"Tell Me About Yourself"
How to effectively tell your story during interviews.
Hello from Toronto! I came here after Los Angeles to celebrate my dad’s birthday (and Father’s day), and decided to throw a tech social with my alma mater, the University of Toronto. If you’re a Toronto-based tech leader - sign up for my private dinner series here.
Today’s article (and the next few) is about job interviews.
It’s an incredibly difficult time with many affected by the industry’s merciless layoffs. My heart goes out to anyone who has been impacted—especially those in situations with visas, less runway, and other unfortunate circumstances.
I’d like to share some ideas on the interview process. Ideas that have worked for me in the past—and that I predict will continue to work in this climate as well. Hoping it’s helpful.
Let’s dive in.
I’ve done close to a hundred job interviews in the last three years.
At first, I was terrible at them. They would go something like this:
Interviewer: “Tell me about one of your weaknesses”
Me: “Sure. My biggest weakness is that if I don’t want to do something, I won’t do it”
But over time—and by interviewing at the world’s most competitive companies, I’ve learned a few strategies that have helped me 10x my ability to tell my story, answer curveball questions, and build rapport with interviewers.
I've used these strategies to get offers at companies like Google and Facebook, and to help friends land jobs at top consulting firms, big tech companies, banks, and startups.
Today, I’ll talk about the most important question a hiring manager or recruiter will ask:
“Tell me about yourself”
As a response, I've heard anything from someone presenting their life story to someone delivering a one-sentence answer about what they currently do.
Neither is ideal. Instead, follow this framework:
Introduce yourself (start personal)
Talk about your past (outline your impact)
Talk about your present (share your thought process)
Talk about your future (connect the dots)
Here’s a short example on how it works:
Start by introducing yourself.
Hi, I’m Andrew. I’m originally from Hong Kong and spent two decades in Asia before moving to Toronto, and New York City to pursue a role in tech.
(Include another 1-2 sentences for added color)
Next talk about your past work experiences.
I’ve spent the last 6 years working in product management, strategy, and operations in tech, telecommunications, and startups.
At BookFace, I was the Operations Lead for North America, where I worked with sales executives and advised them on how to improve their sales strategy through process, tools, and technology. I designed and implemented the first-ever customer experience program that helped transform our sales organization, resulting in $XXX of incremental revenue.
(Include 1-2 more examples)
Then talk about your present work circumstances.
Today, I’m a Global Product Lead at Poodle, where I lead our consumer product division with product specialists, designers, and engineers to build products that help puppies have a better life.
I’ve been here for 7 years and while I’ve learned a ton, I’d like to explore another opportunity that allows me to build more process and technology from scratch.
Finally, talk about your future—and tie it back to the opportunity at hand.
For my next gig, I’m looking at product development roles at earlier stage companies in health-tech, where I can align my passion outside work with what I do best—which is why I’m interested in this role.
My past experiences in tech and pet care industries, and my skills in product, marketing, and operations make me a great candidate for this role.
I see that you’re looking for someone who is extremely organized and operationally rigorous, and has great product instincts and sector knowledge. I think I’d be a great fit!
This framework does three things:
Provides a summary of your skills and experience
Explains why you’re interested in the role and why you’d be an excellent fit
Does it in a way that is compelling and interesting
Aim for a 2-3 minute response in total and don’t forget to share the impact of your work—not just what you did.
Focus on skills and experiences that are relevant to the job (e.g. don’t talk about your sales experience if it’s an internal data analyst role that requires no client interaction), and share your story in a way that makes your career decisions seem intentional and proactive.
Practice this over-and-over again again—in the shower, on your commute to work, while walking your dog—until you’ve completely nailed it.
You got this.
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