Ever been in an interview and you are asked a simple casual question; you have no idea how to perfectly answer it, you try to gamble but your tongue can’t move. Your brain freezes and you start sweating. It is not a fun moment. It’s like watching your hope crumble to pieces right in front of you.
For instance, there’s this common question – Tell me about yourself?
For starters, no one is going to write a book about you at that moment. This is not a session for your biography. This is an interview. What do you say, what do you leave out? Tricky.
See, when you start narrating how you grew up in some town, went to this and that school, met some beautiful girl that is now your girlfriend … and you look at the interviewer’s smiles and you are convinced that he or she is taking in every word you’re saying, my friend, the interviewer could be far away in his or her own mind. Why? Most times, the more you talk about yourself, the less interesting you become. They can even zone out 5 seconds into the story, but you’ll see a smile on their face. Yet they are so far away, probably thinking about a certain meeting they scheduled for later in the day.
You ask; “why would they ask me such a question if they are not interested in my story”? … Because it’s in the script! They probably don’t really care about your career story, but they have a list of questions to ask interviewees and this question happens to be one of them.
So what do you do to get their interest? Become relevant. Until you make yourself relevant to him or her, it’s impossible for your interviewer to care about you. That’s how the human brain works.
When this question pops up, look at this moment as an opportunity for you to take control of the interview and position yourself as the perfect candidate for the job.
There are two reasons why hiring managers will ask this question:
- They want to see how you react to a question asked casually and without structure. They want to throw you off your game and break you free from the memorized answers.
- They want to get a feel for what you deem to be “important”. They are trying to get a sense of whether or not you truly understand which experiences, skills and abilities are relevant for the position you are interviewing for.
So please don’t respond with an ‘audio format’ of your CV or your life story. Don’t ask; “uh … What do you want to know?” Don’t go there.
Keep in mind, this is not about you, it’s about them. Focus on what interests your interviewer. Keep it short … a minute … 90 seconds at most.
90 seconds? Yes. Take this example;
You are seeking to work as a system analyst. The interviewer goes; tell me about yourself?
You say; I’ve been working for the past seven years as a systems analyst and data manager. During that time, I’ve been trained and certified on a number of different software platforms and systems.
Let’s say you passed that test and they go ahead and ask – Why should I hire you?
Some people will say – ‘because I need a job and you need an employee’. (So obvious, right?) Others will say – ‘because am suitable for the job and you need me’. Another person could literally narrate an ‘encyclopedia’ of themselves in that moment. No interviewer has time to listen to an entire ‘encyclopedia’ during an interview.
How do you nail this question then?
First and foremost, have the job description by heart. Don’t be in a state where you have no idea about the skills required for that job. If the advertising company/employer did not point out the job description in their advert, feel free to ask for it during the interview. No one will arrest you for asking.
Then, explain your skills/experience. If you want to be a system analyst, don’t tell them how good you can cook ‘luwombo’ nooo. Explain how you have the required experience/skill-sets to do that particular job. Stay relevant. If you have data and samples to back your claims, perfect. Present this information. (It acts as your ‘affidavit’).
Next, explain why you’re a good fit. Usually, there are more people in queue craving for that position. Keep in mind most employers would want people who know the space, the product and the teams. Take time to relate things you’ve done in the past to what the company expects you to do. It’s also important to explain how you believe in the values of the company at a personal level.
Another thing; show how you get stuff done. This is the most critical ability every employer is looking for; the ability to get things done, no matter what is an indispensable quality, and offer examples of how you’ve done that in the past.