Monday, May 4, 2015

Interviewing Excellence: Tell Me Something About Yourself!

“Huh…that’s the simplest question. I can answer it.” Well, actually this is one of the toughest questions that you are asked during an interview. The answer to this helps the interviewer decide whether he wants to listen to you any further. Since you know that this question is coming your way, you need to prepare for it well in advance. You need to know what you should share not only to build rapport with the interviewer, but also to show that your candidature is fit for the open position.

I believe that we are all born salespersons. A child cries and sells the thought to his mother that he needs milk. Through a matrimonial site, we sell ourselves projecting our most favorable attributes. Similarly, when we go for an interview, we are selling our skills and qualities to the interviewer; however, you do not have a lot of time to sell yourself here. It’s always good to be prepared with an ‘elevator pitch’ of who you are as a person (An elevator pitch is a very brief summary of a product / service / business, etc… and its value proposition). This pitch should not be more than 2 minutes long, so be focused and KISS (Keep it Short and Simple). Of course you cannot sell everything in 2 min, but you can pick the top 3 – 4 features and voice them. By asking you this question, the interviewer has not given you an opportunity to narrate a thesis about yourself. When you talk about this, the interviewer is not only listening to you but is also observing your poise, passion and zeal with which you answer. If you prepare well, you will avoid all kinds of verbal fillers (“..umm, uhhh, etc…), stammering or stalling while you answer your first question.

Now’s the time to start answering your first interview question. The interviewer knows your name – it is there in the resume / computer screen. Do not start your answer with “Hi! My name is Rosy Bansal….bhah bhah bhah”. Let me help you here with some great unorthodox starting lines…

  • I believe that……………………
  • My personal philosophy is…………………………….
  • Wow! That’s my favorite question. Well, I Googled myself this morning and what I found out was………..
  • The way people know me / recognize me is……………………..
  • If Bollywood / Hollywood would make a movie on my life, I think it would be called…………………..
I usually recommend these unorthodox ways to start describing youself because, think about it now, the interviewer has been taking interviews the whole day long. After a point he too starts getting bored by listening to the clichéd answers that the 30 candidates have given him since 8 am. Give him the opportunity to instantly have a click in his mind thinking “Wow…that’s the most creative answer I have heard in the entire day!” The key is that while all the 30 candidates tried hard to pull the sledge, you creatively invent the wheel… break the pattern…make him smile. Believe me, this is why these ways work.

Now that you have had a winning start, remember to finish answering this question with as much poise as you started it. Follow the elevator pitch with the PPF formula. Not Public Provident Fund but a quick reference to your present, past and future – what you are doing in the present profile, the top 2 or 3 skills you gained in the past, and what excites you for future opportunities. Researching about the company will help you talk about your future plans.

Moving on, try not to rehash your resume to the interviewer. He already has it with him and wants to hear what’s not in the resume. Don’t bore him by repeating everything. “Walk me through your resume” should not be taken literally. Remember to stick to your elevator pitch and ask if the interviewer would want you to elaborate any point. The interview needs to start on an engaging note and not a monologue.

You need not be a Mr. Humble or a Ms. Modest while answering this question. Remember, you are a salesperson…be proud of your achievements but be factual (it will help you have control on being a show-off). Remember there is fierce competition and everyone wants to get in, thinking that they are best suited for the profile.  

Your first answer could make the interviewer think that you are either over-qualified or under-qualified for the job; planned or disorganized; well articulate or a bad communicator; someone who is simply confused or someone who is simply a risk to the organization.

Beware, it is not a first date, where you ramble everything about yourself, it is an interview, where you think carefully, frame answers mentally and then speak.

As I mentioned in my previous article, practice is the key, so that you sound naturally convincing. This way, you will get a step closer to winning some mindshare in the interviewer.


  1. This question has always been tough to answer. But the suggested starting lines are amazingly creative!!
    Thank you :)