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Tip the scale with “Tell me about yourself”

Updated: May 24, 2022

An in-depth look at how to hack your answer and stand out

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"You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them." - Maya Angelou

This week, Amanda Henderson, a Fellow at PMDojo shares her perspective on "Tell me about yourself", a question we find ourselves often struggling to answer be it during interviews, networking events, joining a new company or meeting someone for the first time.

The thing is that our answer has a big impact on what can happen next. The stories woven into this answer cannot be static and needs to be adapted as we grow and evolve in both life and career. Check out Amanda's learnings and let us know how you think about this question?

After months of mock interviews, real interviews, and practicing with family, I’ve come to realize that sometimes your brain just doesn’t turn on. You trip up, you space out. It happens. But, you do NOT want that to happen on the most common first interview question: So…Tell me about yourself? This is why it is important to craft and practice how to answer this ubiquitous question because how you answer can drastically change the whole interview.

And practice is exactly what we did in our workshop with Tiffany Kwan (Senior Product Manager at RainFocus) and one of our mentors at PMDojo’s Product Accelerator. Craft and practice in real-time, with group feedback from your peers, Tiffany on how to stand out and be memorable.

Nerve-wracking? Yes, but extremely important. As Tiffany and Bosky, Founder of PMDojo, mentioned during our workshop – this is usually the first question asked in ANY interview and sets the whole tone for the rest of the interview process. It can either point the interview uphill in your favour, downhill or help you zoom to the top of the hill. But, how do you know if your story, your answer, is helping you reach the top of theis proverbial mountain?

Tiffany had shared a rubric based on her years of experience with interviewing others and interviewing for various roles in product. While your interviewer may not have a rubric in front of them, they will have one in their head and so it’s important to make sure you are hitting some very specific criteria.

  1. Clarity of thought

  2. Are you intriguing enough?

  3. Are you able to demonstrate results?

  4. Are you concise?

Reflecting on these, it can be argued that these embody the essence of the product roles so it is only natural for interviewers to look for these in our responses.

Clarity of thought:

This should be easy but I tend to be wordy and I have a habit of not always explaining acronyms. So I made a note to make sure to not assume people know what I am talking about.

What I also learned during this process is that my answer IS a STORY. It needs to have a clear beginning, middle, and end, and I have to make sure people can follow that to know how I ended up where I’m at. As someone who is pivoting into Product Management from a different career, it is especially important to help others connect the dots as to why I want to be a Product Manager and how I have those skills.

Are you intriguing enough?

This is NOT the place to give your life story. Instead, this is the place to give little highlights and pitches that make the interviewer want to ask you more questions. It’s the worst type of date you’ve ever been on, but honestly, you need to get them curious about learning more about you. As we discussed, this is a STORY so make sure to have emotion and add in pregnant pauses. You want the person to be cheering for your success by the end! Make them want you to win!

Are you able to demonstrate results?

I know I have the tendency to give a list of things. “I helped migrate a learning management system,” or “ I helped launch a new course.”

However, you have to paint a picture for people and get them to see the results with you. Adding in data points such as “I helped migrate a learning management system with over 44,000 users, 600 courses, and their progress in a span of 3 months,” paints a much different picture.

In the workshop, we worked through how to give “evidence” for your results and how to use validation to help support your skills and experience.

Are you concise?

This last one can be quite challenging for me as I tend to talk… a lot. Sometimes, it happens because I simply do and other times, it is a by-product of nervousness.

You obviously do not want to give a 10-minute reply but the biggest takeaway I got from us working on this was to make sure the listener FEELS like the response was only five minutes. If the person is engaged and if you are telling a great story, they’re cheering for you and you are bringing them along, then even if you have a slightly longer answer, it might be okay!

Interviewing is a skill and it takes time and practice. This is why I really enjoyed this workshop. Every mock interview, every workshop, every time I get the chance to get feedback, I know it’s only to help me improve. If you are practicing your interviewing skills, I’d love to know, what have you found most useful when answering this interview question, “so... Tell me about yourself?” Please leave a comment below!

Applications are closing soon for PMDojo's upcoming cohort! If you are looking to transition into a product role and want to learn while you gain real-world experience, check out below:

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