Recently, I saw some interesting statistics about the hiring process. Studies have shown that 30% of hiring decisions are made within the first five minutes of an interview, and 5% are made within the first 60 seconds. That puts a fair amount of pressure on a person to make a good first impression. Obviously, you’ll show up on time, nicely dressed and groomed, and with extra copies of your resume. But the real first impression is often created by how you answer that oft-asked question that kicks of the interview: “So, tell me a bit about yourself.”
The fact is if you made it through the phone interview and were advanced to the onsite, chances are you’re a technical fit for the role. The onsite interview is generally where a final confirmation can be made regarding your technical abilities and, more importantly, where the team can establish whether or not you are a cultural fit for the organization. People tend to hire people that they like personally, and as discussed above, this is often determined in that first 5 minutes of the interview in response to the question, “Tell me about yourself.”
So, how can we best prepare for that moment? Here are some “Dos” and “Don’ts.”
Don’t ramble. If you haven’t prepared with a practiced answer to this question, you run the risk of responding with a rambling answer. People who ramble are often perceived as someone with low confidence or someone who’s so busy talking that they aren’t likely to take the time to listen to others.
Don’t be too brief. On the flip side of the coin, a lack of preparation might result in a “deer in the headlights” moment. This could be perceived as you not taking the question seriously, an inability to get your thoughts across, or simply being a poor communicator in general.
Don’t be too informal. The people interviewing you are not your gym buddies. Don’t call them “dude,” and don’t use offensive language or make comments that could be interpreted as off-color or sexist. (You’d be surprised how many times I hear about candidates making this mistake in interviews.)
Do give some thought ahead of time as to how you will answer this question. Contrary to what some candidates might believe, your interviewer is less interested in your life story and more interested in a 30-60 second summary of your career and what brought you to the point of interviewing for this position. Consider it your 30-second elevator speech about yourself, even if it goes for a minute or two.
Do practice your answer ahead of time. Consider practicing in front of the mirror a few times, or use the record feature on your mobile phone so that you can hear how you sound answering this interview question. When the time comes, the less you fumble with your words and thoughts, the more confident and professional you will appear.
If there’s one place that you can make magic happen in an interview, this is that place. Spend a bit of time ahead of the interview preparing your response, and you will maximize your chances of being the candidate of choice.
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