You’re headed for the job interview, and you know it’s coming. After that first moment of good eye contact, the firm (but not too firm) handshake and getting settled in an attentive, but not too-eager position in your chair, it arrives: The simple question that stymies so many jobseekers–Why don’t you tell me a little about yourself?
Highly competent engineers to new college grads suddenly become silent or start babbling on about a favorite hamster at age 7 or worse, droning on about their list of jobs that already put the interviewers to sleep when reading about them on a resume.
Actually, this question is a great one because it gives you control of the interview, if you approach it the right way. Your answer can shape and direct the interview along the lines most favorable to you, pointing job interviewers toward the kinds of passions, skills and accomplishments that you want them to be asking you about.
Follow these 4 steps to breeze through this opening question and get your interview off to a positive start.
1. Make it easy on yourself. Script your opening line and practice it. That opening might be something like:
As you can see from my cover letter and resume (or my application), I am really passionate about (whatever key work activity you are passionate about that you know is important for this position).
EX: As you can see from my cover letter, I am passionate about learning the latest web developments and have been using this to help companies stay ahead of the curve in creating customer loyalty and excitement online.
2. After your scripted answer, be prepared with a very brief story that illustrates your passion/skill in action, that proves what you have said. That is, back up your statement with an example from a recent job. Stories engage and make an emotional one-to-one connection with your interviewer–something your resume cannot do. This connection is the key to a successful interview.
3. Then indicate there are lots of other examples and passions (relating to relevant, developed skills) that you’d be happy to talk about, and let them ask you about them or ask if they’d like to hear about a particular one. You can end your answer there or…
4. Take more control over the interview with something like: So I’m really excited to be here today and to find out if this is as great match for both of us as I think it might be. Would you mind telling me what qualities are most important in the person you’d want to hire?
Saying this has you engaging them, showing initiative without being pushy, and most important–allows you to discover what is really on their minds so you can address these qualities in your subsequent answers. These skills or qualities will probably be the same as what’s in the job posting, but hearing it from them will give you a much clearer sense of what they mean and the priority for each skill.