Maybe you’ve dreaded that “tell me about yourself” moment, but think of it as a chance to sell yourself and your skills. You’ve been given an opportunity to showcase your experience in your own words. Take it and run with it!
Beginning with this question gives your interviewer a peek at your personality, level of professionalism and helps them come up with personalized follow up questions. You actually play a role in shaping what those questions might be, which makes it a lot easier to prepare.
Begin by making an outline of what you will say. Then rehearse.
Think of this as opening remarks—your chance to introduce yourself and give your audience/interviewer a feel for who you are and why they should care.
We’ll get to what you should (and shouldn’t) include, but for now, know that preparing and memorizing this intro is well worth your time. You can always leave room for spontaneous asides or replies to an interviewer’s questions, but going in with a plan is always smart.
Keep it brief.
As fascinating as your life story may be to you and your family, your interviewer doesn’t need all the details. Think of your experience in relation to the job at hand and how it fits with the company culture.
Keep it interesting and lean, generally at two minutes or less.
Be proactive about explaining gaps or questionable areas.
Take the initiative and speak to any gaps between jobs before your interviewer does. Trust us, they noticed and have probably made notes in the margins.
Don’t be dishonest and don’t fudge the dates to makes things look a little better. It’s easy to check records and you wouldn’t want your integrity to be in question.
But do highlight the positive things to come from the time off, including volunteer opportunities, a chance to brush up on skills, even travel. Your interviewer is human and will appreciate the honesty and recognize the benefits of gaining new perspectives, enrichment and relaxation.
Again, you’ve brought it up first, so it doesn’t look like you’re trying to hide anything. You’re proud of the outcome and you can present it in the best possible light.
Connect the dots.
Show a progression from the first job you listed to where you are now and connect one opportunity to another. This shows you have vision and you carefully chose opportunities that enhanced your skills and broadened your experience.
It also illustrates that it was a deliberate decision that led you to apply for this position.
Quantify your accomplishments.
You weren’t just the top salesperson, you were the top salesperson for three consecutive years, improving year-over-year sales by more than 15 percent each year.
Numbers give context and legitimacy to your accomplishments. They also present positive information as factual and not a matter of opinion.
You may have more than enough justification to badmouth an old boss or be critical of a company’s outdated policies or procedures. But resist the urge to be critical.
Instead, talk about the opportunity you took to think outside the box, make positive changes, reach out to others to collaborate, and eventually seek out an opportunity that moved you closer to your goals.
Make sure to be clear that those goals have led you here, to this very company and position.
An open-ended question like “tell me about yourself” or “walk me through your resume” is your chance to shine. Once you have a firm grasp on how to explain your experience, always tie it back to how you and your experience are a perfect fit for this company. Convey that everything you’ve done up to this point has led you to this opportunity.
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