In my last post I explored why the first interview question – typically something like “Tell me about yourself” – is a crucial first impression that strongly influences the success or failure of your whole interview. How can you ace this first interview question?
That previous post showed why it’s most effective to focus your answer on key selling points that are Relevant, Exceptional and Verifiable (REV) and gave an example of a great “REV Intro” that does just that.
This one will give you step-by-step guidance on developing your own strategic, authentic REV Intro.
How to Develop Your Best Answer to the First Interview Question
- First, identify your key selling points. My May 25 post gives you 10 questions that will help you identify your selling points (a.k.a. your unique selling proposition).
- Plan a good opening. Often the best way to start is by combining one of your top REV points with a one- to three-sentence summary of your career. For example, let’s say you’re a human resources manager and one of your key selling points is that you have experience and accomplishments in many areas of the field. You might start like this:
- “I was excited to see that you’re looking for someone with expertise in so many different areas within HR, because that’s exactly what my background is like. I’ve been very fortunate that my 14-year career at Niagara, Inc. and Davis Direct has allowed me to gain experience in Employee Relations, Labor Relations, Compensation and Benefits, HR Information Systems and Analytics. I’ve managed all of these areas, and solved complex strategic issues in every one of them, as I can describe later.”
- Bonus Tip: This “teaser” reference to stories that could be told later is a great way to hint at your successes while keeping your answer brief.
- Transition into another of your key selling points. Let’s say you’re known for your talent in engaging your team. You might transition smoothly to that point in this way:
- “I couldn’t have achieved any of that without a really engaged team. I get to know my staff individually and what their own goals are, then help them see the alignment between those goals and department’s needs. It’s worked well; in the past five years I’ve had four team members promoted.”
- Continue with another selling point or two.
- Finally, decide how you’ll end your answer. It’s often effective to end with a question, such as “Is there anything I’ve mentioned so far that you’d like to hear more about?”
Now that you have a rough idea, type up a simple outline. Use bullets and sub-bullets to help organize your thinking. Use abbreviations and symbols to make it concise and visual. The more you make it easy to read, the less it will intrude on the process of expressing yourself in a natural way. Don’t write full sentences, though. This isn’t a script, just talking points.
Speak your REV Intro out loud, using the outline as your road map, and time yourself. Your intro should be no longer than a minute or so. If it’s much longer, prune it down. Remember, this is just the start of the interview. Whatever you delete can be said later, as the interview progresses.
Practice. Continue until you can say the whole answer without looking at the outline. If you discover you’re at a loss for words in a certain spot, revise that part of your outline. Do some of your practice with a mirror, or better yet, take a selfie-video of your answer to see and hear how you’re doing. Make sure you sound natural. (If you don’t, are you sure you didn’t write a script?) Practice with a buddy or a coach and ask for feedback on what worked well and what could be better.
It’s also wise to plan versions of your REV Intro to answer other “first questions,” like “Please walk me through your background” or “Walk me through your resume” (tweak your answer to be a bit more chronological and perhaps a bit more complete) or “Why do you want to work here?” (emphasize that it’s a great fit because of . . . you guessed it, your key selling points!).
When your REV Intro sounds smooth and natural while capturing your key selling points, you’ll be ready to get your interviews off to an awesome start.