Law Career Development
TELL ME ABOUT YOURSELF
That is the million dollar question. GGU’s Summer Job Fair is just around the corner, so now is a good time to brush up on some interviewing skills. “Tell me about yourself” is a favorite question among interviewers for a variety of reasons, but mainly it’s a quick way for interviewers to get to know you. This question is similar to the “why should we hire you?” and “what should I know about you?” interview questions. These questions provide a great opportunity for you to emphasize why you are the perfect fit for the job.
Use the power of storytelling to build your career. According to Grammar Girl, good stories are moving when they engage the senses, move us morally, and connect us to others. These tips can make good stories for applicants, BUT (with lots of the emphasis here) in an interview setting – DO NOT blurt out your life story. Keep your responses short and simple in 90 seconds or less. But, of course, show your excitement for the position. The key to successful storytelling for interviewees is to convey enthusiasm for the job in a concise way. After all, law students are drilled to write clearly and concisely so their interview responses should not be any different. Concise storytelling is about disclosing only information relevant to the job. Here are some tips to answer this common interview question in a concise yet engaging way by (1) sticking to a theme; (2) cutting to the point; (3) talking about real life experiences; (4) practicing; and (5) getting feedback from others.
Embed from Getty Images
Embed from Getty Images
1. Stick to a theme.
Come up with a theme for the entire interview. The goal is to cohesively prove your aptitude for the job by linking every interview question response to a theme. The theme should tailor precisely to the position you are applying for or tailor to what the firm/organization represents. Start by listing strong adjectives that are pertinent to the job, such as traits and skills, to decide a specific theme for the interview. You can even piggy-back off of what you wrote in the cover letter you submitted for the position, but do not repeat your cover letter verbatim. Themes can be generated from skills that are essential to the position or transferrable-skills gained from previous experiences or generated from an expertise in an area that’s valuable to the position you are applying for. Themes can also come from a demonstrated commitment to a cause or client base or even an interest in a specific area of law. This is about showing your passion and motives for the position that you are applying for. Ultimately, a strong theme likely persuades interviewers to hire you.
2. Cut to the point from the very beginning and end strong.
The first sentence should cut to the heart of the story and end on a strong note. This sets the tone for the entire interview. Often it is intuitive to tell a story about what you did in chronological order. However, interviewers already know that information from your resume and interviewers will likely ask follow-up questions if they want to know more about a particular position listed on your resume. So when interviewers say, “tell me about yourself,” a more interesting answer starts with the attention grabbing theme as discussed above and ends strong reiterating that theme.
3. Talk about real life instances that embody your theme.
Think of real life instances backing up your theme. To build a rapport with interviewers, tell them stories that are common to their experiences. This could be about instances in which you have applied traits, skills or passions essential to the position that you are applying for. Think of this in IRAC terms. Issue: Are you qualified for this job? Rule: advanced litigation skills are required for this job. But, in an interview setting, cut to the chase and get straight to the A and C of IRAC – application, and conclusion. In the example above you would say, “I am qualified because I studied trial advocacy and learned the essential components of a trial. Then I applied those skills during my internship at x organization where I succeeded in x tasks. Therefore, I developed strong litigation skills through my studies in trial advocacy and experiences as an intern.” Done deal!
Now that you have a script for your story, as with any performance, practice makes perfect. So, tell me about yourself. Practice responding to this question out loud at this very moment. How did you start and how did you end? Did you stick to your theme? Is your theme tailored to the position you are applying for?
Practice your script reciting it not in verbatim. Do not memorize your script word for word because dry recitation is unimpressive, unauthentic and dull. If you must write your script down, do so in bullet points so that you are not tempted to rehearse your script in verbatim. The goal is to be flexible and open to direction because anything can happen during an interview. This way, in the event that you are imprecise with your script, it does not stop you in your tracks or make you nervously fumble over your words. Rather, you are relentlessly prepared to genuinely talk about each bullet point. Answer this question while you are commuting or while getting ready for work or class, in the shower, making breakfast, etc. The more practice, the more relaxed and confident you will be, and the more likely you will hit each crucial point bringing your interview to sweet home-base. They won’t know what hit them!
Take advice from those who learn lines for a living. Actors present organically, by having a deep understanding of what the heart of the script entails – what’s the deeper meaning behind the text? Additionally, “try to tie the words you speak to the moves your body makes — the gestures you proffer at certain points in a speech for example or the welcoming posture you adopt when you’re greeting new acquaintances. And infuse your delivery with some real emotion.” That way you will charismatically leave a lasting impression on your interviewers.
Most importantly, the answer to “tell me about yourself” often applies to many other interview questions. If you’re going to practice one interview question, this question is gold. Because it is so broad, your response will likely encompass part of an answer to another more narrow interview question. Thus, after practicing your responses to this question, you’ll be prepared to answer a variety of other questions. So, practice, practice, practice telling your story in many different ways.
5. Get feedback from others.
Long hours of practice may not be enough. According to writer Annie Murphy Paul, practicing should be approached deliberately by “relentlessly focusing on our weaknesses and inventing new ways” to improve “ideally with the help of a coach or teacher.” Try a faux interview session with a friend roleplaying as the interviewer asking the tough questions. They may provide excellent feedback on where to cut your script or elaborate your script for the better. However, the most effective way to get feedback is to schedule a mock interview with our LCD counselors. It is also not too late to sign up for the 3rd Annual GGU Law Mock Interview Event occurring August 15, 2017, from 6 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., where volunteer attorneys are thrilled to help law students master their interviewing skills in time for on campus interviews. Register on LCDonline by the deadline of August 11, 2017.
After taking these steps, if ever during an interview you are asked “tell me about yourself," take a deep breath and smell the roses. You know exactly what to say.