“So, tell me about yourself.”

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Posted At: March 13, 2013 2:15 P.M.
by Martina Kaiwi

As young PR professionals prepare for their job interviews, many dread the notorious face-to-face interrogation.

Even though PR practitioners understand the power of words and the relationships they can create or destroy, when representing ourselves it becomes a little more difficult to communicate objectively. I hope this blog will encourage applicants to thoroughly research interview strategies to gain the confidence they will need to become better interviewees and/or communicators.

We all remember the famous opener, “Tell me a little about yourself.”

Skip Freeman, author of “‘Head Hunter Hiring Secrets’: The Rules of the Hiring Game Have Changed Forever,” tells prospective interviewees not to fall prey to that line.

To better respond to a soft opener like this, we must understand its purpose. Its point is to examine how well you speak, if you use proper grammar and how well you keep your audience engaged.

Interviewers don’t ask questions just to ask. Freeman’s theory is, “through the entire process, every contact you have with a prospective employer is intended to exclude you from the final list of candidates.”

To better prepare, Freeman cleverly suggests breaking your answer into three different parts. The first and second segments can be memorized, like an elevator pitch, and the third segment can be tailored for the position for which you are interviewing.

Specifically, the first part of your answer should reflect your job history in one to two sentences. By condensing your work experience to a few snidbits, your answer can be easily retained and hopefully later relayed.

The second part of your answer should contain a short narrative that illustrates a major accomplishment in your life. Make sure to stay away from the inverted pyramid story structure that forces your audience to listen all the way to the punchline.

The third part of your answer should reflect the organizational culture of the company. Make a point to include your career goals and how they are relevant to the job for which you are applying. If done correctly, this segment will be the longest and most remembered.

For more information about Freeman’s strategies, you can buy his book at Amazon. I hope Freeman’s book will help educate prospective applicants and interviewees on how to take control of their reputations by learning how to better communicate on their own behalf.

 

6 Comments

  1. Katie Snyder

    Martina,
    As many of us are in the middle of our internship hunt for this summer, I loved reading your post about Skip Freeman’s interview strategies. I listened to Freeman speak to my class last semester and this served as a reminder of what I may be missing from my interview responses.
    Hypothetically speaking, if five applicants with equally impressive resumes are competing for a job, the first few minutes of the interview are crucial. This question will be the first, so your response will set the tone and may help you land the job.
    I also benefited by Freeman’s advice to write an objective statement before beginning your job or internship hunt. The objective statement includes your ideal job, what kind of company you want to work for, what you will contribute and where this company is located. I think that by beginning with an objective statement, answering the “tell me about yourself” will be much easier to answer.

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  2. Sara Kaitlyn Walker

    I was fortunate enough to have taken a business etiquette class at a community college during my time in high school. One of the subjects we covered was interviewing strategies. My instructor referenced many sections in Skip Freeman’s book. It was entirely beneficial to me, especially at that time when I was applying for scholarships and several universities.
    Recently, I have been on the opposite side of the interview table. I had the opportunity to interview new applicants for the resident adviser position with UA Housing and Residential Communities. It was interesting to see how many people were ill-prepared, even though some of them had been to practice interviews. I think that this book is beneficial for any person on the job search or for anyone looking to advance in their own company or field. Preparedness is the most important aspect when looking for a position.

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  3. Courtney Cox

    I actually had an interview the day after this blog was posted. I’m always pretty good with answering any questions thrown at me, but for some reason, the “tell me about yourself” part of the interview always stresses me out! I saw the tweet about this blog post the night before my interview and immediately read the post. It was very helpful! It was so much easier for me to prepare my answer to this question. I feel like asking someone this question can be very vague at times, and it was helpful to learn exactly what answers employers are looking for. I was able to prepare and practice my answer the night before and made sure to include work experience and career goals like the post mentioned. Overall, I think the interview went pretty well! Thanks for posting!

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  4. Raegan Adams

    I attended Skip Freeman’s presentation for Mr. Little’s APR 300 class last semester, and I must say that it was the most eye opening experience. As a budding young professional, his insight into the professional game and what companies are looking for encouraged me to buy his book. Although I have yet to find the time to delve into it, your blog post gives me even more of an incentive to begin reading ASAP. I would assume that the dreaded “so, tell me about yourself” question probably generates the most nervous, rambling responses than any other. Skip shows us that if planned and answered eloquently, this question gives an interviewee a chance to show the company what makes them stand out as an individual and, more importantly, why they would be a right fit for the company.

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  5. Sarah Fink

    Let me start off by saying what a good and accurate piece this was, Martina. “So, tell me about yourself” can be a very tricky question in an interview if you don’t understand what the prospective employer is looking for. In addition to having first hand experience listening to Skip Freeman speak, I have also interned for staffing, “Head Hunter” organizations the past two summers. I’m a firm believer in his three-step method on how to approach this specific question. The employer is looking for how well you speak and how your own qualities tie into the organization’s culture. I think this is an important read for those approaching graduation.

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  6. Colin White

    Thanks for the information Martina. The suggestion of breaking your answer into three different parts was especially helpful as I’ll be conducting my job search very soon. Thanks again

    Reply

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