How To Answer “Tell Me About Yourself” In A Management Job Interview

The moment you’ve prayed for and eagerly anticipated for such a long time. This is the make or break moment of your career, the time you finally have the opportunity to sell yourself and your skills to land the promotion or senior management role of your dreams.

To warm things up a bit, the interviewer poses the long-awaited and dreaded question: “Tell me a bit about yourself.”

What is the best way to answer? Should you rattle off all your career goals and aspirations, or recite your resume word for word? Should you share where you live and what you like to do in your spare time? How do you prove your leadership skills and impress the hiring manager?

Below are some of the best proven approaches to address this question, including what to avoid. Please note that although this article focuses specifically on interviews for management and leadership roles, much of the advice here can be applied in a general context to interviews for non-managerial positions.

How Not To Answer “Tell Me About Yourself”

First of all, there’s a significant difference between management interviews and regular job interviews. While interviews for other jobs are pretty nerve-wracking and can be tough, interviewing for a management position, internally for a promotion or externally at another employer will test beyond your individual performance and strengths.

They are looking to see evidence that you can think outside of your own individual contributions and actually think like a leader, taking into consideration qualities such as strategy, innovation, team management, delegation, and planning.

Most importantly, they need to see that you know how to drive actual tangible results before they accept you to lead their teams.

Some of the worst ways to answer this question include:

Providing vague descriptions of your previous work without using supporting examples and tangible, factual evidence
Describing your work philosophy
Reiterating your resume
Complaining about how much you dislike your current or previous role, the teams you managed, or how your last employer never gave you room to progress
Sharing your entire life story or personal details

The Right Way To Answer “Tell Me About Yourself”

Here instead, is a better framework you can use to structure your answer:

Briefly introduce yourself, with your name and the number of years of experience you have within management or leadership positions, including any noteworthy companies you’ve worked at as well.

Start with highlights from your most recent role—using one sentence to briefly describe what your responsibilities were, and the other sentence(s) to highlight what you enabled your team, department, and organization to achieve as relates to business goals and strategy; talk about sheer numbers and results, placing special emphasis on KPIs. Notice, you need to highlight; this is not the time to elaborate at length. Say just enough to catch and hold the interviewer’s interest.

Work backwards to highlight your most brilliant achievements in previous roles that demonstrate the core leadership and management competencies that have been listed on the job advert of the role you’re interviewing for. Ensure you only provide relevant information.

Some great stories that prove your leadership skills include examples of where you’ve led teams, mentored or provided training, spearheaded a new project, or created a solution to resolve a challenge.

Always remember to tie these experiences back to the role you are interviewing for; the connection may seem obvious to you, but it’s not so obvious to them, so you can’t just take it for granted, especially if you are going the unconventional route of applying for a management role with little to no management experience. You need to fully demonstrate how your prior experiences are transferable, using the terminology from their job advert.

Describe your ambitions enthusiastically. Talk about what you’re excited to achieve in this management post and what your vision is for their project or team; get them animated with your contagious energy!

Now that you have this blueprint, you can apply this structure to your next management job interview and set the stage for showcasing yourself as an impressive candidate who can lead their teams and projects to success, deliver results and positive outcomes, and improve team culture and performance.

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