Interviewing to Get the Job … Question: ‘Tell me about yourself’
When you head into an interview take these two mindsets with you:
You are there as the solution to the employer’s problem.
You are interviewing the interviewer, position, and company as a good fit for you.
Today is about Mindset #1
Frame every question you answer knowing that the interviewer only cares about how you can solve their problem. To do that, you need to know what the interviewer needs and wants from a person in the position. You also need to recognize your unique value: your knowledge, skills, talents, experiences that provide the solution to those needs so you can tell them how your unique value will help solve their problem.
Take this typical interview opener … “Tell me about yourself.”
Your strategy is to match your particular qualifications to the position requirements. To position yourself as who and what the interviewer is looking for.
Here’s how it works:
Before you head to the interview, make sure you have read the job description again and fully understand who/what the interviewer wants. This takes some analysis of the posting to find out what is their biggest problem or goal. Do as much research as possible in preparation.
When they pose the opener, probe for more information. A possible response is, “I want to make the best use of our time here by talking about how I can fulfill your needs. To help me do that, could you tell me about the priorities of this position?”
A possible response is, “I want to make the best use of our time here by talking about how I can fulfill your needs. To help me do that, could you tell me about the priorities of this position?”
After they respond, follow up with another question to draw out more specific needs. You always want to ask additional questions as they usually reveal what the interviewer really is looking for. The second question may be as simple as, “What else may be central to the job?”
If possible, ask a third question developed from their first two responses.
Now that you really know their need, you can tailor your answer listing the attributes you bring and align them to the job. Support your information with specific examples of parallel successes.
Turning the interview process around like this may feel odd at first — certainly it’s easier just to answer questions — but by uncovering the interviewer’s needs, you will give great answers. So the key here is practice. Just as a baseball pitcher practices a few throws before he steps up to the mound, you also want a “warm up.” Practice asking the questions out loud. You will become at ease with them and able to easily ask them during an interview.
Using this strategy to answer this seemingly innocent opener will put you leagues ahead of other interviewees.
Sharon Boerbon Hanson is associate executive director of Advance IT Minnesota, a Center of Excellence that promotes awareness of and excellence in IT careers in order to ensure business success. She has over 25 years’ experience marketing and brand-building, and has been a resume and interview coach 15 years.