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Delivering Your First Impression in an Interview



By Sherry Gipson, MS, CSP
Goodwill TulsaWORKS Career Academy

Do you remember when your parents told you first impressions are so important? In an interview, this is absolutely true and is only part of what makes interviewing a challenge in today’s marketplace. After training adults to prepare for an interview, the most overlooked question - and frankly badly answered - is still used by most recruiters and hiring managers. This question is, of course, “tell me a little about yourself." Job seekers have interpreted this question as small talk, a personal question, or a “let’s get warmed up before the real discussion begins …." and this has led to a pointless first impression. It can also determine the remainder of the discussion, and the eventual outcome.

So, how can we fix it? First of all, job seekers need to know that this question is designed to inquire about your professional self and is not the time to talk about your efforts in gardening, your grandkids, or your racecar driving hobby. It is the best time to discuss the skills you have that the job position requires. One tool to help you prepare an answer is to think about three things (1) what you are doing now that adds value toward the workforce, (2) what you have experienced in the past that contributes to the position, and (3) how both of these things will make you successful within the organization.

Make a list of the skills and abilities that you have learned through education, training, and experience on previous jobs. Are you a good team player? provide meaningful customer service? leadership? strategic thinking? Spend time reviewing the job description and the organization and determine what you can contribute and then develop some phrases from this list. For example, if the job description requires “excellent verbal and written communication skills” you might describe an experience where you participated on a team and collaborated with fellow team members through effective face-to-face personal interactions and followed up with detailed written communication.

Having a pre-thought-out, individual plan to positively answer this first interview question will enable the job seeker to show a level of professionalism and move forward with the interview in a confident and effectual manner.

Sherry Gipson is a training instructor in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She has a Master's degree in Training and Development and a Bachelor's degee in Human Resources Management. She trains adults to prepare for the workforce through personal branding, resume development, and improving interview skills.

This article was first published October 27, 2016 on LinkedIn.


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