One of if not the most common interview questions is “Tell me a little something about yourself?”
On the flip side, in my coaching practice and during Q&A sessions at seminars, talk shows and job fairs I’ve participated in people often tell me “I have no problem tooting someone else’s horn, but I have a real problem tooting my own. What can I do?”
Worse yet during the thousands of interviews I have conducted too many candidates overextended themselves or kept rambling on about “some useless information that’s supposed to fire my imagination” (Rolling Stones) and ended up talking themselves out of contention for a position I thought they were a good candidate for.
So the two-fold question is how to answer this ubiquitous question and what in the world does Miles Davis have to do with this?
Let me answer the second question first. Miles Davis had two qualities every job seeker needs to emulate. The first is obvious; Miles Davis could toot his own horn better than any musician I know. This was true in both his trumpet playing and when he spoke publicly about himself and his music. He had a confidence in his ability that came through loud and clear that was an integral part of his public persona. This is what every job seeker has to work on and perfect. No matter what your do for a living and how experienced or inexperienced you are you need to exude confidence in who you are and come across as poised and positive about whom you are and the value you possess.
The second and perhaps more valuable quality that Miles had was his ability to adapt and change with the times; and not just over a few years but over several decades. When music changed direction Miles Davis was always at the forefront and got ahead of the curve rather than falling behind it. This is an important lesson on survival for job seekers in today’s job market, especially those in the vulnerable 40+ Club. Since the business world is constantly evolving it is imperative that you keep pace and let people know this about you.
Now let’s dissect this question and see how you can improve your answer during your next job interview.
First off notice how the interviewer’s question is phrased (if they do not say it assume this is their intention) “tell me a LITTLE bit about yourself”; the optimal word here being little. So here are a few tips in random order on how to prepare for and answer this ice breaking question and start the interview off on the right foot.
1: Have your answer prepared and rehearsed in advance and practice it over and over until it flows naturally from your lips just like the notes flow from Miles Davis.
2: Keep your answer between one to three minutes maximum. At the beginning or end you can try and gain some control of the interview by asking the interviewer this question, “is there something specific you want to know.”
3: Research the company and the job so you know what it is they are looking for and what they value the most in a new hire and speak directly to these points and these points only, and under no circumstances ramble on about useless information
4: Do your C-A-R exercises so you know what your value is to this employer and showcase these points when answering this question. Improvisation may be great in jazz or rock music but not on a job interview
5: Never overstate your qualifications, experience, accomplishments or abilities.
6. Just like on your resume, focus on the present and the future and don’t dwell on the distant past. Tell people about the most recent part of your life and let them know how you have evolved with the times.
7. You are only as good as you see yourself. Work with a coach, a friend or a peer who can help you to gain confidence in what you have to offer and help you hone your ability to toot your own horn.
8. Validate who you are. Seek and post endorsements on Linked In that corroborate what you tell people about yourself.
9: Just like in music, you need to control your vocal tone, pitch, phrasing and pacing when you converse with people on an interview.
Let me know if this helps.
Perry Newman, CPC CSMS is a nationally recognized executive resume writer, career coach, AIPC certified recruiter and SMMU certified social media strategist known for his ability to help his clients get results. You can view his sample resumes at http://www.perrynewman.com, and email him your resume at firstname.lastname@example.org for FREE resume critique.
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