When you talk about yourself, do people listen? Do their eyes glaze over in boredom? Something in between? Knowing what to say, how to say it and, even more importantly, what NOT to say about yourself, is an art, and an important one. Telling your story in a compelling way is one of the most important things you can get right – not only in the job search process and on the job but also in, well, life.
Does your heart sink when the first question the interviewer asks is, “Tell me about yourself?” You’re not prepared, right? Well most of us aren’t! For a variety of reasons we haven’t trained ourselves in the fine art of positively, interestingly and succinctly describing who we are and what we can do. Most of us panic and start rambling on about middle school and completely lose the thread.
But I bring good news! Telling others about ourselves is in fact deceptively simple. In this post I’m going to give you a brief crash course in how to answer this question when you have an interviewer of any kind staring you down as you do so.
- Remember that the question is not in fact the question. Hey, the interviewer doesn’t really care that much about you and your life story. All they wants to know is: Can you do this job well and make their life easier? Will you enhance their work by bringing something new and needed? Can they relate to you? Will you have a good rapport and the ability to enjoy working together? So what they’re asking is not in fact what they’d like to know. Your job is to realize that and give them what they want.
- This story is heavily edited for the audience. Your narrative should be, in fact, a highly entertaining, relatable romp through the highlights of your interesting career, studded with quick, engaging examples of what you can do and the evidence (since you’ve already done this high-level work for others). You will have studied the role and the organization in order to relate specific examples from your skill story that speak well to what they are seeking in this role.
- You are the hero of your story. But in a modest way. Don’t forget: You’re going for likeable here. Your story, which incorporates your skills writ large, must convey that you are a problem solver who has done this job, or some variation of this job before, and that you’re capable of anything this new job can throw your way. It’s an epic tale of heroism and derring-do, with you as the real hero. Be prepared to lay out some challenges, your actions, and the resolutions, all briefly, confidently and entertainingly.
Want examples? Tune in a couple of weeks from now for some real-life narratives my clients have used in their successful interviews. If you’re worried about missing it, just sign up to receive my posts regularly here.
Photo Credit Allison Cheston, Whistler Blackcomb March 2018