By Krisha Maclang on June 6, 2015
Job interviews will always be nerve-wracking. When you know that your credentials are being scrutinized and that you’ve probably been Google searched already, there’s a tendency to feel like you’re being cross-examined.
For a lot of interviewees, nothing can throw them off than being asked, “So, tell me about yourself.” It leaves you asking so many questions: Can I mention my family? Should I talk about my action figure collection?
What do companies really want to know when they ask you that? Interviewers want to know if you have a good handle on your credentials and can eloquently speak about them.
Answer it wrong or right, this seemingly innocent question can set the tone of your interview. It’s the perfect opportunity to present and sell yourself as the ideal candidate for the job. Think of it as an elevator sales pitch: you only have a few seconds to reel in your interviewer so use it well.
If you’re looking for a sales or marketing position, this task to sell yourself as the applicant of your interviewer’s dreams is even more important because it shows how well you'll do in the position. So for those aspiring to get into this field, Kalibrr has a few tips on what exactly you should say when asked "tell me about yourself" for sales and marketing.
1. Focus on what the interviewer wants to know
At its very core, a job interview is a conversation between you and the interviewer where both of you are trying to figure out if you will fit the job opening. Your interviewer is basically asking you “who are you as a sales and marketing professional?”
Try starting from there. Ask yourself who you are in terms of what you are capable of as a sales and marketing professional, as well as who you want to be in the future. Mentioning your goals in the interview will help the interviewer have a good sense of who you are.
Here’s a brief example you can start with for an entry-level digital advertising social media writer position:
“I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Marketing, and a minor in English. During my last term in college, I had an internship with a mobile marketing firm where I helped create content for the content strategy team. Our team recently won an industry award for our innovative approach to content creation, which sparked my interest in continuing my career in digital marketing. I want to deepen my knowledge of social media content creation and strategy with this position and believe it will bring me toward my goal of being a content strategist one day.”
This spiel highlights the following:
- marketing knowledge and excellent communication skills in English,
- the ability to handle multiple responsibilities successfully (an internship as you complete requirements for graduation)
- concrete experience digital marketing
- highlighting a personal success
- interest in growing a career in the industry, and
- an indication in staying with the company long-term.
2. Create a script and practice
As with most things in life that need getting used to, you need to practice, practice, practice. It helps to create a script highlighting everything you want to say and to practice it so you don’t end up stammering through your speech.
Avoid memorizing an entire spiel so that your speech doesn’t lose its conversational tone. Try memorizing bullet points of what you want to highlight instead, so that it can still sound natural.
Here’s an example for an entry-level sales position:
- Proven experience as a president of your home organization
- Increased events sponsor list by 40% through proposed plan to tap alumni in upper management positions
- Relevant work experience interning for a sales in a start-up company
- I want this position because I want to build a career in sales and I believe that this position will give me the training and experience that I need.
The spiel presents your best work and why you want the position, but leaves you with enough room to express it any way that feels natural at an actual interview. Practice and remember just the key highlights so that you know what you want to say and how you want to say it but don’t make it sound too rehearsed.
For other more general tips on answering "tell me about yourself", read on.
3. Don’t make it too personal
A common pitfall that applicants often stumble into is answering the question very personally. Interviewers don’t really want to hear personal stories or anecdotes about your childhood, they want to know about the professional you.
Interviewers don’t need to know that you love long walks on the beach or that you like to collect model toy cars. If you want to mention some hobbies, make sure that they can be relevant to the job you’re applying for or that they can speak of you as an employee. For example, mentioning that you were a student athlete may convince the interviewer that you are disciplined and have good time management skills.
Focus on your professional self, not your personal self.
4. Highlight your skills but don’t exaggerate them either
Take this time to mention relevant skills to catch your interviewer’s attention. If you have related successes, you can highlight that too. But never, ever exaggerate or lie about your credentials. In this day and age, it’s hard to evade background checks because information is readily available. They will find out one way or another.
You won’t be the first or the last to feel stumped by this question. Instead of being intimidated by it, think of it as an opportunity to present yourself as the ideal person your potential employee wants to hire. With enough preparation and practice, you’ll be able to lock down your spiel and confidently answer that mind teaser of a question with confidence.
Photo by: Markus Spiske / raumrot.com