In the course of my career journey, I have had the opportunity to sit on several interview panels for potential new hires across various levels and cadres, from mid-level hires all the way to senior executive. However, the most entertaining of the lot, for me, remains the discussions with entry level and second level hires.
For the records, when asked the “tell us about yourself” question, you must have a well-structured and previously rehearsed response. More often than not, candidates simply blurt out the first things that come into their head. The phrase “tell me about yourself” is the interviewer’s way of asking you – of all the people out there, what makes you stand apart and why should we consider you for the position above the other candidates?
Like I said earlier, I have heard so many responses and these are my top three wrong responses of all time:
- Bank-management trainee applicant: She proudly informed the panel that she loves food, loves partying, likes to travel a lot; if she had her way, she would only fly business class for holidays, and… wait for it… that she is a kleptomaniac, but that she is working on it. How do you state all that for an entry level (potentially cash and teller) role? Of course, she did not get the job.
- The Sales manager who started off with the phrase: “I prefer to work on my own and not with people at all, I can concentrate better that way”. For a sales manager role, you’re not only expected to manage customers and build profitable relationships, but would be responsible for grooming and managing a team of sales representatives.
- Last but not least: The candidate who clearly was asking himself his own questions in his head, and then answering them. To cut the long story short; not only did he have a poor showing, he ended his interview by lecturing us all on why the company he was interviewing with was a bad place to work, but he knows that he can manage us and still be an employee.
Here is my recommendation on how to approach the question: You remind them of your name and briefly talk about your educational qualification and then breeze through the highlights of your career touching on the value you brought or the contributions you made to the organization. Next, you briefly touch on a core strength, a passion point and one or two hobbies that help you connect the dots between the role, the task ahead, and the value you will bring to the table.
From the moment you walk into an interview, remember that the interviewer may have previewed a copy of your CV earlier on, or just before you walked into the room. So the next 15 seconds from the point you walk into the room are critical to success; sometimes, it isn’t about what you say but how you say it. The interviewer may have formed an impression about you based on the content of your CV which possibly, was quite similar to the CV of other shortlisted candidates.
- Convert negative impressions to positive impressions through a strong/confident response and making the best use of the interviewer’s time. If it was already a positive impression, reinforce your strengths and have an engaging, yet informed discussion with the interviewer.
Do this right and even your village masquerade will not bother with you!
Written by: Olufemi Ayodele