on Wednesday, June 1, 2011
"Tell Me About Yourself"
If you’ve ever interviewed, you’ve probably gotten America’s LEAST favorite question, “Tell Me About Yourself.” Most applicants HATE it, because they don’t know how to answer and, usually, it comes at the start when logically, the interviewer doesn’t know anything about you. Let everyone else blow this one! If you have a killer answer ready, you can sew up the interview right here.
What The Question Really Means
Let’s start with subtext — the meaning behind the words (like when a girl says, “We have to break up and it isn’t you”, and she really means, “It’s another guy”). The subtext of every interview question is exactly the same, so they ask you the same question in various different ways — it’s ALWAYS, “Why should I hire YOU?”
Once, interviewing an applicant for a receptionist position, I asked, “Why don’t you start by telling me about yourself?” The young applicant actually said, “Well, like my favorite band is U2 and on the weekends I go horseback riding”… it was a short interview (if she had known my question was actually “Why should I hire you?”, think she’d have answered that way?).
How To Answer The Question
Here’s your formula to shine: Before every interview, make a list of the qualities & skills they need for the position, then give specific examples of how you possess those traits. You want to show them that you are exactly what they need.
You can’t use just a list of words because people forgot words — that’s why we all make grocery lists. Actually, words are only 10% of our true communication, while your voice — the way you use your words — represents 20-25%, and the largest chunk, 65-70% is your image and body language. Since people believe what they see, you have to paint them a picture of how your skills meet their needs by reassuring them that you’re a great fit.
Suppose you’re interviewing for an administrative assistant position, with responsibilities including answering phones, taking messages, returning calls, and flexibly executing any/all assignments. Your most effective approach is to tell stories about similar past experiences. “I’m good answering the phone, taking messages and making calls” will be easily forgotten. What detailed, distinctive examples can you offer to show you’ve got the goods?
“I’d love to work here as your administrative assistant, and I have a great deal of hands-on, diverse experience with multi-tasking. For five-years, I’ve been assistant to the Senior Manager, answering her three lines, taking messages, returning calls, and successfully handling any task to help my boss and our department. Frequently, she says I do the work of two assistants, I am so thorough. For example, one day our company mistakenly released a statement a week early, and more press than you can imagine descended upon us. Our three lines were busy for five hours straight, while I also fielded press emails and rescheduled drop-in reporters the entire day. I’m known for strong work under pressure, and even my boss’ boss credited me with excellent PR skills that bought us enough time to release an appropriate statement the next day. I've never missed a day of work in my present position, and if you hire me, I’ll bring the same outstanding level of dedication and extraordinary work ethic here. I’d be very excited to be part of your impressive organization and would look forward to growing with your company.”
Prepare to impress at your interview by making a list of 8-10 specific examples of when you worked really hard (on the job, through volunteer work, in school, extracurriculars, etc.) utilizing the skills they need. Interviewers are smart, but they’re not mind readers — they’ll only know what you tell them. And if YOU don’t reassure them you’re a great fit for the job, someone ELSE will, and THEY’LL be hired.
Practice Before The Interview
To be successful with “TMAY”, decide what you want to say — and practice it — BEFORE your interview. Define yourself in terms of their needs, give specific examples of your successes, illustrating you already possess those skills, and you’ll always stand out for the right reasons.