I spent a Friday morning speaking to a group of graduate students at Pepperdine University. They had a lot of questions.
How do I follow up with a recruiter?
How often should I follow up?
How do I handle the fact that I don’t have a lot of work experience?
How do I show my interest in an industry when my experience is in a different specialty?
How should I structure my resume?
But the number one thing they really wanted to know is what the interviewer really wants to know when they ask “Tell me about yourself”. It’s one of the all-time most hated questions according to TLNT.com and candidates really despise answering it.
Say too much or too little and you can literally see the job opportunity slipping away.
In our discussion on Friday, I was joined by recruiters from other notable recruiting agencies who agreed on the following:
1) Don’t regurgitate what’s in your resume. We can read. This is your opportunity to tell the interviewer important pieces of your personality that is not stated in your resume. Are you competitive? A leader? A logical thinker? Can you hold a conversation?
2) The interviewer wants to hear about your professional life. They don’t care that you surf on the weekends or collect model trains. You may think this can help build rapport if you can connect with the interviewer on a personal level, but more often than not, this will take you off track. You can be likeable while discussing professional abilities too.
3) If you don’t have a lot of experience, as was true for most of the students we spoke with, this is your opportunity to showcase skills that are above and beyond those of others, internships with top companies or volunteer experiences that provided you an opportunity to shine. These examples provide
the real world experience we’re searching for that will add value to the company.
4) Give the interviewer your “why”. Why are you here? Why do you want this job? Why do you want to work for this company? What about this job excites you?
In a nutshell, as I wrote in The Successful Interview, what the interviewer wants to know is, “Can you do the job and will we like you while you’re doing it?”
After listening to the scores of questions the students had, I realize more needs to be done to help our students and the unemployed. Everyone has “how” questions and they need guidance. We all know getting a job is hard work, but those of us who are gainfully employed or self-employed may have forgotten just how difficult the process can be.
I hope the resources you find here are helpful and that you'll share them with others who can benefit from our advice. Got a question we haven't answered? Post it in the comments and we'll attempt to address it.