No four words seem to inspire such terror in interview candidates. It isn’t a difficult question, but I’ve watched clients in mock interviews reduce themselves to stuttering and rambling facades of the amazing professionals they are when faced with this icebreaker. From my perspective as a coach, both HR and candidates are missing the boat with this question; interviewers think they are easing into the interview, but instead they are starting off on a stressful note for most candidates. On the other hand, job seekers are adding an enitrely uncalled for dimension of pressure by trying to adapt their answer to this introduction to fit with what they think the interviewer wants to hear.
Since this is one of the most common interview questions, here are 5 tips for giving a stellar answer:
Be Real: Don’t describe yourself as something you’re not. You’ll be found out quick enough, and the last thing you want is to sell a false bill of goods. In addition to competency, the hiring manager is looking to hire someone who would be a good fit with the team and the organization. Better to find out now if that is or isn’t you than to find out 6 months from now when you’re both miserable.
Be Prepared: If this isn’t one of the answers you’ve practiced & prepared for previous interviews, start now. Write out your spiel. Remember that they’ve already read your resume and cover letter, so don’t just restate your qualifications. Practice delivering your answer, aiming for 90 seconds to 2 minutes. That’s enough time to say something interesting, but not long enough to deliver your life story.
Craft Your Career Story: Like any good story, you’ll want to have a beginning, middle and ending, though your ending can just be what leads you to that moment or point in your career. When you’re brainstorming ideas, reflect on what’s led you to your field/profession, or maybe it’s been the journey that has brought you to your current situation. Consider some of these questions: Why do I do what I do? What do I find most interesting about my field? If I could do any career, what would it be? Here are my answers to help you work out yours:
I work in career development because I get to explore every career and field without having to actually be able to do it myself. I’m eternally curious, and I love learning. I also love helping people and sharing what I’ve learned. That’s why I started out preparing to be a professor, but have found immense satisfaction as a career coach.
Technology is constantly changing, so I always have new things to learn about social media, online services, hiring & HR practices, and how I can use technology to help my clients reach their goal. I never anticipated that I would be researching software and platforms to the extent that I do, and I love the challenge.
I started my career planning to be a professor because I loved teaching, research and writing, and those are all the things that I do every day while helping my clients reach their goals. Right now, I can’t imagine a different career, but I’m always open to possibility.
Be Unique: Before this goes off the rails, what I mean is don’t speak in cliches, or give the stock answers you think they want to hear (strong communicator! leader! teamwork! blah blah blah). They’ve heard it all before, and they’re asking about you. Take the time to inject yourself in the story and give an example or two about things that have impacted you and your professional development. Those details help make you memorable because the other candidates don’t share your past experiences.
Be Happy: Not strange laughing-gas-bad-sitom-moment kinda happy, but that genuineness that comes from accepting yourself. It’s all too easy to let notes of desperation into your voice & story, especially if you’re interviewing for a job that you really want. The more time that you put into crafting, refining and practicing your introduction, the more compelling it will become. Listen to yourself when you’re practicing. Hear the words and the confidence in your delivery. You’re pretty amazing, right? Don’t let your nerves take that away!
Have other interview questions you’d like to see disussed? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and if I feature your question in a blog post, I’ll trade you a 30-minute free coaching session for your blog post idea.