I’m guessing a lot of you have felt like this when you were asked to “tell me a little bit about yourself” during a job interview.
What matters about yourself? What is important? Does my potential future boss really care about my undying love for the Minnesota Timberwolves? Probably not.
The key to nailing this question is simple: be relevant, specific, and concise.
Skip Freeman from the Personal Branding Blog recommends that you divide your answer in to three parts:
Part one will consist of a one-sentence statement of your career history, i.e., essentially the condensed version of your entire career history.
Part two consists of a one- OR two-sentence summary of a single career accomplishment that you are especially proud of and one that can reasonably be expected to capture the potential employer’s attention.
This final part is the most dynamic, as well as the part that must be customized to fit the particular career opportunity being sought. It needs to be a one- OR two-sentence summary of specifically what you want to do in your next career move AND it must be relevant to the position being sought.
The rule of three is a good format to stick to. This set up allows you to introduce yourself, brag a little bit, and make your pitch.
So, cut out the inane, irrelevant answers to this question. Don’t talk about your hobbies, or what you’re reading. Keep it on the relevant parts of your professional life as well. Unless you’re thin on career history, don’t mention the summer you spent selling hot dogs at the beach (unless you have a compelling reason to.) Talk about the internships you’ve done or some classwork that inspired you to get in to this field.
The mantra “show, don’t tell” applies here as well. When you mention your accomplishments, put some meat on the bone. Don’t just say you’er a hard worker. Say that “I made 25 short films over the course of the semester” or “I wrote for a hometown newspaper on the weekends.”
Don’t go on and on about yourself. Chances are that this won’t be the only question you’re asked during an interview. It may seem like a softball, but use the opportunity to knock one out of the park.This requires a little bit of homework. Have two or three good career accomplishments ready to talk about when you start. Use specific accomplishments or some concrete achievement. Make sure to tie it back to the job.
Freeman uses this example:
“I am a chemical engineer with eight years of experience, four which were in process engineering at Clorox working on improving plant productivity and four in specialty resin chemical sales where I help customers develop new products that improve their competitiveness in the marketplace. (Part One)
“Recently, through networking, I learned of a company that had great products except for their concrete coating line. I knew that we had a resin that would enable the company to develop a faster drying concrete coating, thereby improving the company’s ability to compete more effectively in their marketplace. I called on the decision-makers, got their interest, worked with R&D and helped them develop a product line that resulted in $2 million in new sales for the company in the first year, which meant $400K in new sales for us. (Part Two)
“For the next step in my career, I would like to be with a larger firm with more resources so that I can continue to drive business and grow sales for both the company and my customers in a wider variety of applications. Once I have proven myself and earned the right to get promoted, I would like to use my skills to lead and develop a sales team.”(Part Three)
This person provides an introduction to their professional career, cites an accomplishment, and brings it back to the company by relating it to the company.
Being prepared to answer this question can make a good first impression with your interviewer. That could be the difference between getting the job and getting rejected.