Thursday, January 31, 2008

Tell Me About Yourself

As a prospective employee in an interview, most candidates have encountered the dreaded opening question. Tell me about yourself? This may seem like a straightforward question. If a candidate encountered this question in any other environment the answer may involve the number of children at home, educational background, and a list of hobbies. Unfortunately, these types of responses would be inappropriate to a future employer. What response is an interviewer looking for, then, when this question is asked? Jeff Skrentny has created a formula for candidates to market themselves successfully in the Jefferson Recruiters Report article, “Answering the Tell Me About Yourself Question.”

Part One: Create a one-sentence summary of your career history. This single sentence encapsulates the most important aspects of your entire career.

Example: “I am a five-year veteran of LAN/WAN Admin and Systems Engineering with substantial experience using Novell, NT, Cisco, and Lotus Notes/Domino.

Part Two: Capture the potential employer’s attention with a one, maybe two-sentence summary of your single greatest accomplishment.

Example: “Recently, as a long-term contract employee at a local regional bank, I learned they were about to install Lotus Notes/Domino and were planning to use outside consultants for the project. I let them know I had done a similar installation at my last assignment, outlined how we could get the job done with in-house staff, and successfully completed the install for $55-65k less than it would have cost with outside consultants.”

Part Three: Create a one-sentence summary of specifically what you want to do next in your career. This final piece can be changed to be job specific at each interview.

Example: “For the next step in my career, I would like to move away from contract work and find myself as a direct employee of a large firm where I could join a substantial IT team and be involved with a group that focuses on email and network security applications, while having access to the knowledgebase that would come with a large, diverse, IT group.”

Understanding what a prospective employer is looking for when asking, “Tell me about yourself,” and having an answer prepared will show you are a serious candidate. This will give you an advantage over a candidate who answers with personal information instead of marketing themselves professionally. According to Skrentny, “Candidates who take the time to do this, significantly improve their initial verbal impression, get their interview off to a confident and focused beginning, and more often than not get called back for second interviews, or better yet, for offers of employment with employers who are impressed.”

For the complete article by Jeff Skrentny:

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