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Mastering One Dreaded Interview Question

Mastering One Dreaded Interview Question


Preparing for the job interviewBy Kristen Carter
Contributor, Career Services

It’s bound to happen to you. You’ve researched and studied all of the possible questions an interviewer may ask. You’ve identified specific work experiences to showcase how your skillset is relevant to the job at hand. You feel prepared and confident you are going to ace this interview.

But, all of a sudden, the question comes out of left field. We’ve all been there. An interviewer asks a question that we didn’t expect, “Tell me about yourself.”

You were hoping they wouldn’t ask it. It’s a simple question, yet why is it so difficult to answer? Your heart stops for a split second. You’ve rehearsed your response for every other question, except this one. You’re stumped.

How hard can it be, really? Just talk about myself, right? Or wrong. Your answer to this question will set the tone of your interview, so it is best to think through how you might answer this question prior to the meeting. While applicants tend to ramble on about themselves, instead, be sure to focus on your professional self and how it directly relates to the position to which you have applied.

The interviewer is not interested in knowing about the ages of your children, how many pets you have, or what you like to do for fun on the weekends. Instead, give a quick rundown of your professional experience. For example, there is no need to focus on your stocking job during the holiday season if the role to which you have applied does not require such a skillset. You need to show the interviewer that you can connect how your previous experience relates to the new job. There’s a reason companies provide job descriptions. Read them thoroughly so you can articulate exactly how you have carried out the skills they are seeking.

Also, be sure to highlight why you are interested in the company. Is there a phrase within the company’s mission statement that you personally align with? Or while researching the company, did you find that you connected with some of the projects the company has carried out? Sharing this type of information personalizes your interview and has the potential to make you stand out among other applicants.

Now, if you are transitioning industries, give the interviewer some background as to how you became interested in the field. What sparked the sudden change of heart to pursue something different? An interviewer is likely wondering this, so be sure to address it, even if you have already talked briefly about it in your cover letter.

Of course, should an interviewer ask you directly about your hobbies, you will want to answer the question. Just don’t lead with this information, unless it is requested of you. You have a limited amount of time to sell yourself within an interview, so take advantage of it by concentrating on the skills and abilities you possess that will propel the company forward.