Most executives have interview experience that spans years of professional meetings. However, no matter how many interviews you’ve participated in, one question always seems to stump people. It’s often the first question an interviewer asks: “So, tell me about yourself.”
Delivering a poor response to this question can start the interview off on a bad foot. To avoid having to redeem yourself after that, follow a simple strategy to answering, “Tell me about yourself.”
THE “TELL ME ABOUT YOURSELF” FORMULA
You should customize your responses for each position you interview for, but practice a basic formula to make it come easily.
- Say who/what you are. This is the best way to include your title in your description of yourself. For example, you could say, “I am an experienced sales executive” or, “I’m an operations manager with twenty years of specialization in the manufacturing industry.”
- Explain your strengths. Don’t regurgitate your resume. Instead of walking step by step through your past positions, give a high-level look at the traits that made you excel at them. You could share a few strengths backed by data, such as, “I’m a good leader, a creative problem-solver, and I excel at identifying operational inefficiencies. That’s how I saved my last employer 15% on their annual operating costs by reorganizing the employee structure.”
- Try a soft sell. Now that you’ve shared what you do and why you’re good at it, this is the opportunity to show why you want the position and why you’d be great at it. Make this part of your introduction as specific as possible, based on what you know about the company and the job. For example, you could say something like, “I’m looking for an opportunity to manage a larger internal marketing team, which is why I think I’d be a fit for this CMO position.”
There are a few additional tips to remember when you craft your perfect response:
- Don’t give too many personal details. You may have an opportunity for small talk later on in the interview, which is when you can share your hobbies and where you went to college. Including those details in your initial introduction could distract from the important aspects that relate to the job.
- Don’t talk for too long. No matter how you answer, keep your response brief, yet descriptive—our recruiting experts recommend speaking for no longer than two minutes. Answer the question, then pause. If your interviewer hasn’t received all the information they’d like, they’ll ask you follow-up questions.
- Practice, practice, practice. Even if you write down your response ahead of time, it could sound awkward when you say it aloud for the first time. Practice responding to the question out loud so there’s no nerve-wracking discomfort when you speak with your interviewer.
WANT MORE INTERVIEW TIPS?
Our blog is full of resources for executive interviews, including:
- What to Expect in an Executive Interview
- 10 Ways to Make a Good Impression During a Phone Interview
- When to Talk Pay in an Interview
- 3 Clever Ways to Evaluate Company Culture in an Interview
- The Most Effective Questions to Ask Your Interviewer
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