Resume Help/Interview Question


Dear Ralph,

I was telling one of my friends about my job interview yesterday and gave her some of the questions.  One of them was "tell us about yourself."  I told her how I answered it by giving them by background, where I went to school, etc.  My friend said that was probably not what they wanted to hear.  She explained what she thought I should have said, but my question is, was she right?  If so, what did they want me to say?

Hi Maria,

I don't know what your friend told you about your response, but s/he is likely correct that the way you answered the question was probably not the way to go.

This is one of those interview questions that I characterize as "Creativity" - one of the "Four Cs" that encompass most all interview questions. They want to see how well you can think on your feet, how well you can improvise or at least recognize a disguised question when you get one.  There are a lot of these kinds of questions but, at their heart, they are designed to see how you do under a bit of pressure.

The real question here is "Tell us why we should hire you," which is often an interview question of its own and, of course, more directly states the true nature of what they want to hear.  The answer should always be to reiterate three or four of the qualities that you know they want to have in their new hire, and then tell them why you are the best candidate for filling the needs that they have.  "Tell us why you believe you are the best candidate for this job" is another way of asking the same question.

Nearly all interview questions come from one of the "C" categories (the other three are Competence, Commitment, and Character).  In interview preparation, you need to practice your talking points in such a way that you adequately address the needs of each employer with whom you interview.  Just remember one basic rule: every answer you make should, in some way, detail that you are well-acquainted with the employer and the needs they have for this job you are considering, and then confidently demonstrate that you have done (or have learned) those things that they want to see in the person they hire.  

Be specific in your responses.  Do not, for example, say things like "others consider me to be a good leader."  That really means nothing because it is much too vague.  Who are "others"?  In what context do these "others" consider you to be a leader?  You need to state when and where you assumed a leadership position and briefly describe the outcome.  THAT is specific.  Was it a team project?  Was it in school or at a previous employer?  What did your supervisor(s) say that makes you believe they consider you a leader?  Always describe something that you have actually done or been trained to do and allow the interviewer(s) to make their own decision about whether it qualifies you as a "leader."  If you answer the question properly, their conclusion will nearly always be the one you want them to make.

Hope this helps; best wishes!

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Ralph D. Converse, Ph.D.


I can answer questions about general job searches, resume construction, crafting an effective cover letter, and how to prepare for, and conduct, a winning interview. My speciality is the field of education, but I also have extensive background in business and administration. I know what works and what doesn't work and I can make your application package stand out from the rest ... because that is what you have to do.


I have interviewed for, and held, dozens of jobs in a career going back more than 42 years. I have taught at all educational levels including middle school, high school, community college, and university. In more than 42 years of experience on both sides of the job-search process, I have interviewed hundreds of applicants and have reviewed literally tens of thousands of job application packages. I am the author of 12 Mistakes That Got Your Job Application Rejected ... And How To Fix Them! I conduct workshops for job seekers in a variety of locations every year.

Music Educator's Journal, Teaching Music, Music and American Culture (forthcoming, 2013), Last Teacher Standing: The Job is Yours Now! and 12 Mistakes That Got Your Job Application Rejected ... And How To Fix Them!

B.A. New Mexico State University; M.Mus. Southern Illinois University; Ph.D. University of California and University of North Texas

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