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“So tell me about yourself.” No five words evoke more fear in people than this statement. Yet it is one of the most frequently asked questions in job interviews. Talking about yourself is scary, but it’s an essential professional skill. Follow these four easy steps to introduce yourself and communicate who you are and the differentiating value you bring to the table.
Related: Want to Stand Out From the Crowd? Know your unique value proposition.
Step 1: Build a report
Often when confronted with “so tell me about yourself” you are engaged in a conversation with people who barely know you. So don’t start talking about the size of the job. Instead, try to build a genuine relationship and rapport with those who ask. Tell us about your background and situational identity. Your situational identity is where you are in your life right now, a circumstance that determines how you appear in the world or a community you identify with that helps shape your individuality.
As a background, some people choose to talk about their family, where they went to school and where they come from. Still, you can talk about a cause or community you belong to, or a personal story about a moment in your life that helped define you. For example, a client of mine was asked to talk about himself in a recent interview. He spoke about his time in the military, taking responsibility for his younger siblings after his mother passed away and what this taught him about leadership. Sharing aspects of your background and identity gives a deeper understanding of who you are. It can also reveal similarities between you and your prospects that can help you connect with them and build trust. This is also a good way to demonstrate your interpersonal skills. 55% of employers say they find it very difficult to find qualified candidates with strong interpersonal skills.
People with good interpersonal skills can “build healthy relationships with their colleagues and work better as a team,” say communication scientists Brian Spitzberg and William Cupach. So there is a high demand for people with these skills. Indeed, many employers say: interpersonal and communication skills are very important for gaining leadership positions in their organizations.
Step 2: Communicate Who You Are – Not Just What You Do
When people meet you, they don’t match your credentials, experience, or expertise. Instead, they get in touch with your personality and social skills (also known as “soft skills”, “human skills”, or “power skills”). When asked about yourself, bring out your personal qualities and core values. These are your human skills that communicate who you are as a person, not just what you can do. For example, you could state that you are a very compassionate person, explain why you say you are compassionate, and give an example from your professional experience where compassion was beneficial in that situation.
Employers value people skills because they know that subject-specific skills can be taught. They therefore look for skills such as leadership, empathy, communication, adaptability and self-awareness. These can indicate whether you can interact effectively and harmoniously with other people. People who are empathetic are seen as better colleagues and leaders because they tend to create the right climate and set the right tone for employees and colleagues to thrive.
In a similar vein, your values provide important insights into your character and important clues about what you stand for and what people can expect when they work with you. Companies want to hire hardworking professionals with integrity and good ethics. Sharing your own ethos helps demonstrate that you can fit into a company culture, contribute effectively to its mission, and work harmoniously with the team. To communicate your core values, you could say something like: “I believe in integrity. I approach things honestly. I am fair in my judgment and aware of the impact of my actions on someone else.” Then you can provide a specific example of leaning towards your values to help navigate challenging ethical situations.
Related: 6 Questions All New Entrepreneurs Should Ask Themselves When Starting a Business
Step 3: Communicate your competencies and pain points they solve
Reveal your capabilities, including specialties, technical knowledge and expertise. In addition, show how your competencies help to solve pain points in your niche and what results you have achieved. For example, you could say, “I’m excellent at marketing. I created a digital marketing campaign for X company and they were able to increase sales by 50%.” This is important because it allows listeners to recognize that you have a strong personal brand that delivers results. Communicating the issues your competencies solve will also help you find roles where your talents are valued, do work that sparks your interest, and assignments where you can provide the most value.
Step 4: Distinguish yourself
Indicate what your differentiation point is. What do you bring to the table that others don’t? How do you distinguish yourself from the competition? How does this “x factor” add value? In today’s fiercely competitive job market, it is crucial to distinguish yourself from the rest. What makes you different may be a creative approach to solving a challenging problem, a fresh perspective, or a more efficient way of doing a task. You can also stand out by relying on human skills, such as your ability to build positive relationships or simply be trustworthy. For example, a client once told me that at 10pm she gives the same energy and dedication to her clients as she does at 8am. I was thoroughly impressed.
In general, when you hear “tell me about yourself,” it’s about making a solid and memorable first impression. It’s an opportunity to show that you can communicate clearly, connect with other people and show your unique value. Don’t miss the opportunity to show the full power of your personal brand. You will be more confident in telling your own story, building trust and giving others the opportunity to get to know you better.