Executive Networking & Interviews: Tell Me about Yourself

executive networking and executive job interviewingIt’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: [1] The opportunity to tell the interviewer exactly what you want them to know about you; [2] 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!

About Cheryl Lynch Simpson

Cheryl is a Career, Job Search & LinkedIn Coach and Master Resume Writer. She has helped clients in >35 industries on 6 continents and has earned 24 global resume writing nominations and awards.

  • Scott Kramer says:

    Hi Ms. Simpson: I have read different opinions on “Tell Me About Yourself” and I like hours. How can your version be geared towards someone who is about to graduate from college or has had an accounting internships or previous bookkeeping experience through volunteer opportunties?

    Thanks, Scott

    • Cheryl Lynch Simpson says:

      Thanks for your questions, Scott. By adding in your upcoming graduation, your internships, and your previous volunteer experience into your Scope of Experience message, you could easily make this work for you. Don’t forget to mine your school and volunteer work for achievements — this is the key. Good luck!

  • Andrea says:

    Dear Ms Simpson,
    Do you have any ideas or help for RN’S who are seeking a new position to show their brand?
    I have 30 years experience but have not worked x 5 years.
    I have kept current but feel at a little disadvantage by not working.
    These ideas are all great but seem to be focused on the business world.
    Thank you.

    • Cheryl Lynch Simpson says:

      Thanks for your questions, Andrea, and for stopping by my blog. The principles outlined in this post all apply to nursing, though how you apply them will be different. For example, in your field you can’t focus as much on quantifiable things like sales or revenue because these aren’t pertinent. But you can focus on things that contribute to hospital revenue and other critical healthcare issues such as patient turnover, patient outcomes, readmissions, and regulatory compliance. Make these kinds of elements the focus of your Tell Me About Yourself reply, your brand, and your resume.

      It is a disadvantage to have been out of the workforce for 5 years. The question recruiters and hiring managers will want to know is, “How have you sustained your brand over the last 5 years?” You noted that you have kept current, but what does that mean? Have you taken courses? Volunteered? Nursed family members or friends? Upgraded your skills in any way? It is critical that your resume and LinkedIn profile make you appear to be a candidate with fresh skills. You may need a different resume/LinkedIn structure than you’re used to, and you will definitely need to be prepared to answer questions about your employment gap and return to the workforce.

      The good news is that all of this is doable. If you find yourself struggling with doing it on your own, then get help from a professional. Whatever you do, don’t give up — your nursing skills are needed!


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