Tell Me Something About Yourself

A close friend of mine had a job interview some time ago. She hadn’t been to one for quite some time already, so she was a bit nervous. I offered I could practice with her. Do a little role-play.

Only recently I’ve read an interesting article about Acing the 50 most frequently asked interview questions. I was sure I’ll know what to ask in the role of the hiring manager. And – it will be fun, being on the other side of the barricade!

“So, what can you offer us someone else can not?”, I asked.

“I have experience from sales, I enjoy being in contact with the customers and I am really willing to learn.”

Come on! Such generic… answer. But I knew this friend very well. I knew she was great at anything she was doing. Let’s push her a bit to be more specific about her achievements, I said to myself. Let’s be helpful.

“Ok, that’s great. I’d like to hear a bit more about your sales experience.  Compared to your other colleagues in the sales department, how good were you?”

“I think I was doing well. My customers were usually satisfied and I was quite successful in reaching my sales targets.”

That sounded okay, but still pretty average. There had to be more!

“Can you be a bit more specific regarding your sales performance? I guess you had some rankings in which you could compare yourself to the other salespeople in your company?”

“Oh yes, we had that. We were ranked in quantity of sales and in overall quality. I ranked in the top 10% in volume sold and in the top 5% according to quality ratings.”

Yes! In the end, Lukas the interrogator made it! Finally she said what I was so desperately looking for – that she has a track record as a successful salesperson! I was certain that if the hiring manager would take the same interrogator approach, he would succeed in the quest of finding my close friend’s strengths too.

But… if he didn’t?

The next day when I was at work, we had a conference call with our team. I was quite new on the project and on the call was a senior executive from the United Kingdom, to whom I hadn’t spoken yet. My manager asked me:

“Lukas, perhaps you’d like to introduce yourself to David briefly?”

Huh, that caught me off-guard!

10 seconds of awkward silence, and then: “New on the team, so far I’ve been working on projects in banks, insurance companies and utilities. I’m enjoying being here on the project and I’m willing to learn new things.” 

I know what you’re thinking. Generic answer, boring as hell. I realized that at the very moment I finished speaking. In the eyes of the senior executive I’ve just blended in the mass of people he speaks to every day. Mission failed.

This was definitely not the first time I did something like that. On the positive note –  thanks to the exercise with my friend, I had finally realized I’m doing this too. And also that not being able to say the right thing about yourself when someone asks is – just stupid!

After hearing about it about zillion times – finally, I had started working on my own elevator pitch.

And I had sent a link to my friend too.

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