The Most Important Interview Question
Episode #2 of the course How to ace any professional job interview by Ken Liu
Now that you’ve done your research about the company and your interviewer, you’ll need to start preparing for the most important (or most dreaded, depending on how you look at it) interview question.
It will probably be the first question of your interview. How you answer this question can make or break your chances of passing the interview within the first five minutes.
Yes, it’s that important. So, let’s get right to it, shall we?
Can You Tell Me about Yourself?
Most interviewers will start the interview by asking you to talk about yourself. It’s meant to be an open-ended question that allows you to ease into the interview before the questions get a lot more specific.
This is your first chance to sell yourself to your potential employer. Take this opportunity to show your interviewer that you’re the best candidate for the job.
But it doesn’t mean you automatically get the green light to rattle off all your past accomplishments for the next 20 minutes either. You want to sound confident, but not arrogant. You want to come off as impressive, not self-absorbed.
Most job seekers dread this interview question. Since the question is so open-ended, they don’t know where to start and how detailed they should get. So, they end up reciting their resume from beginning to end, line by line.
By the time they finish reciting, the interviewer has already dozed off a few times and is trying to end the interview as quickly as possible.
The interview is effectively over, just like that.
A Simple Formula
Instead of ruining your chances in the first few minutes, you can prepare for this question by following a few simple steps.
Let’s go through them in detail.
What do you do now? Briefly describe your current role and your most important responsibilities. Make sure you talk about the responsibilities that are relevant to the new job.
What did you do before? Next, talk about what you did at your previous jobs. Again, make sure you talk about duties that are most relevant to the position you’re applying for.
What do you want to do in the future? You’ve gone through your current and past experience. You’ve set the stage. It is now time to talk about why you’re the best fit for this job.
Your answer should take no more than three minutes. Be clear and concise while keeping your interviewer engaged.
Practice, Not Memorize
Practice in front of a mirror or with a friend. The more you practice, the more natural you’re going to sound when you’re sitting in front of your interviewer.
However, don’t try to memorize a script, word for word. You’re not an actor who has the benefit of multiple takes in front of the camera. If you try to memorize a script and end up forgetting a word, you will undoubtedly start to panic and forget everything.
If you answer this initial question properly, you will show the interviewer right off the bat that you’ve done your homework. You know exactly how you can give value to the company.
Don’t make the mistake that most candidates make. They talk about how this dream job is the perfect fit for them. They make it all about them.
You need to think about this job from the company’s perspective. It might be great that you’re applying for your dream job. But the company doesn’t care about it as much as you do.
The bottom line is that the company wants to know whether you can help them grow. So, go ahead and tell them about yourself, but do it from the company’s perspective. It will make you stand out from the rest of the candidates and increase your chances of landing the job.
That’s a wrap! Tomorrow, we’ll get into how you should go about making a great first impression when you walk into the interview.
Do Over: Make Today the First Day of Your New Career by Jon Acuff
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