“Tell me something about yourself.” This was the one question I dreaded in the days when turning up for interviews and hoping to impress people with my spark and wit and potential as a great writer who they couldn’t do without in their organisation was how I spent a great deal of my time. Even today the question stumps me.
Achieving that fine balance between letting them know what a catch one really, truly is and yet being self-deprecating enough without sounding like a bumbling idiot is an art that only experience teaches you. Or maybe not. Dropping in your shining academic qualifications and quirky (but not quirky enough to be creepy) hobbies is a must and, of course, you must somehow convince them that an inability to get up in the morning is a sought-after quality in a prospective employee. And all this without the use to too many “I’s”, which, I’d been schooled, would sound like I was the kind of person who thought the sun shone out of their backside.
I was lucky that quite a few times I had to write my answer rather than stammer and stutter along with a possible future boss tapping their feet impatiently. Which meant that I could faff my way through, composing quite the paean to myself, easily achieved by rehashing my CV, adding an element of humour and the odd anecdote. The funny thing is, I actually landed a job with this tactic. It was as a freelance consultant, so I mainly worked from home. They paid me a handsome retainer plus a professional fee based on the amount of work I did and even reimbursed my actuals.
I’ve also come to the conclusion after almost a decade and a half of working for a living that most sensible employers won’t ask you to tell them about you—they’ll actually read your CV and try to figure you out for themselves. This, of course, does not apply if you’re being interviewed by the HR people of a big organization who have little idea of the job you’d be doing anyway. In that case the only way out is to dress for the part and give a little performance, if you really want the job, that is. In most other cases, the old cliché of being yourself works.
But the one thing that doesn’t go away is the need to sugarcoat some of your more charming qualities. Here are some of mine (and what they really mean):
- I am very good at working independently. (If you put me in a team, I’ll bite everyone.)
- I am reliable and don’t need much supervision. (And I’ll bite you too if you ask me to check in with my progress every hour.)
- I do my best work in the night.(I am physically incapable of waking up in the morning… and don’t you dare call me before noon.)
- (Of course, you don’t say this if you’re applying for a PR job!) I sometimes tend to be reclusive and like spending time by myself. (Don’t expect me to turn up for useless office parties and outings.)
- I have a weakness for chocolate cake.(I can always be bribed with chocolate cake and point no. iv can thus be rendered moot.)
[Image credit: djayo at SXC.hu]