So, Tell Me About Yourself!
It’s the very first question. You really want this job. What does the interviewer want you to tell them? Should you tell them you are a Cubs fan to prove you do something in your free time? Start with your family, married, three kids in high school and college? You are getting your pilot’s license?
First, why is the interviewer starting off with this particular question? And statistics tell us that 95% of the time, they will start the interview with the ‘Tell me…’ question.
The interviewer is both watching and listening to you. He is taking in how you sit, your confidence level, your communication style, basically your professional persona. He is considering if he likes you, and if you would fit in with the rest of the team. Because of multiple agendas, this question is likely one of the most important questions of the entire interview, and it’s critical that you prepare for it by planning for it and practicing.
“Tell me about yourself… For example, “I am a Senior IT Director. Or, I am a Regional Sales Manager. Or, I am an Executive Admin.” Your label may not be the exact title of your recent job. It is a generic phrase or word of your recent title. Some companies call their VP of Production, ‘Team Lead,’ which doesn’t give the interviewer any understanding of the VP’s level and experience. The first thing to do is translate your company’s title into a label that is universal and communicates exactly what you do, who you lead, and the level of experience you have attained.
Next, continue with a sentence or two of this recent experience.
“I am a VP of Supply, and most recently I worked for Johnston Company where I have been leading the procurement division for the past three years, responsible for managing 5 direct reports who were senior managers. The entire division included 15 people with senior managers, supervisors and associates. Johnston Company is a 1 billion dollar company requiring deep knowledge of the auto industry supply chain.”
“But, let me take you back to the early years of my career.” And here you begin with your college major if it fits with the job you are interviewing for. “My first 3 years out of college, I continued at the company where I had done a summer internship. They offered me a good job right out of school, so I took it. The following 5 years, I moved over to a company in the auto industry that reached out to me thru a recruiter. That is where I began to really understand the industry, and, too where I became fascinated with procurement, building relationships with the vendors and learning to assure the best prices for my company.
Gradually, I moved up to the level of VP, as I transitioned to two more companies, still staying in the auto industry.
I am a leader, and I enjoy hiring, training and managing direct reports to their highest performance level. I have found that if my associates are well trained and motivated, my job is easier, and I can contribute more to the company. Therefore, as a senior leader, I focus on the people reporting to me and encourage their growth.
As a leader, I also focus on the company strategic plan and manage my department to support the company goals.
Below is a “Tell me…” template to prepare your answer to the first question.
- I am a ___________, and recently worked for ______________where I did__________ for __________years. The company is in the ________industry and is a $5M company.
- Let me take you back to my earlier experience.
The first 3 years, I worked for ________providing________ for the company.
I was recruited to work for _____________which was a step up to management.
- I enjoyed that position for _______years, but decided it was time to change to a role in _____________,and I took a job with _____________, another large corporation. I believe my strengths are in three areas: __________, ____________ and _________which I’d like to contribute to this company.
Preparing will reduce the anxiety of the first few minutes. Practice with family members or a friend until this question is easy and comfortable for you. 2-3 minutes is the maximum time frame in which to give your answer, so during your practicing, ask your friend to time you.
The hiring manager is determining three things:
Can you do the job?
Will you do the job?
Will they like you while you are doing it?
With practice, you will ace this all important first question.