This is usually my very first question because it gets to the heart of their communication strategy. When they respond, I’m not listening so much for what they say as I am how they are saying it. Are they all ears, all talk, or hopefully a great combination of both. Let’s see how that works.
One of my favorite questions to ask in an interview is, “Tell me about yourself.” I love asking open-ended questions like that. They give so much opportunity for the candidate to show themselves, good or bad. If I were to ask you to tell me about yourself, what would you say?
1. Scenario 1 –The “Talk until you drop candidate”. This is the tell-me-everything-I-never-wanted-or-need-to-know candidate. They usually begin by talking about where they went to primary school in their village, and progressing chronologically from there to high school, their favorite hobbies, their first girlfriend/boyfriend, where they go to church, their family… heck they might even talk about what they did in their job if I’m lucky. For sure, I’ll know the name of their favorite TV program if I give them the chance.
When I ask the “Tell me about yourself question”, I intentionally let the candidate go as long as they want. I don’t interrupt them unless I get hungry or have to go the bathroom (which has happened). I swear, I’ve had some who could have talked for at least twenty minutes without stopping. We’ve all run into the talker.
After about ten minutes of listening to the minutia of their life, I’m thinking one and only one thing… GET ME OUT OF HERE!!!! Where is the eject button?!? How can I gracefully terminate this interview now?
I can’t remember ever hiring an extreme talker candidate, but then again I’m not hiring public auctioneers. But if I were, I probably still wouldn’t hire them. They only have half the communication challenge down.
2. Scenario 2- The “Deer in the headlights candidate”. This candidate is the one that looks at me timidly after the question and asks “So what do you want to know about me?” I usually respond to them to tell me, “Whatever you think I need to know.”
They seem to want to listen and listen and listen to make sure they craft the perfect answer. It’s like pulling teeth to get ten words in a row out of this candidate. The half hour interview feels like it lasts all day. GET ME OUT OF HERE!!!!! I can’t wait to get out of the interview with the habitual listener either.
Hmmm.… are we seeing a pattern here? They only have half the communication challenge down, too.
3. Scenario #3 – The “Two ears and one mouth candidate”. I heard once God made us with two ears and one mouth for a reason. We should listen twice as much as we talk because listening is twice as hard to do well.
The great communicators are always great listeners, and their talk always relates back to what they heard. They do it with equal ease. When I ask a great candidate that magic question, they confidently talk for 30-60 seconds with a concise description of who they are and how that might be relevant to what I’m looking for. Then they check in with me afterward to make sure they answered the question adequately. Then they may even ask me a question.
The interview feels more like a conversation than an interrogation process. It’s a back and forth process just like if you’re talking to your best friend.
I know this sound like simple stuff. But many people don’t do this, especially when they really want the job. When people desperately want the job, they tend to talk too much. If that’s you, be conscious about that and let your ears do the talking for you.
You should be comfortable going 45 seconds talking about who you are, what you’ve done and how you want to help your employer.
Don’t let your one mouth take over your two ears. Great listening is hard work which is why God gave us two ears to make up for it.
Directly from the mind of an HR Professional.