TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF
Your answer could land you the job ? or lose it
By Paul R. Huard
Copley News Service
It's an invitation so deceptively simple that the difficulty and danger that comes from a bad response blindsides many job seekers:
"Tell us about yourself."
"That is one of the highest stakes questions you can be asked during a job interview," says Katy Piotrowski, a career counselor and author of "The Career Coward's Guide to Interviewing" (JIST Works, $11). "It usually happens at the beginning of the interview and it provides an opportunity for you to bomb or soar right from the start."
It is also a question you are almost guaranteed to face once you land an interview. According to www.jobseeker.com, "tell us about yourself" (or its common variation, "describe yourself") ranks in the top five of the most commonly asked questions posed by potential employers.
Like any other aspect of the interview, the winning response is a combination of an intelligent answer, personal poise and preparation. Here's some advice that will help you make a good impression.
No matter what questions you face during an interview, remember that practice and research before you meet a potential employer will improve your odds of landing a job.
Piotrowski recommends that you brainstorm a mix of personal and professional information about yourself such as hobbies, professional accomplishments, professional goals, the strengths people say you have and interesting facts about your life and experiences. Once you have compiled a list, jot down on index cards or sticky notes potential responses based on the information.
Experiment by putting the responses in different orders until you have a short statement that feels right. Keep it brief, because you only want a response that takes a few minutes at the most.
"Based on your response, you have the power to make yourself look like Mr. or Ms. Incredible, or Mr. or Ms. Idiot," Piotrowski says.
It also pays to keep in mind the basics of good performance during any job interview.
Put yourself in the manager's shoes. He or she is looking for a strong work ethic, motivation and positive attitude. Do your answers emphasize those qualities?
Anticipate the tough questions. No matter how prepared you are, one or two questions may surprise you. In fact, some managers consider the "trick questions" key indicators of your potential performance on the job.
How you answer these questions is as important as what you say. Take your time and try to keep your answers concise and to the point.
Illustrate your value to the company. What in your background makes you the best fit for the job? Every boss wants an employee who can start contributing to the company as soon as possible. By discussing experiences and accomplishments that relate directly to an open position, you demonstrate your ability to hit the ground running.
Be yourself. It's natural to accentuate the positive, but pretending to be someone you're not can backfire. You might land the job, but be unqualified or ill-suited for the position.
It's advantageous to present an accurate picture of your skills and work style so both you and the potential employer can make the best job match.
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