It’s not easy to interview someone. A hiring manager may be great at what she does for a living, but it doesn’t mean that she can immediately become a gifted interviewer on demand. In my experience, major corporations require managers to interview candidates without providing them with any suitable training or guidance. They’re thrown into the deep end of the pool and expected to swim gracefully. To compound matters, in today’s litigious society, interviewers have to be incredibly careful about the questions they ask, as to not offend anyone or inadvertently ask an illegal or unethical question. This, in part, is why job seekers are subjected to a barrage of bland cliché interview questions.
In this and follow-up articles, I’d like to help you prepare for the traditional standard operating procedure type of questions that you will most likely be asked. Knowing these questions in advance is like having the answers to a test in high school. You’ll now be prepared to ace the interview and test.
A quintessential go-to question that interviewers are asked is, “Could you please tell me about yourself?” It sounds fairly innocuous at face value, but is a challenge for most people to answer. This open-ended question, which can’t be answered with a simple “yes” or “no” response suggests that there are a number of various ways you could tackle it. Without proper preparation, it is easy to go off on tangents and talk yourself out of a job.
In my opinion, it’s an icebreaker question designed to gain insight into you as a person. However, this seemingly innocent question could easily blow up on you. A natural rational response would be to share details of your life and start rambling, trying to gauge your interviewer’s reactions to see if you are heading in the right direction. Before you realize it, you’re going back to your childhood, then talking about college experiences and shifting to hobbies hoping you’ll hit on something that resonates with the manager.
There are a few important things to keep in mind when asked this question. Frame this question as, “Tell me about what you do at your job and why your background is right for this role?” In this context, the question becomes a big fat softball to hit out of the ballpark. You should respond by telling her about yourself from a work perspective. Walk the interviewer through your daily responsibilities, projects you’re proudly working on and a little bit of your past jobs. You should also add details about your education and interests. Keep in mind, everything you say should relate back to the position that you’re interviewing for. The question allows you to sell your background, skills, education, talents, current and past responsibilities that prove you could do all that’s required in this new position.
This is not a time to engage in self-critical analysis. Say only positive things without bragging about yourself and your work experiences. At this juncture, she didn’t ask about your weaknesses, so there’s no need to point out your failings.
Stay focused and on point with your answers. If you pay close attention to politicians, they all have their talking points. When asked questions by the press, they rely upon tried-and-true answers. No matter what the question is, they’ll answer it with a self-serving positive spin. If you are unhappily employed, as you talk about your work, you may inadvertently express your displeasure with your current boss and company. You must avoid digressing into sharing any grievances, even though the interviewer asks probing questions to entice you to continue this rant. This will only portray you in a poor light as a malcontent who will one day be complaining about her to another interviewer. Don’t deviate from your pitch of how your background and skills perfectly suit the job at hand.
Once you feel that you’ve effectively sold yourself, it is fine to offer a few non-controversial personal tidbits. You can provide super safe examples of your interests and hobbies, such as volunteering for worthy causes. Feel free to offer any insights that will make her see you as a real person with integrity, intelligence, loyalty, possessing a strong work ethic and someone who will be easy to work with.
Then, you could wrap up the answer by restating why your background will easily enable you to succeed in the job and your personality would be a great fit with the manager and corporate culture.