|  December 3, 2015

The dirty little secret of “Tell me about yourself”

Lately I’ve been doing a lot of interview prep with clients and one question we always prepare for is tell me about yourself. If you’ve interviewed before then you know that this question is always asked… and usually it’s the very first question asked.

You’re probably wondering why. They have your resume right there. Why do you have to walk them through it?

Well, here’s a dirty little secret no one ever tells you. Your interviewer may not have read your resume yet.

Or maybe they read it a few days back on the day the interview was scheduled and but have had 30 other meetings since then. Or their Assistant scheduled the meeting and they didn’t realize it was today until just now.

Whatever the reason, it is rare that an interviewer has the opportunity to sit at their desk and carefully read through each line of your resume for 15 minutes (a quick skim is more common) before they come and meet you. It’d be nice, but people are busy and it usually just doesn’t work that way.

So when you are walking through your resume or “telling about yourself” you are actually giving your interviewer some time to come up to speed on your background. They’re refreshing themselves on who you are and what you’ve done… and they’re also assessing what parts of your background they want to learn more about.

Want to knock this question out of the park? Here are a few tips below (and I also love this great video from The Muse!)

1. Start by sharing an overview of who you are, from a professional perspective (i.e. I’ve spent the last X years of my career focused on Y)

2. Share the “why” – People don’t just want the facts. They want to also know what motivates you and why you chose the path you chose (i.e. I was always really interested in X so I…)

3. Walk through the different pivotal moments in your career – Take your interviewer through the jobs on the resume, spending more time on the ones that are the most relevant and the most influential in your career. Share why you moved from one to the next (again, what motivated you?) and feel free to gloss over earlier or less significant roles. When you share what you are responsible for in each role, don’t give a laundry list. Keep it high level and your interviewer will ask you to elaborate on the things they’re most interested in.

4. Wrap up the answer in the present moment – When you are done telling your story share how you found yourself in the present moment (i.e. I’m looking for the next step now because X and when I came across this role on Y, I knew I had to apply. I’m really excited about the opportunity and thanks so much for taking the time to speak with me today).

This also gives you the opportunity to proactively address the question, “Why are you looking to leave your current job?” or “Why’d you leave your last job?”

5. Keep your answer around 3 minutes, and no longer than 5 – Most interviews are a half hour, so make sure you don’t take over too much of it telling your life story. Keep it succinct and your interviewer will guide the conversation from there.

Are you preparing for a job interview? Check out our downloadable interview prep workbook here!

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