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When the interviewer asks you "Tell me about yourself", how long should your answer be? Should we just tell our name and education? Or should we also add our achievements? (Even though they are already written on the resume).

I have an interview in a few days and I have topped in both Bachelors and Masters in the subject in which they are working on. In fact, I was so good that it resulted in securing me a reference from our university principal (who was the teacher of the subject).

I want to mention this to the interviewer but I am afraid I might sound arrogant. Another thing I have noticed is if you start talking about your achievements in the introduction, the interview gets extremely hard.

On the other hand,if I don't mention it, it might get buried in the other subjects I have topped in and they might not even know about how I got the reference.

3

Not the thing you want to mention the first moment you walk in the door. It probably goes without saying, but you first few interchanges should be clarification of names, polite chitchat, expressions of pleasure - nothing of particular depth. Give everyone a chance to get into the room and get settled.

Getting into it

Given that you never really know how an interviewer may start off the interview, a good place to start is likely to be a proactive question - "shall I tell you a little bit about myself?" - gives the interviewer a great chance to either let you take the lead or move things along at a pace of his own choosing. For example, if you've already been to a phone screen, you may not know exactly how much the interviewers have conferred... so one interview case may be "yes, please", and another may be "no, thanks, I got a pretty good summary - but I had this particular question..."

There's really no safe bet on whether the interviewer read the details of your resume or just happened to glance at it while running to the interview.

Phrasing it

When you give a summary, try hard to keep it:

  • concise - if you go more than a short paragraph or a few sentences, you will loose people.
  • on point - don't cover areas that aren't relevant to the job
  • tied together - your resume is a statement of facts about you, a quick verbal summary lets you segue into areas you really care about and paint a picture that transcends the facts.

How you paint your picture will have a lot to do with the aggressiveness of the follow on interview, for example, taking your facts, in particular, I can see at least two cases that will invoke two very different responses:

Continuing to educate myself is a strongly held value of mine...

As you might have seen on my resume, I have a Bachelor's and Master's in this topic. I really value a college education and I pursued graduate school because... it was important to me to get great grades and have a strong relationship with my professor, who was also the university principal, because I have a deep passion for this topic - we really hit it off and he was a great mentor and I was honored that he was also willing to write me a reference. This is what really interests me about the topic...

Keep it short - each of these ...'s should be 1 sentence.

Paints a picture of someone with serious dedication, focus on education and skill development, strong connections to teachers, and a passion for the topic. As the interviewer - if I like this topic too, and agree it has relevance, I'll probably eagerly start asking questions on it - what what your field, did you write any papers, any projects? The sooner we can get into a real conversation about it, the better, since it'll let me figure out how you communicate and whether you'll fit the team well.

Alternately...

Let me tell you about a few of my many accomplishments...

I recently graduated with a BS/MS in the topic of X, which I see is very relevant to the work you do here. I acheived a GPA of n, and was among the top y% of my class. I did so well, in fact, that the unversity principal offered to write me a reference letter which you'll see attached to my resume.

There's nothing out and out wrong here - but if you read this in a neutral voice with no tonal shading or modifications for body language, it can come off rather stuck-up. If you are the right person, with the right body language and a self-effacing manner, it'll probably still work. But if you don't hit it right, or have good chemistry with the interviewer it may be poorly received. Reasons I'd take this the wrong way if said in a tone of voice that I found obnoxious:

  • It's all facts that are on the resume - does he think I won't read the resume?
  • It makes a supposition about what we do here, and never even asks if that's true. I don't like working with people who make suppositions and don't ask. I also might get the impression that if you can't do this particular topic, you won't want to work here.
  • It can come off as pretentious where there's no passion to make it humanizing
  • It makes a supposition that I'm supposed to be impressed. I may be, I may not be - being impressed has as much to do with my history as the candidate's.

Summary

The big goal of an interview is to make a positive connection. A resume alone will show facts and figures, and if the determination of who to hire was made solely on the basis of facts and figures, most companies could and would save a lot of money and simply hire the person with the best resume on paper.

The reason to spend the often significant amount of time and money on interviewing is to get a sense of the whole person - what are they like? How do they communicate? How do they work with a team? solve problems? tackle issues?

As a boss or a peer - a sense of connection is fundamental to wanting to hire someone - you have to be able to visualize them being successful in the job. So make forming a connection your first priority in introducing yourself. Showing that you take pride and work hard for your accomplishments, that you've taken on challenging work and done well at it, and that you have a real passion for a certain topic are all very positive features in just about anyone - and worth showing to interviewer, as long as it comes off that way.

Finally...

Body language is a real key here. Generally you want to look for the interviewer to stay engaged and interested. Most people don't do well with a long monologue, so keep it short. If you see an eager audience, you may be able to cover more ground, but be very aware of signs of disengagement - lack of eye contact, slumping in chairs, fidgeting, or doodling - and cut short your intro if you see these signs.

3

You are certainly going to want to mention those things at some point in the interview. Not every interviewer memorizes your entire CV, so important things like being top of your class should be mentioned.

Should they be your first sentence? No, not at all. You enter the room, the interviewer says something like "Good morning, you are iOsBoy?" and you say "yes, I am, good morning and thank you for seeing me today". Or the interviewer says "Good morning, I am Ms. Smith." and you say "Good morning Ms. Smith, I am iOsBoy, it's nice to meet you." Not "Good morning Ms. Smith, I am iOsBoy, it's nice to meet you and by the way I came first in my class in two subjects and have a reference letter here from the university."

Going into the interview, you should have a little mental list of things you want to find out (what does the job pay, what is the work environment like, what technologies will you be using, how is the commute, is there anywhere nearby to get lunch or exercise...) and things you want to be sure to tell them (I want to learn X, I came first in my class, I already know Y...) and keep this list top of mind. As you go through the interview you will find the interviewer tells you some things without you asking, and asks you some things that you were planning to tell. For some things you must look for an opportunity to give your information.

For example, "have you done any X outside of the classroom?" "Oh yes, I like X a lot. As you may have read, I was first in my class in the X course, and I think one reason was because I used it on a project of my own that I was very interested in..." and carry on explaining how good you are at X. Or "I am really looking forward to getting more X experience. I was first in my class in the X course, and I think it's a great technology. One of the reasons I want to work here is so I can use X regularly."

If all else fails, when you get to the "do you have any questions for me?" part and you still haven't mentioned your academic achievements, you can ask something like "would you like to see my reference letters from the university? I was first in my class in X and Y and the professor has recommended me." But with any luck you've found a way to work it into the interview already and can use that time to ask about lunch places, etc.

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No, there is no arrogance of showing your achievements but it should not be excessive. If you feel as you wrote that your achievement is extraordinary you must include them. Also, do not start listing your education while introducing yourself,

Go on this way:

  1. Name

  2. Highest Education

  3. Your passion

  4. Your likes & views

  5. and others in short

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