Deniz Sasal (Executive MBA, 2013) currently works for PwC Consulting, and has started his own careers blog that will “share valuable insider information that most hiring managers wouldn’t share”.
We have been allowed to publish extracts from the blog. You can read more on thecareermastery.com.
I think you’ll agree with me that when you are asked the dreaded question “tell me about yourself” in the most intense environment you can think of, the chances are that you may end up blabbering and you will make little sense if you are not prepared enough. Worst of all, it will most likely be the first question they will ask you in the interview.
Don’t you worry though. I have an awesome guide for you here. I will share with you a very detailed answer that will increase your chances by a large margin to get that job.
Just be patient…
I am Deniz Sasal. I am a manager with PwC Consulting and also the creator of Landing Interviews Guaranteed and The Career Mastery. I have been interviewing candidates as a hiring manager for a very long time.
In this article, my intention is to show you a different perspective than what you find when you search Google for answers to your query “tell me about yourself”. What I share with you will be the perspective of a hiring manager working for a large multinational company.
Alright, let’s continue.
First I will cover what not to do. These will be short and sweet I promise.
Then, we will look at why they are asking this question. And eventually, we will craft the perfect answer for you. I will also show you 1 critical strategy to take it a step further to create a long lasting impact with hiring managers.
What not to do?
To start with, the hiring manager has already seen your resume and even cover letter. There is really no need for you to go over your resume bullet by bullet. Having said this, it doesn’t hurt your chances to highlight some of your most important qualifications and achievements.
When you are presenting your background, don’t fall victim to under or over qualification. Just give them what they need. There is a very thin line between being an over-achiever and being over-qualified.
No need to share them your life story. And oh God please don’t you start from your high school years. It’s really a waste of everybody’s time. I recently interviewed a candidate for a graduate hire role. She literally started her pitch like this; “I graduated from grade school in 1995 from XXX school and then continued my education further with XXX junior high in XXX city. High school years were very challenging with new environment…” By this point, I was already done. Horrible first impression. I interrupted the candidate and asked her to talk about her current experience. She definitely failed the interview. Not necessarily only because of how she presented her background.
Avoid keeping it too long. It’s a monologue so nobody really has 20 minutes to listen to your background, however, exciting that may sound to you.
Don’t be boring. Please… You should show some real enthusiasm in your pitch. The more energetic you are the better it is. Oh, remember to smile. It makes a big difference.
Everybody else thinks that you are asked to present yourself because;
– Hiring managers want to see how your response would be to a question that you are not prepared. (Not sure why they think you’d be unprepared…)
– They want to know what you consider important in your background
– I can agree to a certain degree. I’d also want to see what you consider important in your background.
– But, the real reason hiring managers in multinational organizations ask this question is because we want to see your presentation skills!
After all, think about it, we all have seen your resume, your cover letter, you have probably already passed the HR interview. So, we do know a lot about your background already. In fact, if you are applying to a multinational organization, you have already been Google’d even. Why go over your background all over again?
Even if they haven’t seen it before, they are holding that CV in their hands when they ask the question; “tell me about yourself”.
Remember this, companies want employees who are:
– can represent the firm professionally to their clients (especially true for consulting and other professional services companies)
– charismatic and likable – especially if you are in a client facing role
If they ask you to present the company or its products to gauge your presentation skills, it would be unfair to you as you have very limited knowledge. But what better material is there than your background to present?
That’s why they say tell me about yourself not tell me about our products or the company. Right?
So, they are giving you an opportunity to present something that you know inside out. They already know when you graduated, which company you worked for, when you left them, what tasks you carried out for each of them.
What they are interested in is:
Can you speak smoothly without stuttering?
Can you be charismatic?
Are you getting nervous when presenting?
When you speak, do you impress people?
How are your communication skills?
How is your language skills?
These and a lot more questions like these need to be addressed by the way you present.
See, this is actually an incredible opportunity for you. It’s an unbelievable opportunity.