I’ve seen professionals who not only can appear confident, but who ARE confident, very successful sales professionals for example, fall flat on their faces in interviews. It’s a very different ball game.
Many of the most skilled and successful professionals are victims here. I only reference sales professionals because they are the people likely to understand the dynamics of an interview for it is like the sales call. Unfortunately, even they may sometimes forget the basics of “selling”. So skilled they are that they forget the basics, and it is there, where the control in an interview is both gained and lost. When lost so are the “wits” of the so-called “confident and accomplished professionals” and they assume a more reactionary stance. Here are some tips for gaining more control in an interview that may help: Addressing the infamous “Tell me about yourself”.
“Tell me about yourself” may be the single-most important pitch moment you have and a favorite question that has befuddled many an unsuspecting candidate. Responses can range from strong to weak to irrelevant to fatal. Having a good response is as important as having a good tennis serve. There are several different types of responses. Two that are especially effective are the Specific Approach and the Overview Approach.
• Specific Approach allows you to identify specific, relevant aspects of your background
• Overview Approach is more of a summary of your background. The Overview is also used to keep you out of trouble when you are not certain of what the interviewer wants to hear.
With either approach, your response should be followed by a question that is intended to evoke a narrower question from the interviewer. That is, it forces him or her to ask a more specific question in line with your opening statement. Since I prefer to combine the two approaches, I have a model I advise folks to use.
A SIMPLE 4-STEP APPROACH
1. Prepare Bullet Phrases
Do your research and prepare four or five bullet phrases relevant to a business challenge or a market threat or potential opportunity that the target firm or industry faces. Each bullet should be no longer than 3-seconds and associated with action-oriented successfully completed tasks (“I started-up this”…“I developed and successfully executed that”…“I spearheaded something and brought it to something other”). The bullets should also touch on your positive attributes and personal characteristics – all combined, a big order I know. Here are some examples of words and phrases that have impact and can trigger interest:
• Ability to identify alternatives
• Successful business startups
• Led both large and small companies
• Decisive; easily cuts through non-essential information
• Put through major changes
• Ability to identify alternatives
• Good long-range strategic planner
Prepare a 30- to 50-second story for each bullet using a “story-telling” technique I refer to as S.O.A.R.
S The Situation or circumstance in which you were involved
O The Opportunity that existed for, first, your organization and then you
A The Actions you took in face of the opportunity
R The Results of your action
Example: (S) The ownership of a physical therapy and sports medicine company recruited me to (O) lead, grow and concurrently stabilize a $4.7 million health systems company staffed by 85 professionals. (A) I developed and executed all business plans and opened new markets in industrial and corporate health promotion, (R) positioning the company for its very profitable $6.6 million sale, $2.5 million more than the ownership had anticipated.
Strong, well-articulated success concepts and persuasive examples of your successes using the S.O.A.R. technique are essential for securing a quality position.
3. Bullet Phrase Roll-Call
In the Interview: When asked “Tell me about yourself” begin with “As you can see from my resume my experience covers…” and then recap your resume for him/her (eg. “…covers the full breadth of starting up a business from developing a business plan to obtaining seed capital to acquiring plant and equipment to hiring staff) and quickly roll through your four or five specific 3-second bullet phrases
4. The “SOAR” Story
After rapidly firing off your bullets you can wrap-up with “on which of these would you like me to elaborate?” or, if you learned something that is important to your target firm, you may suggest one upon which you can expand, such as “would you like me address some of the specifics of my business start-up experience?”. I personally prefer to lay out the bullet phrases and let him/her choose thus giving the illusion that they are selecting the topic. BTW, I have yet to receive feedback of an Interviewer suggesting you talk about something other than one or more of the bullets that have been outlined. Now, once you have your marching instructions, the bullet phrase(s) on which s/he wants you to elaborate, you can provide your well-prepared corresponding SOAR story. Be prepared to keep it under 1 minute.
The combination of your resume, bullets phrases from relevant research and the “story technique” is a great method to address the infamous “Tell me about yourself”.
Hope this answers some questions.
Rob Taub, MBA, Credentialed Career Master, and successful businessperson is a 25-year veteran in the career consulting field, Principal at Job Search Corner, creator of the blog, “Job Searching with Rob” http://bit.ly/18wCkO and is a CAREEREALISM-Approved Expert and LivePerson’s Online Expert for Career Coaching http://www.liveperson.com/rob-taub
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