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Career Advice

From Marc Cenedella
Marc Cenedella

See the name, title, compensation, work history and educational background of each person applying to jobs TheLadders.

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Interviewing

10 Good Ways to 'Tell Me About Yourself'

'If Hollywood made a movie about my life, it would be called...' and nine more memorable answers to this dreaded job interview question.

By Scott Ginsberg
FILED UNDER: Interview Questions.
Interviewing

You know it’s coming.

It’s the most feared question during any job interview: Do you think I would look good in a cowboy hat?

Just kidding. The real question is: Can you tell me about yourself?

Blecch. What a boring, vague, open-ended question. Who likes answering that?

I know. I’m with you. But unfortunately, hiring managers and executive recruiters ask the question. Even if you’re not interviewing and you’re out networking in the community — you need to be ready to hear it and answer it. At all times.

Now, before I share a list of 10 memorable answers, consider the two essential elements behind the answers:

The medium is the message. The interviewer cares less about your answer to this question and more about the confidence, enthusiasm and passion with which you answer it.

The speed of the response is the response. The biggest mistake you could make is pausing, stalling or fumbling at the onset of your answer, thus demonstrating a lack of self-awareness and self-esteem.

Next time you’re faced with the dreaded, “Tell me about yourself…” question, try these:

  1. “I can summarize who I am in three words.” Grabs their attention immediately. Demonstrates your ability to be concise, creative and compelling.
  2. “The quotation I live my life by is…” Proves that personal development is an essential part of your growth plan. Also shows your ability to motivate yourself.
  3. “My personal philosophy is…” Companies hire athletes – not shortstops. This line indicates your position as a thinker, not just an employee.
  4. “People who know me best say that I’m…” This response offers insight into your own level of self-awareness.
  5. “Well, I googled myself this morning, and here’s what I found…” Tech-savvy, fun, cool people would say this. Unexpected and memorable.
  6. “My passion is…” People don’t care what you do – people care who you are. And what you’re passionate about is who you are. Plus, passion unearths enthusiasm.
  7. “When I was seven years old, I always wanted to be…” An answer like this shows that you’ve been preparing for this job your whole life, not just the night before.
  8. “If Hollywood made a move about my life, it would be called…” Engaging, interesting and entertaining.
  9. “Can I show you, instead of tell you?” Then, pull something out of your pocket that represents who you are. Who could resist this answer? Who could forget this answer?
  10. “The compliment people give me most frequently is…” Almost like a testimonial, this response also indicates self-awareness and openness to feedback.

Keep in mind that these examples are just the opener. The secret is thinking how you will follow up each answer with relevant, interesting and concise explanations that make the already bored interviewer look up from his stale coffee and think, “Wow! That’s the best answer I’ve heard all day!”

Ultimately it’s about answering quickly, it’s about speaking creatively and it’s about breaking people’s patterns.

I understand your fear with such answers. Responses like these are risky, unexpected and unorthodox. And that’s exactly why they work.

Otherwise you become (yet another) non-entity in the gray mass of blah, blah, blah.

You’re hireable because of your answers. When people ask you to tell them about yourself, make them glad they asked.

Let me ask you this: How much time did you dedicate this week to becoming more interesting? Let me suggest this: For the list called, “61 Stupid Things to Stop Doing Before It’s Too Late,” send an e-mail to me, and you win it for free!

Scott Ginsberg, aka "The Nametag Guy," is the author of nine books, an award-winning blogger and the creator of NametagTV.com. He's the only person in the world who wears a nametag 24-7 and advises companies on how to leverage approachability into profitability.

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