Saturday, June 20, 2009

So tell me about yourself...

We had a couple of marathon interviewing days this week. I love interviewing. For a number of good reasons but mostly it is because I find people so interesting. How people ended up here, or there or wherever ... doing what they are doing, living, experience, interests - the whole gamut. Now, admittedly, there have been the interviews that well -it's an hour of my life that I will never get back - but fortunately for me those are few and far between.

Many times our interviews become wonderful and funny - an exchange of ideas, skills and abilities, needs and desires from the candidate and my employer. Even when we don't hire an individual for a position, I have ended up with staying in touch with many of them well, just because. Because they are neat. Because they have fabulous ability but not the right match for me but could be for others. Because I love to network and connect. That because.

We have a lot of the standard interviewing fare. But hand's down, my favorite question is, tell me about yourself. No parameters. No specifics. Some of the more concrete candidates (and those who don't live so well in the ambiguous world) want clarification. Others ask questions about the question. This question brings forth interesting and enlightening information about the person the candidate is. What they think is important to share. Sometimes it's standard and stoic. Other times it's fascinating and intriguing. Like the professional football player. The former Ms State (I won't give it away). A farmer. World traveler.

An exercise that I encourage people interviewing is to think about this question and practice answering it. There are of course the standard work-related questions that people need too but this is a great question to to formulate your story. I have always wondered what it would be like to hear people answer with what they REALLY wanted to say....not just work stuff but who they are outside the office walls. This would make it much more fun.

So my professional response.
Bachelor's degree, master's degree, professional certification, blah, blah.
Experience in - employment, immigration, compensation, yada, yada.
Strengths, weaknesses...blah, blah, yada, yada.
References, professional presentations, etc, etc.
Boring, yawn. Yes I can do the job.

And my less-than-professional response.
I take others seriously but not myself.
I am really funny. Just ask me and I will tell you.
I have traveled all over the world. I prefer places with indoor plumbing.
I am flypaper for freaks. People will tell me anything even when I am just trying to buy milk.
I gave a home to a dog that had been abandoned. I think you should too.
If you put on a blinker, I will gladly let you in.
If I find your wallet full of cash, you will get it all back.
I am the person you can call at 2am.
I share my stuff but hoard my time.
I listen. But this can always be improved.
I am sometimes impatient. You need to keep up.
I will tell you the truth.
If you don't like the Red Wings, I won't work with you. Really. Ambivalence I can handle.
And for those of you who remember this bumper sticker genre, I would rather be taking pictures.

I know, I know - its about the job. The skills. The abilities. The education. The understanding how people have behaved in previous positions that predict future behavior. But really, which is the better interview? And how would you answer?


Lisa Rosendahl said...

I will pick up the baton (didn't know you were passing it did you?!) . . I adore my daughter, am inspired by my husband, can't pass up tiramisu or chicken salad sandwiches, love to travel and I am at peace in Italy, talk trash but really know very little about technology, you can count on my word, sometimes commit to things with good intentions and find that I am overcommitted, I prefer a few good friends over a bunch of acquaintances, I value loyalty, am discovering the awsomeness of BBQ ribs and would rather be sitting on my back deck reading after a nice long bike ride

Tracy Tran said...

I wish more hiring managers think about this and get a better understanding of that question. I wish I knew that when I was younger but I don't know if most would accept that answer. By the way...

-I'm an open book and open to anything.
-I like steak and turkey, but not a fan of chicken and shredded beef.
-I'm a DC sports fan. Best sports experience in order: hockey, baseball, basketball, football.
-I'm very sarcastic and sardonic in nature. External realist, internal optimist.
-I'm more comfortable wearing a t-shirt and shorts/jeans than a corporate suit, although I know where to draw the line.
-I'm a terribly shy person, but thanks to social media, I become more open to people, but still tentative.
-I hate people take credit they didn't do that much. Some people have said I took credit, but I always refer to the person who did that first or did most of the work. I will tell you when I did it
-I don't take compliiments well. I want that edge and people saying that I can't do it, but inside I can. You can still compliment me.
-I am open 24/7 and I have an open door...just don't disturb my parents.

Deirdre said...

Lisa, your word 'peace' resonates - I feel most peaceful on the beach in MI.

Tracy, love the sports reference. And amen on others taken credit for work then haven't done. Diminished credibility, that's for sure.

Thanks for sharing.

Steve Boese said...

What a great post, Maven because it really challenges the reader to think. For me, my less than professional responses would be some things about Barbecue, Baseball, and playing ball with my son. And I would add that I am learning more every day, and what defined me yesterday may not be what I identify with today, and almost certainly will be different than what I am interested in tomorrow.
Great, great post.

Trisha McFarlane said...

Maven- What an inspiring post. If I have the person's resume in front of me I'd much rather have him/her tell me about themselves like you did.

For the record, my response would be something like:
- I love being creative and finding new ways to do the same old things.
- I am honest to a fault.
- I am VERY outgoing. I can talk to 2 people or 200 just as easily.
- I research everything like crazy but prefer to "wing it" on actual presentations. No memorizing. I speak from my heart.
- I adore being a mom.
- I love wearing my Levis slouch shorts more than anything.
-I'm a good friend to many.
- I call people "sweetie" or other endearing terms all the time and I mean it.
- I am SO reliable you can always count on me. Especially when you're in trouble.

Great post!

Deirdre said...

Steve, I love your BBQ and Baseball. I think we *all* know that about you. :) Plus you are an ardent technologist.

Trisha, thanks for sharing. :) I love your comment on winging it - me too.

John Rose CPC said...

Wonderful insight into getting to know the 'person', that hopefully more and more people (HR are you reading this!). I have used this open conversation starting question for many years, it get the individual relaxed and really works. Thank you for bringing this approach to the forefront, hope more and more use it.