Answering the Toughest Interview Question

Answering the Toughest Interview Question

As an interviewer and interview coach, I have found the most difficult question for candidates to answer is often the first question asked. And because it’s the first question, if you’re not prepared with a strong answer you’ve sabotaged your entire interview.

What is this Dreaded Interview Question?

“Tell me about yourself.” It seems harmless enough, but many candidates have absolutely no idea how to approach this question. Here are some strategies:

Prepare your Commercial.

Prepare and rehearse a one to two minute commercial about yourself. I recommend using a past-present-future format: tell them something about your background, segue into what’s happening in your life now, and then transition into a future goal you’re set for yourself.

## The KISS Approach

By keeping your answer to this question fairly short, you won’t cover other questions the interviewer plans to ask you later, such as your strengths or why you want to work for that company.

Also, a long answer can mean that the interviewer doesn’t have sufficient time to ask all of the questions he/she had planned on, which may put you at a disadvantage when it comes time to compare candidates.

Personal Information is Okay in the Interview.

It’s okay to give a bit of personal information; in fact, I encourage it. The interviewer is trying to determine your fit with the organization and the specific department you would be working in, and part of determining fit is to get to know you as a total person.

This information must be neutral or positive: Tell the interviewer about a foreign language you’re learning, the house you’re building, or your recent trip of a lifetime.

What’s not okay: a health issue you or a family member is facing, your young children, or outside activities that may be perceived as pulling you away from work.

Here’s an Example.

“I was born in the smallest city in North America, population three. So you can imagine that when I stepped onto the campus of Biggest University my freshman year, it was quite a shock! One of the most formative experiences I had in college was an internship with Great Marketing, which ignited my passion for the challenges and rewards of marketing.

Since graduation, I have been very intentional about developing both breadth and depth in my career. I have worked for Fortune 500 companies, start-ups, technology companies, and consumer product goods. I currently work for Fantastic Service, which I enjoy because I like bringing my creativity and business acumen to marketing intangibles.

Looking ahead, I’m excited to take on a global leadership role with a service company such as yours. I have quite a bit of experience working with teams in Latin America and Europe, and would welcome the opportunity to work in the Middle East and other developing countries.

I’m also a Green Belt in Jin Shin Foo Yong, and I plan to obtain my Black Belt next year. I really enjoy the physical and mental challenge of this sport and it’s a great way to release stress and have fun at the same time.”

(This took me exactly one minute to say out loud.)

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