include things like promotions, awards, industry recognition, accomplishments, and so forth.
I recommend you stick to those career highlights that are the most recent unless it’s something uber-impressive and highly relevant. In many hiring managers’ minds, you are really only as good as your last job or two.
The older the accomplishment, the less weight it will bear.
#6: Keep it short
The goal is to deliver a targeted, strong message that shows you have the required skills, education, and experience for the position as well as having contributed in meaningful ways that produced results that are ideally quantifiable.
The hard part is that you must deliver this value summary in no more than 2 minutes or so. Whatever you do, don’t ramble on – that can get you disqualified for sure.
I recommend you prepare your message ahead of time and practice it (see #7 and #8).
#7: Write it out
You need to determine what you are going to say before you say it. Then write down all the main points you must cover so you don’t forget anything important or start talking too much.
#8: Talk it out
Then you should practice your “pitch” a few times so that it flows but be careful to not sound too rehearsed. That’s a total turn off.
#9: Tailor your response
Every employer and position are unique. The company culture and job requirements will vary from organization to organization whether it’s the same job function or not.
Your answer then must be tailored to address the specific “hiring pain” of each employer.
While your pitch will have the same broad strokes, the finer points might have to change to best “match” what the employer is specifically looking for.
#10: Have a strong close
How you end your “pitch” is key. You need a compelling and convincing close that wraps up what you just talked about in a way that clearly communicates how YOU are the SOLUTION to the hiring manager’s hiring pain.
You might want to end the pitch with something like this:
Hiring Manager, I’m looking to partner with an organization like (add employer name here) where I can leverage my proven skills in (add your key skills that the employer clearly wants) and (add another desired skill) to help your organization (add positive outcome that the employer seeks) and (add positive outcome that the employer seeks). Based on my recent accomplishments in (add your are of expertise that the employer needs e.g. process improvement) and (another area of expertise that the employer needs), I’m confident that I will be able to (add whatever the desired outcome would be, like cutting costs, etc.) for your organization.
You could even add a question at the end to determine if the employer needs a bit more information from you. Something like this:
Is there anything else you want to know about how I can help you improve (add whatever the employer needs to be improved)?
Remember, whatever you provide as “evidence” of your fit with the position (as well as company culture) you must focus on those things that are most relevant to the job and of interest to the employer.
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I draw from over 15 years recruitment, career/job search coaching, and sales/marketing experience to help all kinds of jobseekers stand out, get noticed, and get hired for their dream job.
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