Glenford Smith, Career writer
Heading the list of common job interview questions is the seemingly simple request: Tell us about yourself.
If you're like 80 per cent of interviewees, you will interpret the question as a polite request from the interviewers to learn about you. And that's where you'd be wrong.
If you take a moment to think about it, the interviewers already know a lot about you. They have your résumé, remember?
So don't waste their time reciting your name, age, or what you wrote under the Personal Profile or Career Objective section of your résumé. As a general rule, don't answer the question by merely restating the bare facts already on your resume. Interviewers can read that for themselves.
And not to 'burst your bubble', but interviewers are hardly interested in hearing about your adorable pet, your incredible vacation, your favourite colour, or any of the other fascinating personal details of your private life.
In short, the request, 'Tell us about yourself' is not primarily about you. It's about finding out from you, right upfront, what it is about you that makes you the ideal candidate for the job they're interviewing for.
It's the perfect opportunity to make your pitch. Show how your qualification, experience, achievements and personal qualities best fulfil the requirements of the position you're being interviewed for.
The key is to connect the facts on your résumé with the specific job requirements as advertised. Sell yourself as the solution to your prospective employer's problem; don't recite dry facts about yourself. Naturally, you should have researched the company and understood their needs.
Here is an example for a sales and marketing manager position to give you an idea:
'You already have a lot of personal details from my résumé, which I'm sure you've already familiarised yourself with, and so, I won't recite them.
'Instead, I'd like to highlight that I was awarded Sales Agent of the Year last year. This was largely due to my innovative approach to marketing, learned at university and through personal study, my advanced networking skills as well as my mastery of a proven sales process. Not only did I win an individual award, but the team I'm responsible for has won top honours two years in a row now under my leadership.
'I have the required Bachelor of Science degree in marketing, but that's not all. I also have the practical experience and proven track record which can help to turn your sales and marketing around.
'Last year, I took an online course called 'Sales and Marketing in the Social Media Age'. I learned the new rules for sales, marketing and public relations using blogs, podcasting, viral marketing, Facebook, Twitter and other online media to reach buyers directly. I think this knowledge would be extremely valuable in helping you expand market share and grow revenues by 15 per cent or more.'
Here's another 'don't': Don't wing it in responding to this question. Expect this question first, and prepare for it diligently. That means practising your answer beforehand.
Take your success seriously; don't improvise.
Glenford Smith is a motivational speaker and success strategist. He is the author of 'From Problems to Power' and co-author of 'Profile of Excellence'. email@example.com.