Interview in Search of an Applicant

Monday, June 24, 2013

There is a question that I’m asked on interviews and general conversations that I absolutely hate.  We’ve all been asked the question; it’s just that some people are better than others when it comes to a providing a meaningful answer.  Don’t make me repeat it again.  All right, but this is the last time, “Tell me a little about yourself.”

How can I mess up my only chance for a good impression this time?  Well, let’s see, “I’m a guy.”  Yeah, that’s a good start, I think.  Now what?  Oh, yes, “I’m married and I have two kids.” OK, I think, now I’m getting somewhere.  I don’t know where, but it must be somewhere better than where I was 5 seconds ago.

“Did you want to know how many pets or anything that I have at the house?”

Oh, no, I don’t think I should have just asked that.  Nobody really cares about how many dysfunctional, domesticated animals that I have taking up space in my habitat. 

“But you probably don’t really want to know that, do you?”

I’m not a rocket scientist, nor have I ever considered becoming a rocket scientist, but I know one thing very clearly now; this is not going well, at all. 

“Can I start over again, I mean, after the “I’m a guy part?””

My audience clearly is not amused.  In fact, I think I’ve already seen one guy in my listening circle take a casual glance at his watch. 

“Do you want to know like character traits, or are you looking for something else?” 

I’m not really sure about the protocol regarding asking the interviewer for guidance while answering such a simple question, but I think someone needs to throw me a bone or something so I can get a better grip on things. 

“You probably already know that I have black hair, right?  Although, on my license I think it might say, ’brown’.  You might be looking for something a little more substantial.  Am I on the right track?  I’m sorry, but can you repeat the question one more time?  I think I’m getting away from the essence of what you’re really looking for.” 

I’m beginning to make all kinds of mental notes in my head.  First and foremost, I’ve really got to get some kind of answer to this question prepared in advance, so I can at least appear to know a little more about myself than I seem to at this point in time.  I have lived with myself for a while.  I’ve got to know something that I can put into words that might suggest that I didn’t just inhabit this body a moment before the question was asked. 

“Just to be clear, you want a little more than my favorite color … which is green by the way.  Oh, I know, I like music.  I used to play the saxophone, but not really anymore.  I still play the piano, though.  And some might assume that I’m a guitarist, because I have a few guitars, but really I’m just in a permanent learning mode.  Is that pertinent at all to this conversation?” 

A long silent pause follows.  “Is it getting a little warm in here?  Because I feel like I’m starting to sweat like a pig – although I heard once, a long time ago, that pigs don’t really sweat.  It’s some kind of myth, I think.”

Two of the three inquisitors politely excuse themselves from the conversation.  One person remains, makes a final note on her legal pad and thanks me as positively as she can.  I know that she is being totally insincere.  I should have mentioned during the interview that one of my strong skills is being able to accurately measure BS when I hear it. 

I’m still trying to figure out how my mental train of thought had jumped the rails so effortlessly.  Why couldn’t I have mentioned my creativity, organizational skills or strong work ethic?  It doesn’t really matter anymore; I’m sure they had already emailed me the appreciative rejection notice before I even got back into my car. 

So where does this leave me?  Well, it’s a little too late for that.  But for any future interviewees out there – take note:  prepare a few thoughts about yourself in advance.  Don’t think so much about a direct answer to the question.  A lot of the information that they are looking for is in the way you answer the question.  Be yourself.  Be calm.  And just for fun, throw in your favorite color. 


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