Almost every failed interview can be traced back to the first three minutes. Experts will tell you the first ten seconds, but these are the same experts who have never interviewed or haven’t interviewed in the past twenty years. The reality is a little longer, but not much.
An interview doesn’t really start until you’re asked to open your mouth. And, not the small talk crap that you do while people get settled and wait for Jenny to get her coffee and find your resume.
When you get asked that first question, “So, tell us a little about yourself.” Bam! It’s on. Start the clock, you have 180 seconds to show them why they should hire you.
Here’s what I would say:
“I was raised by 6 women. My grandmother is the matriarch of our family. I was raised by a single-mom, who had four sisters, my aunts, and my sister was the first grandchild born into the family. As you can imagine, I was dressed-up a lot! The women in my life love to laugh and I was always had a stage with them to make this happen.
The other thing it taught me was to cook, sew and iron. All of which I do to this day. My wife is the baker, but I’m the cook. Mending and ironing fall in my chore bucket around the house.
The real thing it taught me was the value of women in the world. I did my master’s thesis on women and leadership. My mother started her own company in 1979 when no women started companies. Not only that, she started a company in a male-dominated technical field. I was nine years old, and she would pay me ten cents to stuff envelopes for her. We would sit on her bed and she made calls to candidates, and I would stuff envelopes with the volume off on the TV.
Living with a single mom, who started a business during a recession was a challenge. I learned the value of work and started my first real job the day I turned sixteen. I paid my own way through college as my parents, who could afford to help, believed I would get more out of college if I found a way to pay for it on my own. I did. In hindsight, I’m glad they taught me this lesson. It was hard but worth it.
All of these experiences have helped shape my leadership style. I set high expectations but work hard to ensure people have the right tools and knowledge to be successful. I hold people accountable to what we agree are our goals. I work very hard, but I like to have fun when I work.
What else would you like to know about me?”
That’s it. I shut up and wait for a response.
What did I tell them in my three minutes?
I told them my story. People don’t hire your resume, they hire your story.
If you want to get hired, you need to craft your story. A real story. A story people want to listen to. A story people will remember when it comes time to decide whom to hire.
I too am a product of a single parent. Thank you for the inspiration and I plan to use my story to answer the call of the question which is “tell me about you,” not what is in the resume. Thank you again for sharing!
That is a great story and great advice. It also has me thinking about using some version of this strategy when first meeting with a prospective client. Great picture too – were you the original drummer in The Partridge Family?
Hi Tim. I absolutely agree with the need to tell a story. Bang on. You need to go into an interview with an idea of the one thing you want that person to take away from your conversation. Every chance you get, bring them back to that key message. That is much more valuable than spending hours preparing for endless behavioral interview questions scenarios. Where I disagree with you is when the interview starts. I know you discount it, but people start making decisions about you in milliseconds. It happens subconsciously and you need to be aware that it’s happening – both as an interviewer and interviewee. It’s that first level of assessment, the first impression, that so many end up basing their decision on. Sadly, it’s a terrible predictor of future performance. It’s not until you get to what our founder, Jack McQuaig, called the 3rd level of assessment that you start to get a glimpse into how that person will actually perform.
You are hired on the spot if you bring that photo with you to compliment your intro during an interview!