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An Odd Question
There is an odd question that is sometimes asked during an interview. It’s usually the first thing that comes at you, usually before you’ve even had a chance to settle into your seat. These days there is a technique to conducting interviews. In fact, there is an entire set of psychological studies that has been devoted to creating interview questions and designing systems to quantify, identify and assess potential employees depending on the needs of the company. However there are are few questions that have been there since the beginning of time, and they will be there as long as there are positions to fill. “Tell me about yourself.” It’s innocent, casual, and conversational. Yet its asking is designed to bring out the most basic and true version of the candidate, and to do so without them ever knowing it. Catching You Off Guard
You may not believe it, but business interview techniques were originally based off of the framework for criminal interrogations… or vice versa depending on whom you ask. Either way, there is always an aspect to either school that requires you to catch your “subject” off of their guard. There is a power that comes from that; there is an immediate advantage that is granted to the party that can put the other on their heels. It seems strange I know; thinking of it all in such… hostile terms. There is an old edict: business is war. Those that take this concept too far are considered “sharks,” and usually burn themselves out. Those that ignore this truth are left by the wayside. Yet those that learn the trade, the ins and outs of business mastery, can flourish. It must be recognized that the most simple and seemingly innocent questions are often the most potent. And if you answer them wrong, they can be the most damaging to your purpose, and keep you from the job you really want. Walking into an interview is no different from walking into a meeting about a million-dollar deal; no different from walking into a company meeting; no different from walking into a battle. You have to be prepared and you have to be ready for whatever comes.
Taking It Too Lightly
Many… many applicants take job interviews far too lightly. It’s one of those strange things that those who know better may not believe. Does anyone really walk in to a job interview unprepared? Are people really silly enough to not know what’s behind the questions that they are asked? The answer is a resounding “yes!” There are many applicants that take an alarmingly casual approach to the interview process. You would think that these are the applicants who simply don’t care about getting the job; oddly enough that’s not the case. In my time as a manager I have run into applicants that have come in for an interview, treated it like it was day at the beach, not been hired… and then hassled me for the next month still trying to figure out why they didn’t get the job. There were a couple of time that I finally broke down and laid it all out for them. You walked in her dressed like you were going to a barbecue. You laughed when I asked you to tell me about yourself; tell me about your weaknesses and strengths… you showed up late. Do you really think that calling me three times a day will somehow undo all that? Oddly enough, the answer is yes. Some take the fact that the questions that were asked sounded casual to be an invitation to speak casually, and they were wrong. Mark my words: a casual attitude does not mix with a business setting… ever. Those that understand this move forward and those that do not… well they don’t move at all. Tell Me About You… No Need To Worry… Really
The questions that are the most broad are the questions that can be the most difficult to understand, and the most difficult to effectively answer. Philosophers tell us that every person has many sides; many facets to their lives and personalities. Those who are effective at the “game of life” are those that pick and choose how and when to reveal the parts of themselves that are pertinent to the situation, and reveal only what is needed at the time. When someone asks you to talk about yourself you can very easily be drawn off base by the unassuming nature of the inquiry, and the many facets of yourself that you can find cause to display. However, in a business context there are certain facets that should always be shown… and certain facets that should be kept to yourself at all costs. Need To Know Basis Only
When it comes to a business setting there are things that should always be said, and things that should never be said. Knowing the difference between the two and learning when to reveal certain information is something that any aspiring professional should learn, and pride themselves of being able to recognize. Let’s break it down and make it simple… so there are no misinterpretations. Personal information is absolutely, positively, totally off limits! If it has to do with your personal life, your family, your pet peeves, or you personal likes or dislikes, you have absolutely no business in a business environment… period!
It must be understood that the business world works on different principles than the one we live in as children or young adults. As a child or young adult we are expected to let are passions be free, and our opinions about life, love and the pursuit of happiness be heard by everyone we meet. However, from the moment you walk into your first job interview you must become something new: a person that know how to segment their opinions and feelings into finely tuned pieces of art… to be viewed when, and as needed by the world around. It can take an incredibly long time for a young professional to cultivate this mental attitude. To be perfectly honest, even as a career salesperson it took me nearly a decade to truly understand what it meant to separate the business matters from the personal ones. The bottom line is this: when someone asks you to tell them about who you are you must carefully consider the context. If you’re out on a date then please, by all means, say whatever you like, but if you are in an interview and you really mean to get the job… check yourself. Check what you say, and keep your answers relegated to the subject matter of the position you are going for. Keep your cool, stay professional… and say only what you need to say to win the respect of your potential employer.