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Prep is key to interviewer’s ‘tell me about yourself’

Rambling, irrelevant responses are all too common when candidates for association CEO are asked to talk about themselves


August 9, 2019
By Martin Berman-Gorvine

Why would a professional start off a job interview by saying, “I went to kindergarten in Pennsylvania”?

That actually happened during an interview conducted by Barbara Mitchell, a human resources professional and management consultant, in response to the perennial icebreaker question “tell me about yourself.” Perhaps less egregious, but just as damaging, is when a candidate replies, “Where do you want me to start?”

“That tells me something immediately—that they’re really not prepared for the interview,” said Mitchell. She said that when she started out as a recruiter, she was “trained to actually do a complete interview just using that one question—that’s how powerful a question it can be. So it’s amazing to me that people don’t know how to answer it.”

Why do candidates—even for CEO and other senior-level positions at associations—often do badly with “tell me about yourself”?