Almost every interview starts with this question. This is your chance to give a great first impression!
What is the interviewer looking for?
- A high level summary of your career You may want to start chronologically, focussing on specific achievements.
- Why did you make those career choices? If you say you are always looking for the next challenge you will look ambitious. If you mention you enjoyed your five years in the same company you will be perceived as loyal.
- What are you passionate about and good at? Your experience is not likely something you can change overnight, your passion is already there, so you just need to show it!
How can you structure your answer?
- Explain your current qualification and position Focus the interviewer’s attention on tasks and responsibilities you have today that are similar to what you will do tomorrow for them.
- Describe one or two experiences relevant to the one you are interviewing for If you have direct experience in the role you are applying for make sure to use the terms of that very domain (e.g. acronyms well known in the industry or specific tools or products). Otherwise you can figure out what skills are needed for that position and describe a few experiences where you applied them successfully.
- In the last sentence explain what you value about the company / position Make sure you articulate this point in a compelling way to show your motivation.
What the interviewer is NOT looking for
- Hearing about your personal life You are a professional candidate – the last thing you want is the interviewer leaving the room with the image of you playing with your kids, unless you are applying for a job in that field.
- Hearing about your problems (e.g. previous job issues) If you talk about your personal problems you project a weak image of yourself, or you might look like a troublemaker if you describe issues you had in the past with your boss or coworkers.
Absolutely avoid the following:
- Negative, racist, sexist or class comments
- Discussing politics or religion
What can I do next?
The last step to make sure you really are ready is to get feedback from someone who has experience in evaluating candidates. A knowledgeable recruiter or career coach can tell you how compelling your answer is, and offer valuable professional feedback.
However you decide to do it… Practice. Practice. Practice!
This article was written by Fabio Mattiussi, founder of FasterSkills – the career coaching service that helps you prepare for an interview and land your dream job. Computer engineer and serial entrepreneur, he started his career as a professional hacker in a leading European security company. His passion for communication, innovation and leadership pushed him to leave his comfort zone and join an International MBA in Madrid, Spain. Pursuing his dream he then moved to California where he worked as a Sr. manager in several firms and a Fortune 100 company. He is now following his passion by helping competitive professionals to achieve success through the FasterSkills method, leveraging his 17+ years of experience.