How to answer the interview question, ‘Tell me about yourself’

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Andy Sajnani, CEO of software development company Think Latitude, and COO Misha Shah, interviewed five candidates for a marketing manager role within their company. To kick off each interview, they asked the candidate to explain who they were.

Sajnani said, “Why don’t you tell us a little bit about your background?” to the candidate sitting across the table.

The candidate, John, launched into a speech, walking the interviewers through nearly his whole professional history without any signal of why he was highlighting the experiences or when he was going to stop.

The candidate did not pick up on the the CEO’s body language, which included looking around the room, taking sips of coffee, and other small signals that conveyed he was losing interest. Instead, he rambled, only stopping when Shah interrupted him.

Great communication skills are among the top traits bosses look for in future employees. So in general, it’s best to avoidrambling. When it comes to a short interview in which every second counts, being succinct and focused is even more important.

Guy Kawasaki, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist, says, “I think you need to be able to leave a 10-second voicemail, to explain what you do in 30 seconds, to use five slides in PowerPoint.”

“Everything,” he adds, “is brevity.”

In addition, bestselling leadership author Suzy Welch says your response should be tailored to the job you’re applying for. She suggests that when preparing for your interview, you ask yourself, “What is it about me that [the hiring manager] cares about?”

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