By Diane Hudson Burns
"Tell Me about Yourself," is often one of the first things you will hear a recruiter or hiring manager say in an interview, pre-screening interview, job fair, or during networking events.
You may also be asked this question during a public speaking event or by the media.
Public speaking is listed as a fear greater than death by Americans, and yet, in some form we are all required to "public speak" or at least respond to basic questions in group or community gatherings.
Are you ever caught off guard at a community social hour - you have a plate of hors d'oeurves in one hand, a mouth full of food, and a cup of soda in the other hand - and someone new walks up and says, "So, tell me about yourself?" Best to be prepared!
As you begin your job search and transition from military to corporate, you must develop a strong, compelling response to the ‘Tell Me About Yourself’ question.
The question covers:
All are begging the same response - let’s break the ice. Let’s find out about you in a general sense. Let’s see how your initial communication skills are in an interview setting.
And, because these types of questions will undoubtedly pop up during your career search campaign, I recommend that you develop a script, write it, refine it, and practice it for different professional settings (and as a Veteran, you also need to translate military terms).
The 60-second elevator speech/infomercial/introductory statement should be focused on your professional background.
Do not start with your birth, youth, and linger on for several minutes moving through every position you ever had. Also, this is not the time to talk about your spouse, family life, church and children. These are your introductory comments.
Here is a recent example of a client’s first try at a 60-second infomercial and the revision:
I have a CIO certification from the Office of Personnel Management and from the University of Maryland University College; a Master's in Information Technology, and a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration also from the University of Maryland.
I have 20 years of professional experience, 12 of which is from the US Navy as a Chief Petty Officer as an IS, and I was responsible for briefing executive level persons on foreign naval activities and the last 10 with Motorola Inc., eight of which I worked as a collection manager managing a personal balance of $2.5 million dollars while overseeing four reporting people with a combined balance of $5 million dollars.
For the past two years I've been working in the Military and Government Sales department, managing 200 accounts with a $3 million dollar quota.
While in the Navy, among other things, I also analyzed intelligence information and identified and produced intelligence from raw information.
I assembled multisource operational intelligence and prepared planning materials for photographic reconnaissance missions. I worked ashore and afloat; maintaining intelligence libraries and files.
I also created, operated and owned a DOTcom business focused on networking and building web pages.
And I'm currently preparing to take the Cisco Certified Networking Administrators (CCNA) exam.
Well, as an IT professional, I just completed my Master’s degree in IT and simultaneously received Certification as a CIO from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), a very specialized program (I was the second class to graduate from the accredited program) to train, graduate, and infuse CIOs into government and industry, to lead in bridging the gap between IT and business professionals within companies.
My career history includes 20 years of experience in business and IT, 10 years with Motorola as a sales professional managing a region with over 200 government and military customers, requiring two-way communication systems with a $3 million quota. Prior to that I was the collections department manager with responsibility for staff, policy implementation and international accounts.
Previously, I served in the U.S. Navy for 12 years as an Intelligence Specialist in shore and afloat assignments managing sensitive and critical IT requirements and databases. In those assignments, I supervised and trained up to 30 personnel and briefed executive level persons on foreign naval activities.
My most recent venture involved the start of a web-based dot.com business.
The revision highlights critical elements of the candidate’s career history and deletes extra information not required at this point.
The revision placed his career history in strict reverse chronological order (except for his recent personal professional endeavors, used as a short closing statement), without jumping back and forth, as in the client’s version.
Since the client is seeking a high level position as a CIO or Director of IT, the new CIO certification is a critical starting element. The section on Naval service removes military terms (Chief Petty Officer and IS), and translates it to Intelligence Specialist, and highlights his expertise managing critical IT requirements.
Removing many of the numbers and specifics and translating the military jargon, allows the person listening to think of questions and not be so confused.
The revision is broken down into four short bullets, to allow for a breath between thoughts.
When you deliver a well prepared 60-second infomercial, you can follow up by asking, "What more can I tell you?" or "What else would you like to know?"
Questions that may be posed about military service include: Tell me more about your military service? Where were you stationed? Were you deployed? What does an intelligence specialist do? What rank were you? How long were you in?
To help prepare the infomercial, one pertinent exercise is to tighten the script even more, so that the response becomes about 45-seconds (audio tape it—so you can hear how it sounds and how long it actually takes to deliver the response).
Of course, you do not want to recite your 60-second infomercial as if it was being read, but rather summarize it naturally—this requires practice.
Role play the response with a friend or colleague. And certainly keep a copy of your response in your telephone interview file, so you can refer to the bullet points during the interview screening interviews.
A well prepared 60-second informational / Tell Me About Yourself response will help you overcome the competition, who may not be as prepared - thus positioning you with a stellar first impression during an interview or networking event.
Job-Hunt's Job Search Expert for Veterans, Diane Hudson Burns is a military transition job-search strategist and career coach. She designs and composes military conversion resumes and helps position service members for employment in corporate or Federal America. Diane holds eight industry credentials including Certified Leadership & Talent Management Coach and Federal Job Search Trainer & Counselor and owns Career Marketing Techniques.