Career Workout: The Thorniest Interview Question

It's the big one. The one we all dread when going for a big interview. And, unfortunately, it's also one of the most commonly asked: "So, tell me about yourself."

Cue the panic. It's a pretty standard reaction to this thorniest of questions. And worst of all, it's often the first thing they ask.

For women in particular, this type of open-ended, ambiguous question is tricky.  Sharing is in our DNA. Directness tends not to be. Answer this question inappropriately and the rest of the interview could be in jeopardy. Research shows that 80% of interviewers make up their minds within the first 15 minutes.

What to do? This week, Step Up comes to your rescue:

1. Prepare. We're not fans of the over rehearsed interview, but to get yourself off to a good start, make sure you're well acquainted with your answer to this question in particular.

2. Focus. What do you most want to convey about yourself? Start by listing your top 5 strengths as a candidate for the job. Experience, knowledge, track record, skills, personality. You're looking for the things that are most relevant to the new role.

3. Craft. Use those strengths to create a statement about yourself. Start with your past experience and success. In the middle, you want those strengths. Close with a statement about what you want now. Five sentences maximum. Make it interesting, but keep personal statements out of it. And, until you've established a rapport with your interviewer, humour is not your friend.

4.  Rehearse. Practice enough that you're confident what you want to say, but not so much that you've memorised it word for word. Confident, polished, but natural is the effect we're going for here.

Don't get asked the dreaded question. Lucky you. Having crafted what is essentially your own elevator pitch, you'll still be in a strong position to use the individual elements of your answer to nail the job.