Starting off right: How to answer the very first question in most job interviews

First impressions count. Starting your job interview off on the right note can set you up for a successful meeting, so it’s important to be prepared for what comes first.

We’ve mentioned before that the interview actually starts before you’ve even reached the meeting room, and that your small talk on the way in can make or break your chances. For more on that see: One really good interview tip: Prepare the first thing you say.

Following that brief small talk, you sit down across from the employer and the formal job interview begins. What is the very first question? Well, of course that will vary from interviewer to interviewer, but in my experience, most start off with some conversational sounding opener like, “So, tell me a little about yourself…”

Don’t let the casual nature of the dialogue fool you. It is a serious question, and having an answer ready can be essential to acing the interview. That is because the best response includes your elevator pitch – your career summary that sells your candidacy for the role.

Employers are trying to get to know you a little bit with this ice-breaker, but they are not really interested in your personal life or pastimes. They want to know why you are the right person for the role. This includes your having the ability to do the job, of course, but they also want to know if you will like doing the job (so you will stay long enough to make it worth hiring you), and if they will like working with you (so they won’t regret hiring you.)

Therefore, that is what you need to tell them about yourself. You’d be great at the job, you’d love to do the job, and you are a joy to work with.

The best way to accomplish all of that is to have done your homework. Research the company in advance so that you are well-versed about their products, services, and industry.

Talk about your background by explaining how your education and experience thus far have led you to this role as the next logical progression in your career. Mention your accomplishments to highlight why you are ready to excel at the new job. Tell them how excited you are to join the team. Your enthusiasm for the brand and the job can go a long way towards swaying employers in your favour. Good communications skills and a positive, upbeat attitude make you seem more likeable – and therefore more hireable.

I studied professional writing and communications in school, and have since held a number of increasingly senior editorial positions for many publications over the past decade. I launched ACME Co.’s Canadian website, and served as head of content for XYZ. Most recently, my team won a Webby Award for career content for 2018. I’ve been reading your website since you launched, and I’m a huge fan of your ABC style. That is why I am so excited for the opportunity to come in and meet you today. I would love to contribute to your publication, and I’ve got some great ideas that I’m anxious to share with you.

Your job interview will likely kick off with a conversational question allowing you to introduce yourself. While you need to come across as genuine and personable, you still don’t want to waste a great deal of valuable time talking about irrelevant personal information. Remember that you have less than an hour to make a lasting professional impression. Make it count.

See also:

How to answer “Why do you want this job?”
How to answer “What are your greatest weaknesses?”

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