Chen and Friend: So Tell Me About Yourself-Small Business Focus

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‘This is part of a series about business–in a point and counterpoint style between Eric Chen and me. Chen had a stirring career as a young Wall Streeter who knew how to take companies “public.” I had background as a business development consultant for Fortune 500 companies and we connected. Chen was prescient, he went back to school for advanced degrees (law and accounting), he teaches at St. Joseph College in Connecticut and is also management consultant, telecommunications is one of his niches.’

”Rath:” We previously discussed preparing for an interview; when it’s time for the real thing, what’ll we do?


”Chen:” Have the answers to some basic interview questions at the ready. Practice so that they flow off your tongue enthusiastically.

”Rath”: OK, I’m ready. Ask me an interview question.

”Chen”: So, Arthur, tell me about yourself.

”Rath”: Hmm. Interesting question. I suspect that the interviewer really wants to know how I can help the company. Having built a track record by now, this is what I might say:

I nurture existing clients and bring in big, profitable
business. Examples on my resume show how quickly I’ve
accomplished this. That cuts to the quick. My demeanor will
help the interviewer determine how we proceed from there.

”Chen:” Indeed. The question is a loaded question. Asking you to
tell me about yourself often indicates that the interviewer
isn’t familiar with your candidacy and is seeking to buy time to
read your resume while you talk. In my view, the question is an
interviewer’s cop-out. However, can you imagine fumbling for an
answer for this loaded question at the interview?

You bring up an interesting way to answer the question.
Instead of answering the “tell me about yourself” question from
the interviewee perspective, let us try putting ourselves in the
shoes of the interviewer. What sort of information would the
interviewer want to know? That you have already been selected
for the interview means that the employer thinks that you can do
the job. The interview will validate that and serve to
determine if there is a good personality fit.

Let’s provide a bit more structure to the interview and assume
that you are interviewing for a front desk position at the
Halekulani Hotel. Now, let us return to the question and see if
we might be able to craft a concise and powerful answer. What
sorts of qualities do you think are necessary for the front desk
position at the Halekulani Prince Hotel?

”Rath”: To start, I’d say that the front desk person must be
friendly and courteous.

”Chen:” Great! I would agree. So, Arthur, can you tell me about
a situation, professional or otherwise, in your past where you
were friendly or courteous?

”Rath:” Hmm . . . I think I know where you’re going with this, but
why don’t you give me an answer?

”Chen:” Sure. In high school, I served as a volunteer at a soup
kitchen once a week, cutting vegetables and ladling out food to
those who needed a hot meal. I greeted everyone by name, and if
I didn’t know the person, I’d introduce myself with a smile. It
didn’t cost me anything to be friendly and courteous. However,
one fellow named Bob, who came in every Wednesday night, told me
that he looked forward to dinner Wednesday night because I would
say hello to him. That made my day.

”Rath:” Nice answer! In addition to proving that you are friendly
and courteous, it also says that you are used to serving others,
civic minded and professional