Has the "tell me about yourself" question ever been tossed your way in a job interview? What did you do with it – ramble, freeze, or answer it smoothly?
What usually happens in a job interview situation is you shake hands with the interviewer, take your seat, and then, boom – that dreaded "tell me about yourself" question hits you right out of the chute. Those who've never faced that question will likely take a deep breath and then start sharing their life story from birth to most recent job. The interviewer's eyes will glaze over as he sneaks a peek at his watch. He tries to focus on your words because, after all, you may something that he isn't able to legally ask you about. You, on the other hand, are getting lost in your own words and wondering why this interviewer is even interested in the story of your life.
Or perhaps you are the candidate who freezes when asked to "tell me about yourself." Thoughts of "what is this guy looking for" race through your mind as you search for something – just anything – to say. Should I mention why I left my last job? Should I talk about my college years and how I got that "D" in chemistry because the professor didn't like me? Should I explain how I got my first job because my dad knew the boss? Whatever I say, I need to say it now – I'm running out of time! That interviewer looks impatient. Gosh, I sure hope this interview gets easier!
Hopefully, you'll be the candidate who has prepared for the job interview – the one who knows that the "tell me about yourself" question is the first opportunity to "sell" yourself to this company. You will know that an interview is more about the value you can offer the company than what you need to get from the company. You will take this question and only briefly touch on your career (after all, the interviewer has your resume already, right?) and then bring to the forefront a story or two that demonstrates how you've solved a problem for a past employer that could benefit this potential employer, and how you'd like to contribute your unique skills or talent to better this company.
Now, you have the interviewer's full attention. He's beginning to think he has a credible candidate to assess. And you have already scored points in this job interview.
Bottom line: Don't think this job interview is about you – even if you are asked questions about you. It's about the employer – always. You wouldn't be interviewing if weren't qualified for the job, per your resume. The job interview is a process to screen out qualified candidates. The only way to "win" at the interviewing game is to prepare before you go. Know your career history backward and forward. Know what results you've created for your past employers. And above all else, be able to tell stories that demonstrate your value and problem solving abilities.
Now, go get that job!
Wishing you career success in 2010!
SPECIAL NOTE: I am honored to be a member of the Career Collective, a group of career experts who will each month share their advice and tips to enhance the management of your career. Please link to their blog posts below. Your comments are invited and much appreciated. Follow our hashtag, #careercollective, on Twitter, as well as follow everyone's individual tweets on this month's topic: What should job seekers do now to prepare for interviews?
Sit Down and Panic. The Interview is Yours @GayleHoward
How to Stand Out in a Job Interview @heathermundell
Avoid These Reference Mistakes @DawnBugni
Unspoken Secrets of Job Interviewing Prep: How Your Nonverbal Presentation and Behaviors Impact the Impression You Make @KatCareerGal
Prep for Interviews Now: Snuff out the Elephant in the Room Later! @chandlee
What Should Job Seekers Do Now to Prepare for an Interview @erinkennedycprw
Take a Ride in the Elevator Before You Interview @barbarasafani
Are You Ready for the Elephant in the Room? @WorkWithIllness
"Tell Me About Yourself" (Oh, Yikes!), @KCCareerCoach
The job interview as a shared narrative @WalterAkana
Prepare your references for job search success @Keppie_Careers
No Pain No Gain In Job Search and Interview Prep @ValueIntoWords
Job searching? Take a cue from the Boy Scouts @LaurieBerenson
Preparing for Career Success Starts with Interviewing the Employers @JobHuntOrg
The Interview: A Well Rehearsed Performance or Hacked Improv? @careersherpa