You enter the hiring manager’s office. You’ve likely shaken hands in the lobby or receiving area of the office. Please god, I hope your hand was warm and dry, and your handshake was firm. Let’s assume you made it this far.
You’re offered a chair. You both sit down at about the same time. You both exhale. Here we go.
You’re about to blow it.
The very first question you will be asked by 100% of the people who will interview you is some version of
“Tell me about yourself.”
You launch into a detailed list of your perceived skills, your eyes look up at the ceiling, you ad-lib and fumble your way though a laundry list of behaviors you think you want your interviewer to hear.
The interview might continue for a while, but it was over at question #1.
When you don’t know who you are, how can you possibly convince someone else?
The opening paragraph in the job interview is your verbal version of the short summary/profile you put at the top of your awesome resume
The job interview answers the following: why should they hire you?
James Caan, @jamescaanonline, not to be confused with the legendary actor of the same name, wrote a piece today I found on LinkedIn. He said “What employers want to know is how you can add value to a role. Every single person in an organization should be able to quantify exactly how they add value. Everybody’s contribution should be measurable and what you have to do in an interview is tell the interviewer what you will contribute. This is how you use your list of key skills and strengths — simply telling me what they are isn’t good enough, as you’re not matching them up to the needs of the job.”
You need to practice your paragraph and polish your summary. When you believe what you are saying, others will, too.
I worked on my LinkedIn summary for a couple of weeks; I probably wrote 20 versions of it. It’s not easy! But what I ultimately wrote about who I am and what I do is truthful, authentic and accurate. When I’m asked what I do, I can recite it without hesitation.
Dawn Siff got a ton of visibility around the Internet (and got a job) when she successfully used a 6 second Vine to tell the world why she was a good person to hire.
I loved this approach. She found a path to attention previously not exploited.
The cleverness of this post, one of the first of its kind, overshadowed a classic mistake that copycats will use to their detriment.
Look at the words she used.
She should have said, “Why I am valuable to your company.” It’s not about you. It’s about how you add value. It’s about your employer.
I’ve seen current versions of the six-second resume, and these look like an exercise in self-love. Me, me, me is not the reason for hiring someone. Value to the enterprise is an awesome reason.
In the first minute, tell your interviewer how you made it into the office. Tell them your story in 20 seconds, adding at the end your knowledge of the great things the company is doing.
You are the solution to a problem they have.
You made it to the interview – congratulations!
Close the sale by exuding calm confidence. Know thyself, and believers will follow.
John Scott is the career services manager and an instructor at the School of Multimedia Communications, Academy of Art University San Francisco. His second book, “You. Employed.” drops February 2 in the Amazon bookstore. @johnscottsf