Sunday, September 28, 2014

Interviewing: The Most Frequently Asked Interview Question

Tell me about yourself!
And so the interview begins.  The interviewer asks this "ice breaker" question as much to start a conversation as to actually learn about the candidate sitting in front of him or her.

The question: "So why don’t you tell me a little about yourself?” is generally considered the most frequently asked interview question.  Not a particularly good question by a long shot, nevertheless is is most commonly asked in order to get the conversation - the interview - going.

And while appearing on the surface to be a simple question to answer, in fact, it not only throws many candidates but throws them right out of the competition!  Why?  Because an unprepared candidate can sound like this.

Umm, well I grew up in Florida , lived there most of my life, went to Florida State University, majored in philosophy, and then I took a year off to help my Dad out in his printing business.  My first job was in 1972 when I was hired as a  clerk in . . . ."

The interviewer listens patiently, acts interested, but is secretly thinking: “What does this have to do with the job he's applying for as a business analyst?  Get to the point."

The interviewee continues to rattle on,  clears his throat a time or two, and continues their monologue that goes on way, way too long! 

Sound familiar?
If you have ever sat in the interviewee's seat and experienced the situation just described, you are not alone.  In fact, many, if not most job seekers, have had a similar experience. You know what we want to say about yourself your job-related experience; you can can’t seem to say it!

Make a good first impression
In an interview, any job seeker wants to make a good first impression.  You want to convey that you are the right candidate for the job and that you can get the job done!  You want to appear motivated and capable. You want to show that you are qualified to perform the duties of the job and then some.  You just can’t seem to say it as well as you would like.

Why not?  What goes wrong?  What’s missing? 
Generally when a job seeker stammers, and hems and haws at the beginning of an interview, or is just too wordy, what is missing is a prepared and practiced short presentation that "tells the interviewer about yourself."  This short, precise presentation, highlighting relevant experience, qualifications, and skills, is -- by another name  -- an "L"vator speech!

What is an “L”vator speech?
An "L"vator speech is a professional self-description that can be said in 30 seconds or less.. Theoretically, it can be said in the time you travel in an elevator from the 1st to the 14th floor. . . .hence, the term "L"vator speech!  AND, when you're done, your listener has a pretty good  idea of what you do and do well.

In other words, your “L”vator speech is a short, concise, prepared in advance, and well-practiced description of your expertise, abilities, skills, and accomplishments that are relevant to the job you are interviewing for.

How do you do it? . . .  With this 5-Step Model
It can be a bit mystifying to try to figure out how to describe the essence of your experience in less than 30 seconds.  So, here's a method to do just that.  Below is a 5-Step Model for preparing your “L”vator speech.  The model allows you to tell the listener, in 30 seconds or less, what you do and what you are expert at.  It helps you showcase your skills, and highlight relevant accomplishments.  It provides you a way to ask for your desired outcome from the discussion.  So, . . . take out a pencil and paper and begin to craft your "L"vator speech --  your answer to the #1 interview question:  "So why don't you tell me a little about yourself?"

5-Step Model to craft your "L"vator speech
Step 1. Start with your profession.  State what you do in a couple of words?
    I am a ________________________________    
    I’m an electronics engineer.   I’m a manager.  I’m an administrative assistant.

Step 2.  Identify your area(s) of expertise. What makes you stand out from the crowd?
    I'm a ____________,with in-depth experience or expertise in ________________
    I’m an electronics engineer, with extensive experience in designing systems that . . . 
    I’m a manager who consistently runs departments that function like clockwork.
    I’m an administrative assistant who never misses a deadline.

Step 3.  Identify your areas of skill that are relevant to the job your are seeking.
    I’m particularly skilled in______________,  or I’m adept at _____________________
    I am skilled in helping the customer implement new systems with no downtime.
    I’m really effective at planning and budgeting so that the programs I manage come in on time and within budget.
    I’m current in the latest office computer software so I’ll be productive right off the bat!

Step 4.  Identify knowledge, strengths, and unique attributes that are relevant to the position.
    I am certified in__________, or, I am trained in__________, or I was awarded the__________
    I hold a Master's degree in advanced electronics engineering.
    I am a certified Program Manager.
    I was recognized as the “Employee of the Year” by my previous employer and earned a cash award.

Step 5. Ask for what you want.  What are you trying to achieve?
    I am looking for__________, or, I am seeking __________, or I hope to__________
    I am looking for a Systems Engineering position that uses_____________
    I am hoping you can refer me to a person in your network who is familiar with ___________________
    I am seeking an opportunity to _________________

Using the 5-Step Model will help you craft an “L”vator speech that gets to the point and accomplishes your objective of “telling the listener about you." 
For additional information on marketing yourself and your capabilities, please refer to the many articles found under the Articles tabs of the AJC–Career Strategy website.
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