Lots of hiring interviews, particularly the initial interview, begin with the question, “Tell me about yourself.” It is a question for which you should prepare. On the one hand, it is just a simple icebreaker. But it also offers a powerful opportunity to distinguish yourself. Research is consistent that most interviewers reach their “yes/no” decision within the first few minutes of the interview. That decision relies in large part on a quick assessment of whether the person will “fit” within the organization. For that reason, it helps to “be yourself.” Show some humanity.
While your answer should focus primarily on relevant professional experience (a description at the 10,000 foot level), you need to work into your answer some truthful material that addresses the issue of “fit.”
When we first meet people, we often search for things that we have in common. You can presume the interviewer has already seen your resume, so anything in common in your professional experience (
., you both worked for the same company at some point in your respective careers) will likely be brought up by the interviewer. You need to show the real you—the “fit” factor—largely through your personal life.
Which response to the “tell me about yourself” question is more effective in revealing your “fit” factor? Note that the ideal answer is about 60 seconds in length.
“I was a marketing major in college. My first job was with a manufacturing company where I worked on trade show marketing plans. My job was to maximize attendance and press coverage. I switched to a marketing manager
environmentally responsible paper products. I was successful in doubling authorized distributors in three years. After that, [add about 45 more seconds of overview of relevant professional experience].”
“Early in my career
dad told me that I had three choices in my career path: make it; sell it; or count it. So I figured
was the way to go. That was a good call on my part. Whether I’m involved in soliciting donations for my daughter’s school fundraiser or engaging a prospective client, I love engaging with people. In my sales career, [add about 45 more seconds of overview of relevant professional experience].”
The point is that we need to show a little humanity with a healthy dose of humility. Unlike the somewhat robotic first answer, the second answer paints an image of a likeable person with whom the interviewer can probably relate. The second answer plants some hints that the person might “fit.” The answer does not need to be erudite or overloaded with success stories. Hiring managers want to know more about the real you. Your answer to the predictable first question allows you to show some personality at a pivotal moment in the interview. Seize the opportunity to your advantage.
- Tom Ratchford, CRC Board Member