Tell Me About Yourself
By Suzy Kedzierski
Sounds like a simple interview question to answer, but is it?
Greater New York City area Career Coach, Alex Freund, a.k.a., The Landing Expert, knows a thing or two about interviews. Over the course of his career, Freund has been on both sides of the Interviewer’s desk, allowing him to bring a unique perspective to the hiring process.
As Director at such Fortune 500 firms as Honeywell, Tyco, and Sanofi-Aventis, he was in a position to interview countless candidates and has become an expert on: body language, focus, energy, and succinct presentation.
Freund now offers one-on-one coaching, mock interview services, and résumé reviews and maintains a packed speaking schedule. In fact, in early August, he gave a presentation at a PSGCNJ general meeting; and, in the last six months, he has been PSGCNJ guest speakers three times. I caught up with this well-known speaker to get his insights into what would seem like the most basic of interview questions: “Tell me about yourself.”
Freund comments, “The question certainly seems simple and easy enough. But most of the time, it’s an overlooked trap for the average job-seeking professional.”
Why am I being asked this question?
According to Freund, “Five out of 10 Interviewers are not good at interviewing, and they know it. So they ask this question because probably it’s what they’ve been asked themselves when being interviewed for jobs. The question is actually rather illogical because the candidate has been invited to interview because of their professional background. So, why is this a prevalent question? Because it lets the Interviewer see how the candidate positions himself/herself. At this point, the interviewer is judging the candidate on the candidate’s delivery. It’s a guided, yet open-ended, question. And a good and strategic answer propels the candidate to a good start. A bad, poorly thought out answer digs the candidate into a hole from which it is difficult to climb out and change the interviewer’s first impression. So, that’s the reason that answering this question well is so very crucial.”
What are the traps I should avoid?
Freund says, “More than 80 percent of job candidates expect to be asked this question, but very few have a good answer. Remember that the Interviewer is focusing exclusively on trying to identify which of the candidates can solve their problems. This is not the time for a candidate to deliver a long-winded monologue about his life chronology from childhood on. The Interviewer is expecting a brief, work-related introduction that ends with a success story.”
What should I say?
Freund advises that the answer should have three parts, as follows.
- Give a brief overview of what makes you a professional. It could include, for example, your past title(s), size of managed budget(s), number of employees you’ve supervised, and how many direct reports you’ve had. Mention the scope of your work — but without getting into details.
- Give an example of a past accomplishment you’re proud of. Your delivery should begin with a brief summary of the situation you’re going to talk about. Next, mention the actions you took, and follow up with the results and the benefit to the company.
- Last, engage the Interviewer with a question in return through which he’ll reveal to you one of his current priorities. For example, you can ask about what the hired candidate will be doing in the first two or three weeks on the job. Then, once you know that, tell one of your past success stories.
In summary, Freund suggests, “The challenge with this answer is that you need to have already developed several of your success stories because you don’t know what his or her priorities are. The only way to ensure you can provide a successful answer is by practicing this again and again, because under pressure, most people do not perform at an optimal level. I posted a short video demonstrating how to answer to this question, via my LinkedIn profile, www.linkedin.com/in/alexfreundcareercoach.”
To engage Freund for a coaching service, or just to learn more about him, see:
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