Expert Opinion

Interviewing “so tell me about yourself”

Interview Tips and Coaching

Perhaps the most frustrating feedback for both agent and candidate post interview is, “your candidate was excellent…its just that  her counterpart was marginally better, pretty much a coin-flip, and sadly for your candidate she lost out to the other applicant”

In the early part of my career I found this opaque feedback highly frustrating, and it was clear if I did not gain a clearer and complete understanding of how to ensure my candidates were “marginally better” my career was in danger of being forever overcast by a shade of grey.

This prompted me to get under the skin of what a suitable fit was. So a closer look was given to  that unique eco-system that is planet interview; to see what happens in this often intemperate climate. Having read countless publications and placed innumerable candidates, I like to think I have some handle on what it takes to get over the line.

An interview is many things, an exchange of views, a transfer of power;  it is for better or worse ultimately a sales process – your CV being the sales document that gets you to the meeting, the meeting being the pitch. It is on this latter point most applicants fail, many feeling it is cheesy or forward – the sell.

Interview coaching

When providing interview tips and coaching, I ask candidates how they normally navigate interviews, and the most usual response is “I just tend to be myself”.

Very few candidates ask themselves the following important questions:

  • What is my employee proposition?
  • How do I differentiate myself from a shortlist of three other entities of equal cost and value to the organisation?

This may sound dry, but this is ultimately how you will be viewed. You should think about:

    • How will I impact the interviewer such that they are considering me and only me after a full week of interviewing many candidates for this role?
  • How do I get the interviewer to move from viewing me as capable to desirable?

Possibly one per cent of the candidate population know the answer – make sure you stand out from the crowd.

One of my key job interview tips – and key to any job seekers success, is to make no assumptions regarding what is known about your skillset. How prepared are you to articulate the value of what you do to a third party who knows nothing about you? A common blunder I witness in my interview coaching is when applicants are asked to tell me about themselves and well, they do just that. This leaves them vulnerable to candidates who take a more measured view on how to answer interview questions, and express recent and relevant achievements in terms of the interviewers’ and group goals. Fewer still are those who can frame the relevance of their achievements in terms of a broader company agenda.


How to answer interview questions

Candidates at the smart end of interviewing generally realise it is all about scoring points and know that thoroughly researching a company prior to interview pays significant dividends.

After all – if it is indeed down to a coin flip – then when asked “What do you know about the company?”, the candidate who can speak extensively about the company in terms of revenue, p/e ratio, mission statements and values is likely to come across as pro-active and so of greater interest than one who does not.

To conclude, you are ready to interview when asked at any given time to “tell me about yourself?”, you can express yourself without hesitation, repetition or deviation for three minutes about recent and relevant work that will solve your future employer’s problem. Candidates who do not prepare in this manner are likely to find themselves falling behind candidates that do.

Found this interesting? You might also be interested in our guide to the pros and cons of accepting a counter offer from your current employer.