Chances are pretty good that in your next job interview, you're going to hear: "So! Tell me about yourself."
Interviewers love to ask this question because a) they're hoping you might slip up and tell them something really interesting, such as the fact that you've been fired from your last five jobs b) they don't really remember who you are, and this gives them time to come up with questions to ask and c) they want to see how you present yourself.
Also, don't be surprised if you hear this question several times in the interviewing process, whether it's in your first interview with human resources, or your third interview with a senior vice president. That's why you can't wing it when it comes to describing yourself -- it's really important that you seize this opportunity to sell yourself and your skills.
No matter who asks you this question, there is one key thing you must remember: Describe yourself and your skills in such a way that helps the other person see you in the job. Oh -- and do it in about 75 words.
This means that you can't waste your words talking about how you have six cats and four dogs and you love comic books and you recently returned from a vacation and blah, blah, blah.
Your 75 words need to focus on your professional abilities (although you don't want to sound like you're reading your resume after not sleeping for four days). Instead, your voice -- the same one you use to describe your love of pets and comic books -- should show your enthusiasm for what you've done and what you want to do in the future.
Something like this: "I've been in IT for the last five years, and really love the challenge of an industry that is evolving so quickly. I've worked collaboratively with various departments, and find that such experiences have helped me think more strategically. That's why I'm so excited about this opportunity, because I think that my IT and collaboration experience can help this company. In my last job, our innovations led to a 30% increase in customer satisfaction."
It doesn't matter if you're applying for an administrative assistant role or as a mechanical engineer. The keys to focus on include:
- Relevant experience. If you've been volunteering for years at community marathon events, then you can certainly reveal that if you're applying to a running shoe company. But stick with the facts that will help the company see you've got the right skills. Look at the job ad carefully, and try to use some of the key words revealed in that posting, whether it's "team work," "self-starter" or specific work experience.
- Examples. Once you've given your little spiel, then you may be asked to elaborate. "So, tell me more about the 30% increase in customer satisfaction," the interviewer may say. Instead of droning on about the system you helped set up, try telling a short story about how there was a customer you had met who talked about a particular frustration with her inventory system during the summer months when more workers were on vacation, leading to poor inventory tracking. That prompted you to go back to your team and start designing a better software program to handle the problem. It so thrilled the customer, she signed a long-term contract and recommended your company to three other businesses.
- The fit. No one wants to be your second or third choice. They want to believe that you can't see yourself working anywhere else, because the job and the company are such a good fit. That's why you need to always mention it: "I know that your culture really focuses on innovation, and that's just what I feel can help me deliver better IT solutions."
Finally, remember to practice what you plan to say. Write it out and then practice it until it feels natural. You're going to be a bit nervous in your job interview, so having it clear in your mind will ensure that you don't forget your priorities and start talking about how Captain America is better than Ant Man.
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