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Interview question: “Tell me about yourself”

tell me about yourself

Did I break your concentration?

Tell me about yourself and it’s variations:

• Why would I hire you?
• What do you like to do?
• Tell me about your weakness/strength

We know “Tell me about yourself” and all of the above questions will be asked in an interview. If I ask 10 random people to give me their top interview question, I am confident that I would hear some version of the above from 9 out of the 10.

So, if we are certain that some form of the first 4 questions will come up, why do I consistently get such crappy answers during interviews? A stumbling response isn’t a good way to start off a 30-minute session for either of us.  Are people coming into an interview hoping they are not going to be asked “tell me about yourself” or “what is your weakness?”

Two points:
1. Have your personal elevator pitch ready. Have it down cold, and be able to say it in ANY situation within 1 minutes, preferably 30-45 seconds. Not 5 minutes, not 10 minutes. 1 Minute. (you never know when you will run into someone that may be interested and you don’t want to walk away from that opportunity thinking “I blew it”) All professional salespeople have an elevator pitch. If you are going into an interview, you are selling yourself. If you can’t sell yourself, why should I buy? I can’t tell you how many times I have asked this question and the candidate didn’t know where to start. Practice this pitch. It sounds corny, but it makes a HUGE difference. Time it. If someone says 2 minutes and drones off for 5-6, I get worried about getting the information I need out of this interview. If I am worried, this is not a good thing.

2. The second point – and the one that will make a difference: If we know that these questions are going to be asked, make it easy on your recruiter and tell them what they want to hear. Take control of the situation and give them the opportunity to listen to your pitch. Don’t be the passive fish.

In another post, I will go into what the first 5 minutes of the interview should be like, where you break the ice and find something in common with the interviewer. For now. . . .

Starting off the interview with something like “Thanks for seeing me; I am really excited to be here. I don’t know what you had in mind for today and don’t know if you had a chance to look at my resume.  I am happy to begin answering any questions you may have or I can start out by telling you a little bit about myself and then answer any questions you may have.

Said correctly, very few people will say “no”.  The correct order here is that the FIRST option you offer is to answer questions.  The SECOND option is to give your pitch and then answer questions.  This gives you the opportunity to start the conversation on YOUR terms and you can start directing the direction of where this is going.

• You are meeting this person specifically so they can find out more about you, and you just made their job easier. Who wouldn’t bite?
• You just showed a lot of confidence in a situation where the recruiter is used to seeing passive fish waiting for them to take control.  It is human nature to take the second option which is to sit back and listen.  (This is Nasty)

As obvious as it may be, your pitch should not include the following:

  • Where you grew up or anything about your first 20 years of your life. Give me what relates to the current time period. If you are in a sales job, and the territory is where you grew up, that may be an exception, but for the most part, (a position that requires 3-5 years of experience) I don’t want to hear about where you went to high school.
  • If it is listed on the resume, I already read it. That is the reason I called you. Give me information that is in ADDITION to your resume. Mention your job history, but realize I already read it.   Avoid giving a reader’s digest of the bullet points.  If I have a question on those, I will ask.  This is an opportunity to give me what is NOT listed on the resume.  The resume is the tool that gets you the face to face.  It isn’t your entire story.  Now start adding the color to the bullet points.

Your pitch should include:

  • Something personal about yourself.  “there are two sides to me, I am really into fitness and run 30 miles a week”, or “I have recently really gotten into golf”.  Anything personal, and something that isn’t on your resume.  Just 7-10 seconds, but it softens the upcoming “professional pitch”.
  • The personal philosophy of your discipline. It might be on what you think customer service is, what Business Intelligence means, why you got into your discipline, how you practice your particular “thing” that may be different from most others.
  • How you made a difference to the last company whether it be at the individual contributor level or at the Sr. Management level.
  • Why you are interested in working for this particular company. What connection you have made to the company whether it is personal or professional. The company is “green”, they are known for being cutting edge, or maybe they just won an award of some sort. You wouldn’t date someone you don’t have anything in common with. In the same vein, you shouldn’t want to work for a company you have nothing in common with. Convey that you aren’t just looking for a job; you are looking for a career/relationship

A good elevator pitch not only sets the tone for the rest of the interview, but conveys confidence and should give the recruiter plenty of topics to dive deeper into. It will provide a smooth transition for the rest of the interview.

See you at the after party,


nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

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