During interview preparation, you will have likely spent hours crafting and practicing answers to the most commonly asked interview questions. By the day of the interview, you’ll be ready to articulate your relevant experience, your strengths and weaknesses, how you handle pressure, and about a time you demonstrated initiative.
Then the interview begins and you are asked the one question you didn’t prepare for:
“Tell me about yourself?”
It’s natural to be stumped by this question. After all, it is rather ambiguous and not knowing exactly what the interviewer wants to hear can be daunting. Though the phrasing will vary, the fact is that the vast majority of interviews start off the very same way and how you choose to answer this question will set the stage for what’s to follow.
This is why we think this is the single most important part of your interview preparation. The good news is that just like any other question, the right preparation will enable you to craft a clear, concise and confident response that will highlight precisely what you most want the interviewer to know about you, while setting the right tone for the interview ahead.
How to prepare your reply
- 1-2 sentences to introduce yourself
- 1-2 sentences illustrating how you’ve applied the 2 core specialized skills identified in the Job Description
- 1 sentence highlighting 2 key soft skills identified in the Job Description
Let’s take a look at the formula in detail.
- Prepare a succinct introduction.
In 1-2 sentences, introduce yourself by highlighting how your overall work experience qualifies you for the role at hand. Focus your attention on the most significant aspects of the job and how you are qualified to succeed.
- Identify the top 2 specialized skills required for the role.
The best place to start is to review the Job Description. Look for the must-have skills or those given the most emphasis in order to determine what the employer sees as crucial to success.
- Highlight your specialized skills through your recent work.
In 1-2 sentences, use both primary and supporting examples to emphasize your skillset, identifying accomplishments you’ve achieved in recent projects. Concentrate on aligning this recent experience with the 2 skills identified above while focusing on how you successfully applied these skills. Really hit the nail on the head!
- Identify the top soft skills required for the role.
Returning to the Job Description, identify the 2 most desired soft skills. Once again, focus on those skills given the most emphasis.
- Demonstrate your proficiency with the soft skills.
Just as you did with your specialized skills, you can now describe your adeptness with the identified soft skills, referring to your recent work experience in order to support the statement and illustrate your value.
- Stop at the 2 minute mark to allow the interviewer to ask more questions.
There will be plenty of time to address everything else you can bring to this role. Don’t forget this is only the first question!
What to avoid
- Do not give a run-down of your resume or your career progression.
The interviewer already has a copy of your resume. This is an opportunity to focus on exactly what you want the interviewer to know about you at the onset.
- Do not talk at length… and risk boring the interviewer.
This isn’t the time to give your life story. Keep it to 2 minutes or less and then give the interviewer a chance to respond or ask another question.
- Avoid such statements as: “I have 10+ years of experience.”
Again, it is much better to use this time to tell them something they can’t find in black and white on your resume.
An example of a good introduction
The purpose of this opening question is to get you talking and to set the tone. You have an opportunity to break the ice while making a strong first impression. If you can provide a compelling case for your application in the first five minutes, your confidence will rise and you will produce the momentum necessary to carry you through the rest of a successful interview.
Need help crafting your introduction? Proviso Consulting is here to support your career success! Our expert team can help guide you through the interview preparation process for any of our job listings. View jobs now!