Thursday, May 26, 2011

Tell Me About Yourself – 4 steps to Preparing a Compelling Answer to This Interview Question

This question is one of the most commonly asked interview questions. When it is asked, it is usually one of the first questions. Your answer to this question can play a big role in making a positive first impression in the interview. This is one of the few interview questions that I recommend scripting out and practicing until you can say it by rote.

Keep in mind that this question is not a chance to offer your life story. The response should not include any personal information (i.e. where you grew up, how many dogs or kids you have, etc.) and should be no longer than two minutes. Here are some tips to prepare your answer to this important question.

Your background and experience
Offer an overview of how many years of experience you have to offer and your area of specialty in the field. Here is an example of how to start off the answer to the question. “I am a production manager who specializes in leading teams of up to 200 personnel to meet daily goals. I have more than 7 years of experience organizing maintenance professionals from multiple specialties. My experience includes production management in the semiconductor and microchip fields.”

Your skills
Do your research before the interview and define the company’s needs or specific problems that they hope to solve by filling the position. Identify your top two or three skills and speak about benefits these skills can bring to the company. For example, “I am a motivational leader who has the ability to gain team buy-in to new processes. I consider myself a productivity expert who is able to identify the source of inefficiencies and streamline procedures to optimize the team’s efforts.”

Your best accomplishment
Based on this same research, offer an example of your greatest accomplishment that demonstrates your ability to apply your skills such as “In fact, in my last position at XYZ Microchips, I was part of a continuous improvement team that revamped the production processes. By rearranging the production floor and streamlining the supply gathering procedures we were able to increase production by 22% while improving quality standards by 11%.”

Why you want to work for their company
As I discussed in a previous blog post, the job search process is not all about you. Never talk about what a company can offer you such as benefits, salary, or work conditions. Instead focus on the benefits you can bring the company with your skills. Make the interviewer feel as though you have chosen to work for their company – not as though you are just looking for a paycheck. For example, you could end your answer with a statement like this, “I understand that your company just started implementing Lean and 5S concepts. I have experience rolling out these programs at my previous employer and know I can be of assistance to your company during this same program implementation.”

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