Written by Jennifer Evans, Executive Legal Recruiter
Recently, I commented on a post about how to answer the question – “Tell me about yourself?” – the most frequently asked interviewing question. Based on the response, I thought I would expand on my thoughts.
When I ask the question, “Tell me about yourself?” it is an icebreaker: it is a way for me to get the interview started and to get a quick sense of someone’s personality. There is no hidden agenda, and it is not to meant to be an overly challenging question; however, many struggle with the response.
In my 25+ years of interviewing, I have received a variety of answers; some definitely better than others.
The Majority Fall into One of the Following Categories:
- The Talker – A complete life/professional summary of their experience that goes on, and on, and on. A 10-minute response is too long! (Personally, I think 5-minutes is too long).
- The Deflector – Responding with a question first; “Can I ask you some questions first?”, and then he/she starts asking me a bunch of questions. (This is often referred to as the SPIN approach. This can work but only with the savviest of professionals.) Or, I will get “What do you want to know?” This is a fairly strong response and can also work, but finesse is important otherwise it comes off defensive or overly aggressive.
- Choked – The super nervous who just don’t know what to say, so they stumble & rambling offering random information.
- Nailed It – Those that are comfortable & who give a quick friendly response setting the tone for the interview.
So, How Do You Answer the Question Well? I recommend focusing on the following Four Cs:
- Conversational – Since, this is truly an icebreaker question, it is important to express warmth and have good eye contact & voice control. Be engaged and show the interviewer you are excited to be there.
- Connect – Your response should include something that connects you specifically with the job you are interviewing for.
- Creative – It should be interesting enough to be your personal story so it draws me in – Not a canned summary of your résumé.
- Concise – A good response should be 1-2 minutes tops. This takes practice! Don’t feel like you have to offer a lot more.
Here is an Example of What I Might Say:
“Sure, I’d be happy to. (Conversational – this sets a tone of friendliness & engagement.)
I have been in legal recruitment for over 25 years spanning from career coaching to selling a search practice. (Connects me to position – Assuming I am applying for a leadership position in legal recruitment/talent acquisition.)
After, working for 19 years, I returned to get a degree in Business Leadership & confirmed that talent acquisition really matches up well with my strengths & personality. I am looking forward to hearing how I can offer value to this position. (Creative & Concise – I am offering some personal info, but keeping it open, so I can lead them into wanting to get to know more about me.)
If you are still “winging it” in interviews, I would encourage you to take the time to really think about how to respond to this question. A good response takes preparation and practice.