Welcome to the Friday Forum!
Every Friday, we take a question submitted by one of our readers and have our professionals field it and provide advice. We then encourage you to comment below and give your personal take!
Here is This Week’s Question:
“I have interviewed for three different positions and during each interview a lot of the same questions have come up. I feel like I do a pretty good job of answering the general questions, but I struggle with more of the open ended ones. Specifically the “walk me through your resume” question. In all honesty, I am not sure what the interviewer is really looking for here. Aren’t they supposed to look at my resume before they interview me? I end up getting nervous and I don’t want to give too long or too short of a response. What are your thoughts? Any advice on how I should go about talking about my employment history?”
This question is always a tough one because every interviewer may be looking for something different. With that being said, there are many ways to set yourself up for success. Check out these suggestions!
Tips for the open-ended “tell me about yourself” question
Have an opener
So where do you start? Many times when candidates are asked this question they immediately draw a blank. “I have 15+ years of experience where should I begin?!” It is important to prepare and have a good starting point. I recommend something that not only breaks the ice, but something that can give you some momentum. A brief statement about your education or how you landed in your field typically works. For example:
“My love for engineering started back in high school. I was involved in a design contest which in turn landed me a scholarship to Michigan State where I obtained my BSME.”
Get to the point
Once you have set the stage to explain your experience, it is important to be concise and to get to the point. There is no reason to provide every detail about every position that you have held in your career.
Craft your response around the opening
Relevancy is the key to answering this question as the interviewer is trying to understand if your experience matches their need. When you are providing details on your background you should find ways to tie them into the job description. For example:
“Currently I am working as a design engineer for XYZ company and I am doing work on turbine engines. I noticed that your company produces similar turbine engines so I feel like I would be able to jump right into this role with little assistance.”
Gauge what the interviewer is looking for
Paying attention to the interviewer is also a great way to try and understand what they are looking for. They may say “take me through each of your positions, tell me your responsibilities and why you left each job.” If this is the case, then it is pretty straight forward as to what they are looking for.
In other scenarios it may be very open ended. “Tell me about your background.” In this situation you can start with your opener and dive into your background. As you provide your answer pay attention to the interviewer and how they respond. They may ask additional questions to narrow down what they are looking for. If not, stick to your script, tie it back to the open position, and stay concise.
Pay attention to the interviewer’s body language
This can be a great way of knowing if you are on the right track. If they look bored or have tried to to hurry you along, you may have been giving them more then they wanted. You will need to provide additional detail if it seems like they are pulling answers out of you or are asking you to expand. Finally, if your interviewer seems interested, is smiling, and is in agreement with your responses you are doing well!
If you have read my articles in the past you know that I believe that practice makes perfect! Craft your response and have someone practice with you. Get their feedback and tweak your answer. Remember that your answer may be somewhat different based on the interview, but it will definitely help!
What are Your Thoughts? Comment Below!
Have you had an interviewer ask you to walk them through your background? How did you do it?
Dan Metz is the Director of Executive Search and Employee Development at the Resilience Group, LLC, and Co-Founder and Contributing Author for Need a New Gig. Follow his blog for more great tips like this!