A Candidate’s Guide to Making a Great First Impression While Interviewing
Let’s face it, interviewing is stressful enough without having to answer stupid interview questions. But unfortunately, many interviewers, because of habit, lack of preparation time, poor training, or yes, even laziness, often ask stupid questions. Of those, one of the most challenging is the oft used “Tell me about yourself” interview opener.
What most candidates ask me about this insipid interview question is: “What do they want to know?” They want to know about you the candidate as a potential employee. They don’t want to know about your family, your last vacation, your hobbies, your religious beliefs, that you like the Cubs , or that you are a proud member of AA. Yes, I have had candidates give each of those responses to the infamous “Tell me about yourself” question. I don’t recall any of them ever getting hired by the employers who interviewed them.
Interviewers also think it is improper, a sign of your lack of preparedness, or even rude, for you to answer their “Tell me about yourself” question with a question of your own like, “What would you like to know?” If you are prepared, and seriously thinking about making a career change, you will have a prepared and thoughtful answer to this question BEFORE you begin interviewing.
Why? I am glad you asked, and I think one example should convince you I am right.
Let me share just one story about this opening interview question that cost a candidate a job she REALLY wanted. It is a perfect illustration to make you understand why you must plan a response for this question whether you are asked it or not. The scenario was this: The candidate was a financial services professional, her recruiter had a financial services client that was looking to fill a VP position for a 125k base + 25k bonus. The candidate had an ideal background and skill set, and the client thought she was a perfect fit. The candidate knew the client and was thrilled to interview with her. The client joked that when the candidate came to the interview the recruiter should send the candidate with an invoice for the fee, because they thought they might make her an offer on the spot.
You can more or less guess how the story ended. The candidate didn’t get the job, but please pay attention as to why, because that is the part of the story that matters most. To start the interview the candidate was asked the dreaded “Tell me about yourself” question. Thinking that it was an inconsequential icebreaker question, she retorted, simply intending to cause an opening chuckle, “Well, as you can obviously see, I am 15-20 pounds overweight.”
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Gary Perman is President of Perman Technical Search Group, a national search firm that specializes in recruiting Executives to Engineers in the technology industry since 1996.
If you have questions about this article, feel free to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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