Call to Action: How to Ace the “Tell Me About Yourself” Interview Question

By Randall Hansen / February 18, 2016

At some point during your interview, your employer may simply ask you to talk in an open-ended way about yourself. Answer by explaining what drives you, what you're looking for, what you can do, what you've done in the past, or all of the above.   Some interview questions are more predictable than others, and while there's no way to know in advance if you'll be quizzed on job-specific clinical or technical points, there are a few questions that are almost guaranteed to make an appearance during your session. These include the kinds of general queries that represent basic due diligence on the part of your employer, like “Have you done this kind of work before?” and “Why should I hire you?”   Here's one question that you'll face in almost every interview you'll ever attend: “Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?” This question may also take a few alternative forms, like “What brings you here today?” or “What's your story?”  

Why Interviewers Ask This Question

  This open-ended question allows the two of you to break the ice and get the conversation moving, but that's not all it's designed to do. By handing you the floor and letting you speak without specific prompting, your interviewer hopes to learn more about what matters to you, what you can do, what you'd like to do, where you've been, and where you're going. Whether you realize it or not, you'll also be demonstrating your ability to speak confidently and share an honest and thoughtful assessment of the situation from your point of view. Here are a few tips that can help you make a great impression while you do this.  
  1. Prepare Well in Advance
Don't just wing it and count on your off-the-cuff speaking skills to save you. No matter how brightly you tend to shine in these situations, script your answer and practice your delivery beforehand. That way you won't miss a single opportunity or leave out a critical detail that might help you make your case. (An additional tip: Don't throw the question back at the interviewer or demand more specifics and structure. Just answer as you practiced, and do so with confidence.)  
  1. Provide Relevant Background Details
As you choose an approach to your answer, you'll have several options, and one of these will involve launching into a brief description of your work history and how your previous jobs have prepared you for this open position. Start a few years in the past and work your way up to the present. Explain some of your most relevant roles, including what you learned on the job and how these lessons have set you up for success.  
  1. Talk about Your Personality and Passions
Another common approach to this question will involve simply talking about what drives you and what defines you as a person and an employee. Describe your personality and the spark of passion that drew you to this industry in the first place. If this job will require certain character traits and you have those traits, this is your opportunity to say so. (While you do this, avoid personal details that aren't your interviewer's business. Don't discuss your family, your children, your religion, or your medical status.)  
  1. Stay in the Present
You can talk about your past, you can talk about your personality, or you can choose to stay in the moment. For example, you can explain why you chose to leave your last job and look for another (maybe you have an ambition your last employer couldn't fulfill). Or you can discuss how you found out about this open position and why your abilities are a perfect match for the employer's needs (as you see them).  
  1. Focus on Non-verbal Cues
As you tell your employer about yourself, you'll be using more than your words alone. The answer will also come through in your posture, your voice, your gestures, and your expression, so make sure these elements are under your control. If you say “I'm very friendly”, but you say it while mumbling and staring at the floor, your gestures will speak louder than your words.   ---   For more on how to describe yourself while emphasizing only the most helpful, meaningful, and professional information you have to offer, explore the interview tips and job search tools at Quintcareers.    

8 Skills That Will Help You Land the Job

By Giana / January 25, 2017

You found a job post that suits you perfectly. You can check off each of the required credentials, the location is perfect, and you recognize and respect the company and its brand. You’re ready to apply, but do you have the skills you need to land the job? If current technical skills match up to the daily tasks and responsibilities of this role, how do you convey that message clearly to set yourself apart from your competition? If you possess the following eight skills in addition to your professional experience, your odds of landing the job will increase exponentially. 1. Take Action Some people see something they want and go for it, while others waste time procrastinating or overthinking next steps until they are overwhelmed. Don’t be that person. When it’s time to act, act. Pay attention to the details, but don’t sweat the details to the point of paralysis. Don’t be afraid of mistakes; be afraid of inaction, missed deadlines, and missed opportunities. 2. Employ Empathy Empathy is the special skill that allows us to see the world from another person’s point of view. During a job search, empathy can be a very powerful tool. Read between the lines of the job post and apply your empathy. What are the employer’s needs? What kind of cultural match are they looking for? Having the ability to see the position through the eyes of the recruiter – and write your resume and cover letter to address their needs – is a special skill that will get you far. 3. Work on Your Writing Skills Before you meet your potential employers in person during an interview, you’ll first need to get their attention using your written words. You may not be a brilliant poet or world-changing speech writer, but can still make a concise and compelling case for yourself by answering two questions: What are the skills you possess that will allow you to handle this job? And what can you offer the employer that no other candidate can offer? Clearly state these responses in your resume and cover letter. Edit your work and have a friend proofread the final result for clarity and typos. 4. Perfect Your Phone Skills Can you bring employers over to your side during a ten-minute phone chat? You certainly can if you can perfect the art of the telephone interview. Prepare and practice your elevator pitch. Keep your voice measured and calm, but also engaged and energetic. Stand up while you speak, and smile. Both of these things can be heard in your voice. 5. Hone Your Listening Skills Don’t make your employer share the same details and information multiple times. To avoid asking the same questions over and over, write it down all relevant information. This includes the proper names of the people you interview with, names of clients, and all company divisions. 6. Market Yourself During a job search, you are the product and products need to be marketed in order to sell. Do you know how to pitch your accomplishments and abilities in a way that’s truthful, but not boastful? Do you now how to form a personal connection with your audience, which in this case is the hiring manager? Do you know how to grab attention in a positive way, and embed yourself in your employer’s memory after your interaction ends? Your marketing skills are important during your job search so don’t be shy. 7. Dress for Success Your interview outfit should demonstrate your respect for the opportunity so never arrive looking sloppy or disheveled. It should be clear that you considered your audience and your venue when choosing your outfit. Your clothes should be appropriate for the office culture. If you are unsure of how to dress, read company reviews online or ask the hiring manager. 8. Don’t Forget the Follow Up When you start something, finish it. After your interview, call or send a message within a day to thank the interviewers for their time. A well-written thank you note is a great way to reiterate your interest and engagement and leave a good impression with the hiring manager. During your job search process, check in with LiveCareer and use the tools on the site to keep your search—and the growth of your long-term career—on track.
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How to Ace Your Retail Interview

By Giana / November 28, 2016

You have what it takes to succeed in the people-focused world of retail. But are you ready to make this clear during your interview?

The retail industry has been a mainstay of the national employment landscape for a long time, and during the fall and winter months, retail hiring typically spikes. This year, the spike is predicted to rise higher than it has in more than a decade. Which is to say, if you have the right skills for a retail position, managers may be rolling out a red carpet for you.

Are you ready to take advantage of the opportunities available to you? Do you have your polished resume in hand, along with your winning attitude and customer-friendly smile? Most important, are you ready to ace your retail interview? Keep these tips in mind and you’ll be on the payroll in no time.

Review your candidacy through the eyes of a busy retail manager.

Your interviewer will be looking for a candidate who can show up on time and quickly learn the ropes of the job. But mainly, she’ll be looking for someone who can appeal to her customers. So can you do that? Make sure you step into your session with your customer in mind, not just your interviewer. Be neat, approachable, confident, and interested in solving whatever problems your customer/interviewer might send your way.

Make things easy.

When you speak, keep your words and your message as clear as possible. Don’t confuse your interviewer. If you can only work on Wednesdays, say so upfront. If you know some things about the job already, but will need training in other areas, be clear about this. If you can work a register or POS system, say so. If you can’t, answer honestly when asked. This won’t necessarily be a deal breaker, but your manager will need to know what resources you already have and what resources you’re going to need.

Show interest and signs of life.

Of course you probably don’t have an abiding passion for selling things in a store and your work doesn’t define your entire personality. But when it comes to “passion”, meet your employer halfway and rise to the occasion. Show that you truly care about rolling up your sleeves, helping others the way you would want to be helped, and doing your part for the team. Sit up straight, speak with energy, and be fully present. Even the smallest signs of personal investment can go a long way.

Reliability matters.

Hiring is expensive and risky, especially on a very tight deadline (which the holidays represent). Mitigate this risk and reassure your employer that you have no intention of coming in late, leaving them in a lurch, walking away before your shift is over, or otherwise not showing up when and where you’re needed.

Be nice.

Recognize that your employer may be very busy. So if she asks you a question that you’ve already answered on your resume, or asks you the same question twice during your session, roll with it. Be graceful and patient. Again, demonstrate the demeanor that you’ll present to your customers. If you don’t understand a question, politely ask the employer to repeat it. If you hear something about the job that you don’t like, ask politely for confirmation.

For more on how to get what you need during your retail interview, while also impressing your potential employer, explore the job search resources at LiveCareer.

Don’t Get Spooked by the Interviewer!

By Giana / October 27, 2016

On Halloween, we celebrate scary things, but nothing is scarier than an awkward job interview! Well, maybe a few things… But job interviews are no joke! Here are a few tips that can take the terror out of five tricky interview questions.

Halloween is just around the corner, and while we take delight in scaring ourselves with fake spiders and creepy tales of horror, many of us are also feeling serious heebie-jeebies (or at least anxiety) based on something comparatively mundane: the job search process. Specifically, interviews. While supernatural ghosts and goblins haunt our dreams, our waking hours are often haunted by something much more grounded in reality, and therefore much scarier: the prospect of having an everyday conversation with a total stranger who holds power over our professional and financial destiny. Eep.

There’s no doubt that interviews can be frightening. But a few simple considerations can take the terror out of these five tricky questions and help nervous job seekers move forward with confidence.

Why should we hire you?

When you hear this question, your thoughts may move toward the things you want. For example, you may think you should be hired because you’ve worked hard to get where you are, or because you have bills to pay, or because this job can help you advance your career. These things may be true, but when you answer, focus on how your presence in the workplace can help your employers reach their goals and get the things THEY want. So…what do they want? Give this matter some thought before your interview session begins.

Why do you want to work here?

Note, this question is not asking “Why are you looking for work?” but is instead asking, “Why are you looking for work HERE?” In other words, what do you find appealing about this company or organization that you haven’t found anywhere else? How does this specific job or company match your personality, your training, your special skills, your long term goals, or your job search needs? When you answer this, think about all the ways your plans align with the company’s plans, and shine a light on these details.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Of course you don’t know what the future will hold; nobody does. But thankfully, this isn’t a pop quiz and you aren’t applying for the job of a fortune teller. You’re simply being asked to describe your long term goals and demonstrate that you have the capacity to plan, dream, and think ahead. You aren’t living from one day and one paycheck to the next, and you recognize a future that lies beyond this moment and this specific open position. Be honest about your vision.

Describe your greatest weakness.

Nobody likes to talk about their weaknesses and shortcomings during an interview (and this question carries a trick element that borders on rudeness; many interviewers avoid it for this reason). But if you’re faced with this curveball, don’t panic. Simply describe one area or skill set in which you’ve had to work hard and learn tough lessons. For example, if you don’t love public speaking, describe how you’ve practiced and grown in this area during recent years.

What’s the story with your current (or most recent) job?

If you have a current job, why are you leaving? If you aren’t currently working, what happened to your last gig? Did you leave voluntarily? If so, why? Tough questions about past (or present) work situations can throw interviewees off balance; after all, perfectly content and thriving workers aren’t usually beating the pavement for jobs. But if you keep your answers positive and short, you’ll move quickly past this question and present yourself as an ambitious person in search of new opportunities.

For more on how to get past your fears and anxieties and move on to the next stage of your job search, explore the resume resources available at LiveCareer.