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No BS Hiring Advice

Stop Asking “Tell Me About Yourself” | No BS Hiring Advice

“Tell me about yourself” stopped working as an interview question years ago. Instead ask this one. You will be able to rule out people much faster.


One thing you learn when you prepare people for interviews is that somewhere, somewhere along the line, someone's going to ask an opening question like, "tell me about yourself--" you know, that basic open-ended question.
Now, if you're in HR (I'm going to focus in on HR and small business owners), because for those of you who are in large organizations, and you're working as a hiring manager, you've got people screaming for you. So, this is really for the first phone call, the first in-person interview that I want you to flip this around. You see, most of the time, firms have gotten lazy and they use, "Tell me about yourself,"and they do. You know, they're rehearsed with an answer that's pretty well prepared. I've created videos to help people around this . . . 10s of thousands of views. Lots of stuff I've created to help people answer a question like this. Other people have done the same thing, too. So, if they can't answer the question, they're obviously morons. The real thing comes down to what can you ask that's going to help you assess whether or not this person will fit your organization?
That's not really where most firms start off with. They go through the auto biographical stuff of how "how'd you wind up here today?" That is another question that firms may ask which I think is more textured, but I want to help you rule the people out quickly. This can be in the phone interview.
So, you get a resume; the background looks pretty decent. Here's the opening question I want to ask now after the chit chat.
"Hi, is this Jeff Altman? Hi, my name is so and so from such and such firm. Is this a good time to talk? Yeah, terrific! Now, we received your resume and we respect people a lot. We don't want to waste your time in any way, so, give us a sense of what's going to be important to you in the next job or organization. What are you going to need to see or hear to believe it's a good choice for you. Because if we can't deliver it, we don't want to waste your time and if we can refer you to another organization or to another position, we are thrilled to do so. We probably can't, but we'd like to at least try. So what's going to be important to you in the next job or organization? What will you need to see or hear to believe it's a good choice for you?"
Now, they may say, "I want to feel happy here."
Oh! What's going to help you feel happier?"
"Interesting work."
"What kind of interesting work would that be?"
You want to spend time talking with them about what they're looking for because this is going to flush out, number one, they're not prepared for this question, right? And it's going to flush out a lot of the insane people who you might be evaluating because, you know, invariably, there are problems. You see, the thing that firms have gotten so complacent about is that they think the system can't be changed. The result winds up being. . . it depends on the statistics you see, it's as few is one out of two hiring managers has buyer's remorse within the first year about someone that they hired. I've seen this as high as 75%. So, we know the interviewing isn't working. We've got to try something different.
Part of it is unreasonable expectations. All you normally do is try to figure out, "does this person have the skills to go my job?" That's what you always do. So you take the hammer out, and you're hammering it over and over again. But you're not finding out about the human being behind that.
What makes people successful employees? Yes, there's a degree of skill that's involved and you'll evaluate for that. But there's also the human being and, with a human being, it is a problem. They're going to wind up failing, and they're going to fail you and you, as a hiring manager, are going to be impacted by that. You're going to waste an enormous amount of time trying to manage this person who should be inspired. I'm not going to differentiate inspiration and management another time. I've done that in other videos, but I'll just simply say, where you have problem people, it's normally about the human being, it's not about their skills.
You know how to evaluate for the skill, but you have to learn how to flush up the human being. Again, just start asking, "what's most important to you in the next job or organization? What would you need to see or hear to believe it's a good choice?"
Now, again, happiness, money, authority recognition, status. These are going to be variations on some of the things that you'll hear, but explore them with them right away.
Don't waste time on finding out skills, only to hire someone who's going to be a malcontents because the environment doesn't work for them. Flush this out early. So, I hope you found this helpful. Try this out for a week or to see how it works for you.


No BS Hiring Advice
No BS Hiring Advice

Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a career and leadership coach who worked as a recruiter for more than 40 years. He is the host of “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” the #1 podcast in iTunes for job search with more than 1300 episodes and his newest show, “No BS Coaching Advice.” He is a member of The Forbes Coaches Council. “No BS JobSearch Advice Radio” was recently named a Top 10 podcast for job search. was also recently named a Top 10 YouTube channel for job search.

Are you interested in 1:1 coaching, interview coaching, advice about networking more effectively, how to negotiate your offer or leadership coaching? Connect with me on LinkedIn. Then message me to schedule an initial complimentary session.

Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter
Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter

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