It’s the classic opening interview question and one of the most common questions asked at all hiring levels: Tell me about yourself. Answered strategically, this one question offers 2 great gifts:  The opportunity to tell the interviewer exactly what you want them to know about you;  The chance to influence the interviewer’s agenda for the rest of the interview.
Although each interviewee’s specific response to this question must be tailored to their candidacy and brand, there are several key facets which all executive job seekers should include. Jot down the following categories on a sheet of paper, and then brainstorm your response. At the bottom of this post I’ll give you a template to follow which will combine all of these elements.
- Core Values: Note 2 to 3 of your strongest work-related values that demonstrate your match for the job at hand.
- Key Skills:List 3-4 skills you possess which prove your ability to perform the job in question better than other candidates. Make sure these are the highest-level skills you can identify.
- Personality: Jot down 2 words or phrases which encapsulate your personality in the workplace. Strive to capture the most important aspects of your leadership style or interpersonal capabilities, for example.
- Scope of Experience: Summarize your experience as it relates to the job you’re interviewing for. This may include your total number of years in the industry, key roles, subsectors you’re familiar with, cross-functional experience, promotions, and the like.
- Pedigree Credentials: If you have experience with high-profile companies or hot industries, earned prestigious or sought after certifications or education (PMP, Harvard MBA), worked for well-known industry executives, or possess rare skills, list them.
- Industry Key Words: Select 4-6 key words from the job posting of the position you are interviewing for. Choose the highest-level and most urgent skills you can find in the posting (which you of course possess).
Now that you’ve gathered the “ingredients” for your Tell Me about Yourself template, map yours to this script. There are many ways of weaving all of these elements together artfully; this is intended to be just one example that should initiate your own brainstorming, writing, and polishing:
I am a (list 2 personality descriptors) (type of position you are interviewing for) with over (number of years of experience) in (key industries/roles). My strongest assets include my abilities to (combine industry key words with strongest relevant skills). I am known as a person who (core values) while (remaining skills and/or industry key words/experiences). I possess (pedigree credentials).
Here’s a sample so you can see how this works:
I am a (dynamic and client-driven) (VP of Sales) with more than (17 years of experience in channel sales within CPG industries) and (12 rapid promotions through increasingly responsible senior leadership roles). My strongest assets include my abilities to (forge new teams from scratch, turnaround existing team performance, and build sustainable partnerships that fuel cross-channel sales). I am known as a natural leader who (cultivates loyalty and accountability) while (driving sales goal achievement in alignment with business needs and market conditions). Lastly, I should note that my experience includes tenure with Kimberly Clarke and P&G; I have earned an MBA and PMP certification and am presently enrolled in executive leadership courses with Harvard.
As you can see, I deviated from the template in my sample in order to ensure good sentence flow. The end result is a brief but well-crafted Tell Me about Yourself response that will showcase a wealth of great detail about your candidacy in 1 minute or less.
The idea here is NOT to memorize a script but to memorize the “recipe” elements it contains. If you do this, each time you present your reply it will be fresh, memorable, and tailored to the position at hand.
I’d love to see your sample replies!