So, tell me about yourself…

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As far as interview questions go, this should be pretty straight forward one to answer – we don’t know anyone better than ourselves!

As a recruiter I meet with a multitude of people on a daily basis and this is typically my opening question, particularly when meeting candidates for the first time. It is a question where the answer really shapes the next 30 minutes… or 60 minutes depending on whether you give me your ‘war and peace’ or the elevator pitch!

So how and why do some people get the answer so right and others so wrong?

Some people react with “oh I hate this question”. Why would you hate this question and the opportunity to talk about yourself? Generally when candidates come to meet me, it is to discuss their suitability for a role or more broadly their experience for opportunities going forward. For some, this is their first step into the job market so why not come prepared? The majority of candidates I meet with are career contractors in the project and change space, for a seasoned professional I don’t need to understand the reason you studied particular modules of your computer degree 30 years ago, and every single contract you have carried out since. Equally if you tell me you are a project manager who “just gets the job done” that is of little help and is an all too familiar story to my ears!

So… how do you answer this question and find that middle ground?

  • This is the intro, it’s the prelude to YOUR story and an opportunity for us to deep dive into the specifics later on.
  • Keep it relevant – why are you here to meet with me? What are WE trying to get out of this engagement?
  • How do YOU want to be remembered? As a recruiter I am here to advocate on your behalf, if you can’t articulate to me who you are, how am I supposed to do that for you?

Personally, I am looking to understand in 5 minutes or less:

  • Your career journey to date – what you have done and how you have got to where you are today?
  • What are your achievements, how are you different? What is your brand in the market place? All these are simply hooks for us to discuss in more detail.
  • For the Program / Project Managers out there it’s simple! I need to understand the scope of projects you have managed, budget responsibility and who your stakeholders were. Success is managing projects on time, to budget, to scope and where your delivery capability has been challenged – it’s not all sunshine and roses. I also need to understand where you got your ‘war wounds’ from as well.

There is an endless list of articles that claim to provide you with the perfect response but everybody’s story is different. So… be prepared, know yourself and tailor your response to the recruiter / interviewer and don’t forget to showcase your personality (professionally of course!)

It works both ways and sometimes I get caught off guard articulating who I am and what I can offer, how am I different to my peers out there, I need to ensure I stay relevant and different in this competitive market.

Charlotte Adams
Principal: Business Enablement – Change and Transformation 


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