Tell me about yourself.
If you've ever attended an interviewing workshop, or found yourself head-to-head with this request in an actual interview--you may be well acquainted with the sweaty palms and heart palpitations that often accompany these four little words.
The natural inclination is to respond with the basics, "My name is ______________. I am interested in ___________. I majored in ___________." The same kind of information that you can find at the top of your resume; the same facts and "vital statistics" that your interviewer may have already received before you sat down for the interview.
But (and you likely know this already), you don't want to tell someone exactly what they already know. Instead, you need to engage your audience.
Answering this question well is a perpetual challenge: You need to engage the interest of your audience without going "off topic" (what brought you to the interview in the first place) or repeating the "known knowns."
Enter Narativ, a Manhattan-based company that focuses on the art of storytelling. Co-Founded by Academy Award nominated documentary filmmaker and cultural anthropologist, Murray Nossel and his childhood friend, Paul Browde, a psychiatrist and executive coach, Narativ offers a one day seminar designed to help you tell your story with ease.
I recently participated in the one day workshop myself, and I don't know that I'll ever tell stories the same way again. It was--quite simply--a transformative experience, and I highly recommend their methodology if ever you've found yourself tongue-tied or wanting to improve your ability to connect with an audience.
While the workshop wasn't designed to help participants answer job interview questions, several of the strategies shared spoke directly to the job search process. Here are two tips you may find helpful..you'll have to attend the workshop to learn more:
1. When you tell a story, be specific in the details. For example, if you want to do marketing and you need to speak about your long-term interests in the field, provide details.
"My first promotion was ___________. The challenge was ______________ for our client. I remember cutting and pasting physical mock-ups with an orange pair of scissors and a glue stick. The project involved over 20 drafts and revisions. The end result was ____________."
Concrete details will help engage your reader more than if you simply said, "I developed my first flyer for a program at school when I was 12."
2. It's okay to pause, and it can actually help engage your audience--provided you can "restart" without missing a beat.
Many candidates "derail" when faced with an interview question they did not expect. (One of my favorite questions, "What is your second biggest weakness?") If you find yourself with a stumper, take a deep breath--pause, and don't be afraid to clarify the question.
For example, if you were asked a question about managing a large project at work and you don't have any experience with that in your internship experience but do have student government experience, you might say, "I have not worked with large-scale projects in my formal work experience, but I have managed significant projects in student government." Which experience would you like me to discuss?
For more information about Narativ, see their website, consider signing up for a workshop, or get tickets to see Narativ's co-founders, Murray Nossel and Paul Browde in their Off-Broadway production, "Two Men Talking."