Category: Interview Preparation

Tell Me About Yourself? Why Is This Question Asked In An Interview?

This is so often the first question asked in an interview. It may not be worded exactly like this, but in one form or another, many if not most interviews start this way.

Knowing this question is coming, why do most candidates get so frustrated answering this question?

It is, for the most part, a break the ice question. It gets the candidate talking, gives time for everyone to relax, is wide open, and generally a meaningless question. However, just because it is meaningless, doesn’t mean you can ignore it. In fact, this is an excellent opportunity for you to engage the interviewer.

You have a golden opportunity to hit the salient points in your background, open a discussion around what defines success in this role, and to get the interviewer excited about this interview.

In our opinion this should be a short 2 minute, so well rehearsed answer, that is doesn’t appear to be rehearsed. This is not the time to give your autobiography, go over every position in your background or bore the interviewer with a long winded answer.

In most cases, the interviewer is using this to simply start the conversation. They aren’t looking for a complex or even complete answer. They just want a quick overview. That is it.

We recommend starting with your most relevant position and hit the accomplishments that closely relate to the position. It is even acceptable to outline some of your current responsibilities, organization, relevant company information, products or services, and basic duties. The goal is to give the interviewer the information they need to better understand how your company, industry, experiences and organization aligns with theirs.

This is not the time to give a lot of information that doesn’t align with the company. For example, if the company is a small entrepreneurial company, it would be a fatal mistake to highlight your experience in a large Fortune 500 company, that you managed a staff of 30 people, and your department budget was bigger than the company’s sales last year.

A better answer would be to highlight a past company similar in size that you enjoyed working at, felt more fulfilled by the impact you made, preferred the ability to be hands-on and what you did to contribute to the growth of the company. This better aligns with the interviewer’s needs.

You should have a number of canned, well rehearsed, thoughtful answers to this question. This is your opportunity to start the interview on the best footing for you.

Join our Linkedin Job Search Networking Group. There are over 2500 people in the group, so it is a great resource for you and your search.

Get a free download on our homepage of a sample cover letter, job search self-assessment tool, and Linkedin profile assessment. All are free in our “What’s New” section on our homepage at

Every Monday at 11AM PDT listen to our live talk radio show on

We encourage your comments and feedback.

Brad Remillard

Tip To Overcome Interviewing Problems.

A preemptive strike works:

I came home from work one day, and had just walked in the house, when my son came up to me to tell me we needed to talk. He is too young for the birds and bees and probably knows that anyway, so I knew something was up. He explained while practicing his pitching for baseball, he threw a wide pitch and broke the window above the garage. I said “no big deal, all boys break a window once in a while.” He said, “Well that is not all. After that I moved to the other side of the garage and threw another wide pitch and broke the other window too.” He was scared I would be really mad. I thought, “How can I be mad. You stole all my thunder by coming to me. I didn’t have time to get mad.” He performed a preemptive strike.

How does this relate to a search? I was doing a search for a CFO, and one candidate’s resume indicated a lot of turnover. As I went through his background, it became clear that there were great reasons for the turnover and in most cases the company turned him over, not the other way around. The problem was, he wasn’t addressing these in the interview right up front. Basically, he wasn’t defusing a negative situation.

We changed that and put together a script that dealt with the turnover right up front. In the interview, he preempted the interviewer by saying “I realize from my resume, that it appears that I have a lot of turnover, and I can understand why one would think that. Let me explain the circumstances surrounding the turnover and I’m sure it will help clarify this issue.” This defused the situation and completely eliminated any confusion and there wasn’t a problem. The candidate demonstrated they had nothing to hide or be ashamed of.

The candidate did get a job and wrote to us saying he felt this technique played a major role in getting past the first interview.

Also, in case you are wondering, my son has broken the same windows again. I now buy replacement windows in bulk.

The worst thing candidates can do is assume that because the interviewer didn’t bring up the issue it means it isn’t an issue. The fact is, the interviewer is thinking it isn’t an issue worth discussing, because they have already come to a conclusion without even discussing it.

By bringing the issue up first it allows you to discuss it openly and clearly demonstrates you have nothing to hide.

Our “Complete Job Search Home Study Course” addresses exactly how to handle this and many other issues candidates encounter and often mishandle during their job search. One misstep like the one above can cost you a job, resulting in thousands of dollars in lost wages. To review the content of the home study course and have it sent to you for only$14.95 (We will even pay the shipping.) CLICK HERE.

For many more tips and help, join our Linkedin Job Search Networking group. It is free, and provides a wealth of great discussion and news. CLICK HERE

Join us on the radio every Monday at 11AM PDT on as Barry and I discuss a variety of topics to shorten your time in search. Our audio library has past shows for you to download for free. CLICK HERE

A Critical Interviewing Mistake!

Candidates more often that not miss one of the best opportunities during the interview to shine, to differentiate themselves, and demonstrate their ability to do the job. What a great opportunity missed!!

In most interviews, the interviewer even sets the candidate up with the opportunity to shine and candidates blow right past it. The interviewer asks the soft ball question, “Do you have any questions for me?” A golden opportunity to shine. The questions you ask can outshine every answer you have given so far in the interview.

However, time and time again, I hear candidates do one of two things:

  1. Answer,”No, not really. Most of my questions were answered during the interview.” What a terrible answer. How did the interviewer answer “MOST” of your questions, when they were asking you questions.
  2. Reply with one or two (occasionally someone stands out and asks three) standard, unimportant, basic no-brainer, no forethought questions such as, “What is the budget?” or “What is your management style?” Again, these reveal the candidate has not prepared and is very shallow.
  3. Actually, there is a third, the candidate sits there like a deer in the headlights trying to think of something to say.

This is your opportunity to ask questions that demonstrate your ability to understand the job and what performance standards will be. Challenge the interviewer, ask “Why” are you doing X, probe deeply into the issues you will face once on board, how they manage, etc. Every candidate knows this question is coming in one form or the other. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Asking questions is a sign of strength, confidence and demonstrates a depth of knowledge. As a recruiter for almost 30 years, when a hiring manager calls back and says, “This person really asked me some great questions. They made me think in the interview.” I know that person is getting the job.

One component of your interviewing preparation should be questions to ask. Not just questions about the company, but specific questions about the job, ask “why”, ask about communications, ask about past issues, ask about future challenges, ask about people, ask about KPI’s, ask about systems, there are so many issues to discuss to make sure you will be successful.

The best advice I have is ask the same questions you will be asking once in the job to be successful. You might as well know them before you accept the position. Otherwise, it might be a position where you can’t succeed.

This is such a critical issue in our job search workbook, “This is NOT The Position I Accepted” (This wouldn’t happen if candidates probed in the interview.) We list over 150 question to ask in an interview in this workbook. We even break these questions into categories to help identify when to ask the question. In addition, we give you the 10 most important questions to ask in an interview. You can receive this book to review for FREE right now. Just pay the $5 shipping. CLICK HERE

Also, join our Linkedin Job Search Networking group. This is a very active group that deals with every aspect of a job search. All Linkedin groups are free to join and provide a wealth of information. CLICK HERE

Don’t miss our talk radio show every Monday at 11 AM PDT on Barry and I discuss the most important challenges you will face in your search. You can listen to past shows in our audio library. CLICK HERE to enter the library. All files are free to download

The Most Important Three Words In A Search?

Everyone knows the three most important words in real estate are location, location, location.

So then, “What are the three most important words in a job search?” (Answer below)

Not knowing these will impact just about every aspect of your job search, including your resume, the phone interview, definitely the face-to-face interview, and even the first impression once you start. That is why these three words are so important, no critical, to one’s search.

Recruiters are constantly amazed at how candidates take a job search for granted. The genesis for this article was a comment a candidate said to me just yesterday. Having just completed an interview the previous day, I asked the candidate how he thought the interview went. He replied, “I think it went OK. I did a lot of research on the company ahead of time so I felt prepared.” So far so good. Then I asked, “Were you asked any questions that you didn’t feel you answered completely?” His reply, “I guess I wasn’t really prepared for the questions. I haven’t had that many interviews so I wasn’t ready for the questions. I think I need to start preparing for that.”

Isn’t it a little late to start preparing for the questions one is going to be asked, after the interview?

This is the problem recruiters encounter daily. Candidates don’t understand, or get, the priorities of a job search. Knowing what to do and when to do it is the difference between getting the job and not getting it. Random luck rarely works in a job search.

I have said to hundreds of candidates, “You need to prepare for the questions you are going to be asked.”, he would have said,”I know.” I get so tired of hearing “I know.” From now on please replace it with, “I’m doing it.” PLEASE.

The answer to the question is, presentation, presentation, presentation.

Let me know if you knew these. I have asked over 500 candidates this question and none knew the answer.

Please don’t say, “I knew these.” Instead please tell me, “I’m doing these.”

Presentation, presentation, presentation is the key to a successful job search. Those that have this mastered will always do better than those that don’t.

Presentation includes:

  1. How well your resume presents your accomplishments. This includes aligning them closely with the needs of the job. The correct terms and phrases immediately catch the reader’s eyes. Leave the correct amount of white space so the resume doesn’t look cluttered and unorganized. (Consider listening to our audio on, “Traditional Resumes Are Worthless – Click here).
  2. How well you communicate during a phone interview. If 70% of communication is body language, and this is missing during the phone interview, how do you effectively communicate when 70% of the communication is removed. (Consider listening to our audio on phone interviewing click here or downloading our free chapter on, “Winning the Phone Interview” – Click here).
  3. Face-to-face interview. The first impression drives the interview. A strong first impression will set the tone for the rest of the interview. Make a strong presentation and you often get an easier interview than with a weak first impression.
  4. Preparation is all part of the presentation. Knowing how to make a strong and professional introduction, when to pause for effect in your answer, how you will stress the points you know are critical, how to answer the question in a succinct manner, when to lean forward in the chair, how to demonstrate high energy during a phone interview, what questions to ask during the interview, how to use your voice inflection, eye contact, etc. are just some of the keys to a great presentation. (Consider reading the blog article, “Where’s Wes, Not Waldo” – Click here).

Presentation takes an enormous amount of preparation and practice. This about “doing” not “knowing.”

Please leave us your comments and if you knew the answer to the question.

To review all our free resources and tools – Click here



Phone Interviewing Quiz

Most interviewing processes start and stop with the phone interview. In our opinion this is the most important interview. Not only because if you fail here the process stops, but mainly because it sets the stage for the in-person interview if you do well. Have a great phone interview and the mindset of the person bringing you in for the face-to-face interview is already positive, they believe you must be qualified, and you are starting out in a strong position.

Here is a quick quiz to see if you are ready to, “Win The Phone Interview.” Answer these in your mind, not fair if you already read the book or downloaded the free chapter. (Answers below)

  1. List all three factors that can be measured during a phone interview. Must list all three.
  2. How long should you talk before re-engaging the interviewer?
  3. Is the format for answering a question different than a face-to-face? If so, what is different?
  4. Is there a possible benefit from not answering the phone? If yes, what is it?
  5. What is the only purpose of a phone interview?

If you can answer all of these, then you are aware of how different the phone interview is from the in-person interview. If you can’t answer all of them then you should consider doing your homework. It is possible you’ve missed an opportunity because you were weeded out during a phone interview.

To help you, we have a number of completely FREE resources to make sure you know how to win the phone interview.

  1. Our chapter on “Winning the Phone Interview” from our job search workbook is free to download. It answers all these questions and more.
  2. We just posted a 1 hour audio file from our radio show focused completely on the phone interview.
  3. There are also a number of other blog entries dedicated to the phone interview for you to read.
  4. Our Linkedin discussion group is a great forum to discuss any issues you have regarding your job search.
  5. Our monthly Candidate Open Forum tele-conference has been one of our most successful methods to discuss all job search related topics. These forums fill up in less than a day. Click here for the next date and time.

Please consider taking advantage of these. They are all free tools you can use to ensure you not only win the phone interview, but win the job.

Help your friends and family know how they can win a phone interview by sharing this with them.

Please let us know how you did on the quiz. Did you really know all of the answers?


  1. Energy level, technical abilities and communication skills
  2. 1 minute.
  3. Yes, since it shorter and you can’t read their body language it is very important that your answers are succinct and impactful.
  4. The hiring manager leaves a message saying, This is the VP of HR from ABC company. I’m calling about X opening and would like to speak with you.” Now you can do some basic research on the company.
  5. To screen you in or screen you out.

Where’s Wes A. – NOT Waldo

Years ago I worked with a candidate named Wes. He was a living, breathing example of what all candidates should be like. Back then I was a contingent recruiter, meaning I only got paid my fee when a company hired the candidate, Wes was the candidate all contingent recruiters look for. As we say in the industry, “When he goes out for an interview just give him the invoice to hand to the company.” or in other words, Wes was a walking placement.

But Why. What made Wes so different from the thousands of other candidates we met and have met, that even 15 years later our firm still remembers him and often refers to him.

Wes not only knew what it took to get a job, he lived it. Wes took preparation, practice and presentation seriously. It wasn’t enough that he knew all this, he incorporated into every aspect of his job search.

When a company met Wes, he was polished, practiced the introduction, had questions to ask that other candidates hadn’t even thought about, practiced answers to the most commonly asked questions, mirrored the interviewer, prepared how to use his voice and body language to show passion, knew exactly when to pause in his answer to make his point, engaged the hiring manager with meaningful issues during the interview, practiced how to read body language so he knew when to stop talking and re-engage, finally Wes knew when it was time to ask a question or wait until the next interview. Nothing was left to chance.

But most importantly, like all well honed professionals, it all came across naturally and appeared effortless. Not staged or rehearsed. Yet, of course it was.

Wes did not just look for a job. He stepped back and asked himself, “What do I want when I hire a candidate?”. He told me that question profoundly changed how he conducted his search. His answer came back, “I wouldn’t hire myself.” Strong comment to make about one’s self. Not many candidates are that objective or honest with themselves. This should be a question every candidate asks themselves. Few will be objective enough to accept the answer. But to those few it will change your search process for good and make you, “A walking placement.”

Wes decided to do what he had to do to hire himself and he had very high standards for the people he hired. He started reading books, hired coaches, video taped himself, lost weight, shaved his beard, wrote out answers to questions and then rehearsed exactly how to present the answer, rehearsed hand motions, body language, practiced pausing, joined Toastmasters, ensured his resume targeted the position, his resume was about the job – not him, he practiced mirroring, he spent as much time practicing as he would for a board presentation. Nothing was left to chance. WOW that is a lot of work.

Recruiters will always be looking for Wes A. You can be one with just some serious preparation, practice and presentation time.

We offer a number of free resources to help you become Wes. For access to our FREE resources CLICK HERE

Preempt Any Negatives – Don’t Wait

A preemptive strike is a good strategy.

I came home from work one day and I had just walked in the house as my son came up to me and said, “We need to talk.” He was too young for the birds and the bees and probably knows them anyway, so I knew something was up. He explained that while practicing his pitching for baseball, he threw a wide pitch and broke the window above the garage. I replied, “No big deal, all boys break a window once in a while.” He then said, “Well, that is not all. After that I moved to the other side of the garage and threw another wide pitch and broke the other window, too.” He was scared I would really be mad. However, I thought, “How can I be mad? You stole all my thunder by coming to me. I didn’t have time to get mad.” He did a preemptive strike.

How does this relate to a search? I was conducting a search for a Sr. VP Human Resources. One candidate’s resume indicated a lot of turnover. As I went through her background it became clear that there were great reasons for the turnover and in most cases the company turned over on her, not the other way around. The problem was that she wasn’t addressing these in the interview right up front. Basically, she wasn’t defusing a negative situation.
We helped change that by putting together a script that dealt with the turnover right up front. In the interview, she preempted the interviewer by saying, “I realize from my resume it appears that I have a lot of turnover, and I can understand why one would think that. Let me explain the circumstances surrounding the turnover as I’m sure it will help clarify this issue.” This defused the situation and opened the opportunity to explain that a lot of the job changes were not her leaving the company, but rather the company leaving her, by either relocating or closing facilities. By addressing it right up front, the candidate demonstrated she had nothing to hide and allowed for a discussion around the issue.

When the candidate did get a job, she wrote to us saying she felt this technique played a major role in helping her get past the first interview. Too often a candidate leaves the interview thinking everything is great because the interviewer never mentioned anything about the negative. They don’t understand, that is, because they have no concern about it. You are out, so it didn’t need to be addressed.

Don’t avoid negatives. Do a preemptive strike by bringing them up first.

Just in case you are wondering, he has broken the same windows again. I started buying replacement windows in bulk.

There are a lot more tips, resources and assistance at our website

Are You The Tiger Woods of Job Hunting?

After more than 25 years as a recruiter, I calculated that I have had more than 10,000 interviews in my career. That is a combination of phone and in-person. Of those, at best 5% were exceptional and I knew as we say in the recruiting industry, “This person is a walking placement.” But WHY?

We offer all candidates a free copy of the “Winning The Phone Interview” chapter in our book. More than 2,000 people have downloaded this. The vast majority have commented that it was very helpful. Often, however, we get this comment, “Good stuff for the person just starting their search, but I’ve been searching for a while and already know it. Thanks.”

So why are you on the market for so long if you know all this stuff?

I took a step back and I think I know why. It is because – it is a big leap from knowing something and doing it, and it is a quantum leap from doing it at a highly skilled level. We were aware that most people knew this when we wrote the book. We also know that after 10,000 interviews 5% actually do it and maybe 2% do it with a high degree of skill.

In this highly competitive market the bar has been raised so high that only candidates that perform with a very high degree of skill will win the interview and ultimately the job.

Change your paradigm for a minute. Most of us have some hobbies or sports activity we really enjoy. For example mine is golf. I have taken lessons, read the books, subscribe to the magazines with all the tips, attended weekend golf camps, and I even enjoy practicing or hitting balls. So as many candidates would say, “This is good for the new golfer, but not me, I’ve been playing golf for years, I already know this stuff. Thanks.”

Anyone who plays golf (or any activity) knows it is a big leap from knowing it and doing it. And in my example, it is a quantum leap to Tiger Woods or for that matter to the PGA Tour.

You can’t just “know it” in today’s job market. You have to do it with a high degree of skill.

Final thought. Even Tiger Woods to this day has a swing coach. I’m willing to bet most candidates have never even had job hunting lessons.

We offer a lot of free resources to help you perform at a high level. CLICK HERE to go to our FREE RESOURCES page.