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Interview Questions

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Tell Me About Yourself  
    Notes and Advice from Andy Anand

“Tell me about yourself” is a typical ice-breaker during interviews. Most candidates fear this question because it is so broad, and they don’t really know what the interviewer is looking for.

Consequently, candidates tend to ramble in different directions hoping to strike some kind of chord or common experience or interest with the interviewer. They describe hobbies, family, where they were born. Ramble, ramble, ramble.

After you read this article, you will discover how “Tell me about yourself” can become your best friend during your interview, and a great chance to impress the interviewer.

This question is, in fact, a golden opportunity to sell your qualifications to the interviewer at the very front-end of the interview when first impressions are so critically important. If you get this question, you can quickly separate yourself from the pack with a solid answer.

Here are some suggestions for how to answer this question:

Don’ts: You should avoid hobbies, family, religion, and all things personal with this question unless you already know for sure you have a common interest with the interviewer. If you walk into someone’s office, and they have dog show trophies on their bookcase, and you are also into dog competitions, you might want to bring that up. Solid advice, though, is to avoid these personal areas altogether and focus on your career interests.

Do’s: Do focus your answer on your career goals, your strengths as an employee, why you are here interviewing with THIS company at THIS time for THIS job.

Prepare. The biggest mistake you can make as a candidate is not preparing for your interview. You should anticipate this question and prepare for it. Rehearse your answer with a friend or by yourself in the closet. Make sure your answer is concise, not rambling, and sells YOU. Your answer should take about one minute or less; no rambling.

Sample Answer:

Introduction to who you are / how you got started: “Well, I graduated with a Bachelor’s in Mechanical Engineering from Penn State University in 1989. While I was at Penn State, I worked full time at a shoe factory to pay the bills while carrying a full course load at the university. It was hard, but I think this really showcases my work ethic and goal orientation.

From there, I went into the mechanical design field where I worked for a couple of years designing headers for a car parts company. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I liked working with customers more than computers, so I transferred into the sales department and learned all I could.”

Brief overview of your career, philosophy of success, and why they should hire you: “Within three years, I was the leading sales person in my region, selling 23% more than anyone else. To me, the key to selling success was pretty simple; I just had to understand the customer’s problem and then offer a solution from our product line. I worked very hard to build loyal relationships with my customers, and that translated to success. But just like in college, the goal setting and the work ethic really paid off as well. I was able to outwork most of my colleagues.

Hiring you helps them: “Now, this brings me to why I am here today interviewing with you. I think what you are doing with fuel injection is exactly what the customer is looking for, and I would like the chance to represent your product line out there. With your product line and my experience, we could really dominate the competition.”

Your Goals: “Eventually, I would like the chance to lead other sales people in a territory, and I also feel my chances of moving up are better with your company if I can prove myself to you as I have with my present company.”

This answer is honest, real, and positions you well against other interviewers who are rambling on about their recent divorce, their 12 cats, their addiction to computer games, or their kids. You have sold yourself, while they are groping around for a secret and random “connection.” If you are properly prepared for this question, it is truly a golden opportunity to win the race and take the job for yourself. Be ready for it!

Additional Resources:
More sample interview questions than you can imagine are in the Interview Questions and Answers Database. This resource is affordable for almost anyone and is highly recommended.


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