by Linda Matias
“So, why don’t you tell me about yourself?” is the most frequently asked interview question. It’s a question that most interviewees expect and the one they have the most difficulty answering. Though one could answer this open- ended question in a myriad of ways, the key to answering this question or any other interview question is to offer a response that supports your career objective. This means that you shouldn’t respond with comments about your hobbies, spouse, or extra curricular activities. Trust me, interviewers aren’t interested.
Interviewers use the interview process as a vehicle to eliminate your candidacy. Every question they ask is used to differentiate your skills, experience, and personality with that of other candidates. They want to determine if what you have to offer will mesh with the organization’s mission and goals.
If answered with care, your response to the question, “So, why don’t you tell me about yourself?” could compliment the interviewers needs as well as support your agenda. This is a question you should be prepared to answer as opposed to attempting to “wing it”.
Follow the four easy steps outlined below to ensure your response will grab the interviewer’s attention.
1. Provide a brief introduction. Introduce attributes that are key to the open position.
Sample introduction: During my 10 years’ of experience as a sales manager, I have mastered the ability to coach, train, and motivate sales teams into reaching corporate goals.
2. Provide a career summary of your most recent work history. Your career summary is the “meat” of your response, so it must support your job objective and it must be compelling. Keep your response limited to your current experience. Don’t go back more than 10 years.
Sample career summary: Most recently, at The Widget Corporation, I was challenged with turning around a stagnant territory that ranked last in sales in the Northeastern region. Using strategies that have worked in the past, I developed an aggressive sales campaign that focused on cultivating new accounts and nurturing the existing client base. The results were tremendous. Within six months my sales team and I were able to revitalize the territory and boost sales by 65%.
3. Tie your response to the needs of the hiring organization. Don’t assume that the interviewer will be able to connect all the dots. It is your job as the interviewee to make sure the interviewer understands how your experiences are transferable to the position they are seeking to fill.
Sample tie-in: Because of my proven experience in leading sales teams, Craig Brown suggested I contact you regarding your need for a sales manager. Craig filled me in on the challenges your sales department is facing.
4. Ask an insightful question. By asking a question you gain control of the interview. Don’t ask a question for the sake of asking. Be sure that the question will engage the interviewer in a conversation. Doing so will alleviate the stress you may feel to perform.
Sample question: What strategies are currently underway to increase sales and morale within the sales department? There you have it – a response that meets the needs of the interviewer AND supports your agenda.
When broken down into manageable pieces, the question, “So, tell me about yourself?” isn’t overwhelming. In fact, answering the question effectively gives you the opportunity to talk about your strengths, achievements, and qualifications for the position. So take this golden opportunity and run with it!
Recognized as a career expert, Linda Matias brings a wealth of experience to the career services field. She has been sought out for her knowledge of the employment market, outplacement, job search strategies, interview preparation, and resume writing, quoted a number of times in The Wall Street Journal, New York Newsday, Newsweek, and HR- esource.com. She is President of Career Strides and the National Resume Writers’ Association.