#3 of 5 Tough Interview Questions – “Tell me about yourself”

A five-part series of really tough interview questions… and how to respond!!

5 tough eLast week’s essay covered the question “Why should we hire you?”

You need to know and understand that interviewing for a new job is “single-elimination” process! Get it right and you usually move on to the next step in the job-seeking process with that organization. If you don’t do well…it’s then time to start over elsewhere.

The job-seeking process requires the need to prepare for interviewing – you really do need to be ready to answer all the questions that will come your way…. especially the tough ones… the ones where a bad answer will end your opportunities with that potential employer.

Let’s look at the third of the five toughest interview questions:

“Tell me about yourself”

This a question full of opportunities for you to screw up. Why? Because there can be a tendency to give a really bad answer!! Really bad approaches and answers include:

Touchy-feely. Baring your soul about personal information – your children, your spouse, that you moved from Texas because of a divorce, how much you enjoy being a cub scout den leader, yada – yada – yada. An answer along these lines doesn’t tell the interviewer a thing about why you are a good candidate for the job. I can’t begin to count how many times over the years I have interviewed people and been subjected to what my children refer to as “TMI”… Too Much Information… of a “who cares”, unpleasant or even embarrassing nature.

I gotta get outa there. If your motivation to be on the job market is to get away from an unfavorable situation (bad boss or bad organization), this not the place to bring it up at all. Never, never, never badmouth a former boss or employer. If indeed you are leaving a job for reasons of incompatibility or a boss that you want to throttle, explain your decision in terms of seeking new challenges – that you are no longer learning – seeking an industry that is growing, and so on.

I think this is what you want to hear. Of course you pay attention to this –  you are only going to say good things about yourself – but an experienced interviewer can easily spot a candidate that is trying to leave no possible good trait unmentioned.

What an interviewer wants to know in response to this question is:

What is it about you that makes you a strong candidate for the job? What do you “bring to the table” that will make hiring you a good decision?

The secret to answering this wide open-ended question is to hone in with laser sharpness on what you want to say and how to say it… then script it and rehearse it in the form of an opening statement.

The Opening Statement

It will consist of “talking points” – concise statements of capability and achievement. Use them to answer this question,  and if this question isn’t asked, find a way to work in your opening statement in the first few minutes of the interview. If the first question is “why do you want to work here?”… say “well, first let me tell you a little about myself”… and go into your opening statement. Then answer the question that was asked.

Sample opening statement:

“I appreciate the opportunity to meet with you and discuss how my background and achievements might be a good fit for the position of (position title) here at (name of organization).

I am a graduate of (college or university) with a (degree granted) and have had an exciting and rewarding career in (field) thus far (only if your degree was granted less than 10 years ago – skip this if it was more than 10 years ago).

I believe my record will indicate that I have strong people skills, an analytical approach to problem solving, and am both a team player as well as team builder. For example, the department I supervise recently moved into office space adjacent to another department in the company and there was a real problem getting good inter-department cooperation. My team was frustrated by it and making nice was not solving the problem. So I went to the other department head, who was also frustrated, and suggested that we institute two things:

First – a weekly pizza lunch meeting with both departments attending – a mandatory lunch meeting.

Secondly – at those meetings, each person had to address the group. One time it was to tell what they did and with whom they interacted. Another time, it was to tell the group something about them that the other group members would not know if they hadn’t been told. For example, I told them that I played the trombone in my high school band.

Within a month, we had peace and harmony between the two departments. I am really proud of that accomplishment.

I have been fortunate to have had a chance to make presentations on behalf of my current employer, be on the new client orientation team and otherwise contribute to the growth of the firm.

I am easily adaptable to change and eager to make a real contribution wherever I end up.

Does that sort of paint the picture for you?”

Total time to recite this – about 2 minutes. Draft your one or two concrete examples of what you accomplished – ”what happened  because you were there and made it happen”. They become the specific selling points for your candidacy when answering this question. You want to indicate the kind of value contribution you will bring to your new position if hired.

NOTE – you will need in many cases to modify your opening statement depending on the job you are interviewing for – just as you modified your resume for each specific position.

Another idea for the beginning of your opening statement might be:

“Those who know me in the workplace would say that I am driven to succeed, that I am bright, that I see the big picture very quickly and am very conscious that success often lies in the details… that I sweat the small stuff.”

Then take it from there.

Keep in mind you must know it cold… and that calls for rehearsal. If you are conducting a job search but haven’t but haven’t interviewed for a week or 10 days… go back and rehearse it again.

It is important to note that the interviewer will be also very interested in how you present yourself – you need to exude confidence, a sense of “knowing thine own self” and poise.

Finally, about your opening statement:  Be brief, be specific, be focused, and don’t ramble (but why would you – you rehearsed it – right??!!).

OK… you now know how to answer the question:

“Tell me about yourself”

Next week – how to answer “What salary are you looking for?”

Follow me on Twitter for notices of these posts.

For jobs and career opportunities in the Washington, DC metro area –  visit the NRI website. Many jobs are listed there …..and NRI Recruiters can find others for you!

follow me on twitter  My LinkedIn profile 

Copyright © Robert Mulberger All Rights Reserved

#2 of 5 Tough Interview Questions…and How to Answer It

#2 of 5 T5 tough eough Interview Questions…and How to Answer It

A five-part series of really tough interview questions… and how to respond!!

Last week’s essay covered the question “Why have you changed jobs so many times

You need to know and understand that interviewing for a new job is “single-elimination” process! Get it right and you usually move on to the next step in the job-seeking process with that organization. If you don’t do well…it’s then time to start over elsewhere.

The job-seeking process requires the need to prepare for interviewing – you really do need to be ready to answer all the questions that will come your way…. especially the tough ones… the ones where a bad answer will end your opportunities with that potential employer.

Let’s look at the second of the five toughest interview questions:

“Why should we hire you?”

The questions could also be worded as:

“Why are you the best person for this job?”….or “Are you the right hire for this job?”

Platitudes such as “I’m a hard worker”, “I’m a loyal team player”, “I can hit the ground running on day 1” and so on won’t do it. They are just words.. words from a stranger with no basis for trust that they are indeed correct. And by the way – what others will also say in response!

First – recognize that this is the perfect opportunity to sell yourself. Anyone that has been trained to give media interviews knows the technique of answering the question AND making positive a statement as part of  the answer. At the same time – be careful not to come across as too cocky… expressing an “of course I am the one for the job…anyone can see that!”…attitude…is far too much over the top… you are just going to annoy the interviewer!

The correct approach is to combine one or more aspects of your experience and accomplishments with some aspect of the job description and criteria. This requires you to really know what the job requirements are all about.

“I believe my five years of audit experience  –  the last two as team leader – with emphasis on not-for-profit accounting and tax treatments qualifies me to be a strong candidate for this position. My audit team always got the work done on time and error-free.”

“I have done very similar work… under very tight deadlines where team play was critical to get the job done. In that position I demonstrated leadership, decision-making and the ability to quickly prioritize. This is why I feel very qualified for the position.”

IMPORTANT – If you are a new grad.. you have a special challenge. You probably have little or no work experience that translates to the job you are interviewing for. Keep your answer/statement brief and to the point:

 “As a new grad I have no specific experience for the job. However, my grades, academic references and my attitude to excel show me to be a quick learner who perseveres and can be counted on to perform. I would  bring those same skills and attitude to your job.”

“I spent two summers in an internship with XYZ doing research and drafting documents  to be included in client reports. Frankly I did so with little or no instruction… I was just told what the final work product should address….and I just figured it out. I bring strong analytical and writing skills as part of my overall qualifications.. and the ability to learn on the fly. I can do the same for your organization.”

It is important that you itemize the factors of your background to bring into your response based on the job in question…and the requirements to the extent you can determine them. Then draft – rehearse – and re-draft your answer until you know it cold.

Chances are very, very good this will be one of the questions you will be asked… and you want to nail the answer cold!

OK… you now know how to answer the question:

“Why should we hire you?”

Next week – how to answer “Tell me about yourself?”

Follow me on Twitter for notices of these posts.

For jobs and career opportunities in the Washington, DC metro area –  visit the NRI website. Many jobs are listed there …..and NRI Recruiters can find others for you!

follow me on twitter  My LinkedIn profile 

Copyright © Robert Mulberger All Rights Reserved

5 Tough Interview Questions…and How to Answer Them

5 Tough Interview Questions…and How to Answer Them

5 tough eA five-part series of really tough interview questions….  and how to respond!!

Interviewing for a new job is “single-elimination” process! Get it right and you usually move on to the next step in the job-seeking process with that organization. If you don’t do well…it is then time to start over elsewhere. You really want to avoid the knock-out interview factors….such as bad answers to an interviewer’s questions.

The job-seeking process requires the need to prepare for interviewing – you really do need to be ready to answer all the questions that will come your way…. especially the tough ones… the ones where a bad answer will end your opportunities with that potential employer.

Let’s look at one of the five toughest interview questions:

“Why have you changed jobs so many times?”

Note the wording is inflammatory… the reference to “so many times”. The interviewer is saying that for one of two reasons: a. they believe it is a lot of times; or b. they are challenging you… testing you… to see how you answer. The question could also be asked, “Your resume indicates a lot of jobs; why do you seem to change jobs frequently?”

Suppose you have had five jobs in the last 8 years. Your answer needs to demonstrate that each move was to a better situation; more opportunity; more responsibility; a bigger or better territory; a better organization. After all – you did change for a series of reasons – right? So package the most recent reason or two into a short and concise answer. No need to explain all five unless you are asked. Just paint the picture of someone seeking upward mobility.

You might respond:

“Yes – it really seems like a lot when listed on paper. For each of them, it made sense to me to make the change. For example my job at (next-to-last-job) was in a location without public transportation, often required an hour or more drive twice a day in terrible traffic and was located in a pretty sketchy area that lacked the access for a place to eat lunch, take laundry in on my way to or from work and so forth. I compare that to where I would be if I worked for your organization – a world of difference – as it is for my current work location. I don’t mind a reasonable commute… but I could never predict if it would be 45 minutes or an hour and 45 minutes.”

Or:

“My last two jobs were ones where it seemed I had a new boss every 3 or 4 months; I never could settle into a routine where I know what was expected of me and how to communicate with my boss.”

Of course if the reason was that your employer went out of business or was acquired and you had to relocate across the county to keep your job – these are easy to explain.

Analyze what were your reasons at the time – why did you make the change – and create/draft an explanation for each of them that is credible. If one or more of the moves was a “mistake” on your part be prepared to say so:

“Accepting the position at XYZ was a mistake. I didn’t do a very good job analyzing the match before I accepted their offer. I have learned since then and haven’t made that mistake again… and won’t.”

IMPORTANT – you also MUST include a statement to the effect “In spite of those five jobs over the past 8 years, I am really seeking stability. I don’t like changing jobs; I want to find a place where I can establish myself and make a continuing contribution.”

Demonstrate that you understand the interview’s concern and that you are looking for a break in the pattern!

OK… you now know how to answer the question:

“Why have you changed jobs so many times?”

Next week – how to answer “Why should we hire you?”

Follow me on Twitter for notices of these posts.

For jobs and career opportunities in the Washington, DC metro area –  visit the NRI website. Many jobs are listed there …..and NRI Recruiters can find others for you!

follow me on twitterMy LinkedIn profile

Copyright © Robert Mulberger All Rights Reserved