Heidi Winney Heidi provides career and executive coaching for managers and professionals of varied backgrounds and industry sectors, including members of the Australian Institute of Management and the Macquarie Graduate School of Management's Alumni. Following senior corporate Human Resources roles, she established 'Strategic Career Development' in 1995 focusing on her real interests and passion - assisting individuals to create strategies to achieve their goals. To find out more view Heidi's full bio or email Heidi at winday@bigpond.net.au

Interviews: What Do You Say After “Hello”?

By Heidi Winney, Strategic Career Management

Many times when I’ve coached people in how to answer interview questions we began with the “Tell me about yourself”! Very often, I was asked “Well, what do you want to hear? Do you want me to tell you where I grew up and went to school and should I tell you about my kids, etc? Where should I start?”

In a “real” interview, this may well create doubt in an interviewer’s mind about your suitability and in particular your level of preparedness for the interview? If you’re not prepared for the interview, what else might you not be prepared for?

So, what should you say?

Since an interview is a business discussion, you should use this opportunity to build rapport and impress with your career history. Most people find it easiest to start their introduction by focussing on how they started their career and quickly move through the early years to concentrate on the more recent years and achievements relevant to the role for which they are interviewed. This builds a story of success and achievement.

An example might be:

“After I finished my degree in HR, I started as a Graduate in the HR Department of Company X and was quickly promoted to an HR Officer role where I managed the company’s Graduate Recruitment program. One of my achievements was revising the company’s Induction process and manual that really improved the socialisation aspect of the first 90 days for new employees and helped in lowering staff turnover. I learnt how important it was for employees to feel welcome and I’ve not forgotten this lesson.

I was then offered a role with Company Y as HR Manager for one of their smaller Divisions. One of my achievements was to develop a performance management program that actually achieved what it was meant to do – assist managers in discussing their employee’s performance in a positive way and at the same time discuss their career aspirations.

Again, I was promoted, this time to a senior HR Manager level where my key role was to implement new strategic initiatives to increase employee engagement and job satisfaction. I achieved that by developing and implementing new pay structures and incentive programs, introducing coaching to key managers and developing more effective training and development programs in conjunction with UNSW. This greatly increased my knowledge of effective HR practices and their impact on the business.”

And so on – until reaching today’s role.

Finally, you may finish your “Tell me about yourself” by discussing your key strengths relative to the position for which you are being interviewed.

Spend little time on early years – concentrate more on the last 5-10 years as they are usually the most relevant to your future.

How long should you talk?

Aim for no more than 2 minutes – the extent of most people’s attention span!

A final thought: Remember that appearance and first impressions are extremely important! Approximately 55% of communication is how you look (confidence, dress, grooming, etc); 38% is your tone and how well you speak; only about 7% is what you say!

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