You step into the interview room, looking sophisticated and feeling good. Your interviewer says, “Tell me about yourself,” French for “Give me one good reason I should risk losing a game of Minesweeper in order to give you my full attention.” This question is among the chart topping ones you can most certainly expect in an interview. Yet even though we are aware of what is to come on this daunting day, many of us still manage to ramble on during an interview in an unrehearsed and unstructured manner. So here we are to help - ticklemybrain’s guide on how not to royally mess up the three crucial interview questions: (1) tell me about yourself, (2) where do you see yourself in five years and (3) why should I hire you:
1. tell me about yourself: You have one minute. This question is a test of how well you can handle yourself in an unstructured situation. First things first, the wrong answer would be asking the interviewer what he or she would like to know. Such a response demonstrates that you have come unprepared and forecasts the image that you might equally be unprepared for the job.
a. recent and relevant: Most career coaches recommend you start by talking about your most recent and most relevant experiences while making sure you are focused on what interests the interviewer. No one wants to know that you can hold your breath for five minutes under water or that your first word uttered was “wow”. Rather the interviewer wants to know what you can do for the job they are looking to fill and whether you will get along with your team or not. Describe your last job and how you accomplished your daily work tasks. Make sure that this ‘story’ you tell includes the three most important qualities needed for the job. For example, you apply for a position as a senior financial analyst; this is a job that requires analytical, writing and communication skills. “At my most recent position, I was employed as a consultant within my company’s real estate practice. I developed pro-forma financial returns analysis to assess the financial viability of proposed real estate projects and helped clients prepare for fund raising activities (interviewer thinks: "Wow, he is super analytical."). In the last two years, I have been engaged, from start to completion, on six market and financial feasibility study reports (interviewer thinks: "Clearly, the guy can write reports."). My communication skills were cultivated here, as among my many tasks, I managed project workflows, presented financial and market findings to clients and assisted junior consultants in developing real estate market research and analyses (interviewer thinks: "And he can manage people, he is too good to be true!"). I am also a candidate for the CFA Level II." When your one minute speech is over, if the person looking to hire you has to read into your resume to ask you another question, it means what you said was not interesting enough to provoke more questions.
b. stories that stick: When you list a certain attribute, provide a story because stories are what stick. For example, rather than simply stating that you are amazing at Excel, give an example of how you once saved the day using v-lookup and 16 nested if statements. When story-telling, never volunteer any personal information about your family, alternate identity or why you think the Burger King french fry is truly better than the McDonald's french fry.
2. where do you see yourself in five years: The point of this question is to test your self-awareness. No answer is either right or wrong but the best answer to this question comes from you figuring out (1) what are you passionate about (reassess what you really like/dislike in work and life in general) and (2) what your goal in life is. Begin by considering your short-term goals. There is nothing wrong with being a person that lives each day as it comes and it’s perfectly fine to be someone who seriously plans the future. The majority of people, either purposefully or due to lack of knowledge, let events roll out as life happens. If you are amongst this group of individuals, you have to thoroughly preplan and rehearse an answer before the interview. If you are a candidate that belongs to the former group, answering the question will be simple. All that you have to do is be convincing in either point of view that you adhere to. Ultimately, this question can make or break you because you never know what your “growth potential” at this company is or what the employer wants to hear. While the answer may vary, keep in mind the following:
a. i will be president: Be realistic. Can you really see yourself in this 'place' in five years and do your dreams fit the purpose of the job you are seeking?
b. i want to conquer the world: Not every company is looking for the star achiever who wants to fire up the company ladder. Consider that the person hiring can be concerned about their own growth potential if they think you might outshine them. So sound smart, yet humble. Maybe they need someone that is willing to give a year to the position before moving on to other opportunities within the organization. An overly ambitious answer that would require moving out of the current position quickly may turn your employer off. Similarly, an answer where you appear complacent or lacking a desire for more responsibility may discourage your interviewer from pursuing you.
c. nobody likes a liar: When answering this question the best policy, as always, is honesty. If you have very specific goals and plans for the next five years, it does nobody any good for you to paint a different picture. If the position does not allow you to reach your objectives, then you are probably interviewing for the wrong job. If your objectives are not defined yet, then here is a good answer: “I have hopes of taking on new challenges and advancing my career when it’s appropriate. However, I’m focused on the job at hand, and the pace that any advancement happens will be determined by whether I’ve earned it or not. If I perform beyond the company’s expectations for as long as I’m needed in the current role, I would hope there will eventually be opportunities to grow in the organization.”
d. i plan to learn: Top business schools advise you to focus on what you hope to learn, rather than a specific position or title. You can also shorten the timeframe of the question and say, "I know that within a year, I hope to engage three new clients, be a lead interviewer and work on two projects abroad."
3. why should I hire you: How will you be of benefit to the company? Don’t talk about what you want, but instead mention why you want to work for that specific company and what benefits you will be bringing to the job if they choose to hire you. Remember, this point is the epitome of selling.
a. that job description: Discuss aspects from your background that relate to the requirements of the job on hand. It’s preferable that you review the job description at home. Don’t forget to mention the key words that are typed in the job vacancy posting; interviewers appreciate you doing your homework. This is the time where you should highlight your most relevant important achievements, list your unique selling points and winning character traits (don’t underestimate this part, if you are a people person, they should know it) and prove what you have to offer in relation to what the company is looking for.
b. me plus you: End your answer by reconnecting your fit with the opportunity. Here is a ticklemybrain worthy answer we found: "From our discussion, it sounds as if you are looking for someone with extraordinary analytical skills and the ability to think outside the box. My last position depended on my analytical abilities. My extroverted personality and adaptive learning style enable me to understand problems rapidly. My colleagues would tell you I'm a team player who maintains a positive attitude. I have the ability to stay focused in stressful situations and can be counted on when things get tough. I'm confident I would be a great addition to your team."
Always remember the interviewer wants to know that you can do the job and deliver results according to your previous work accomplishments. You don’t want to sound rehearsed, so the best tip that career coaches provide is to write your answers down and rehearse them well before the interview. Asking a question is a great way to close an interview and demonstrates curiosity. Ultimately, think about what makes you unique. Everyone applying to the job thinks they can do it, you need to show why you can do it better.
sources: content from (1) www.about.com - job searching, (2) www.acpeople.com - interview, (3) www.actingforbusiness.com - interview skills, (4) www.mvpsource.com - interview tips, (5) www.theladders.com - interviewing