Tips & Gifs: Articulating Who You Are

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The quintessential opening line at an interview: “So, (your name here), tell me about yourself.” This can be a scary-big answer to come up with off the cuff, but with a little preparation it’s a great chance to start an interview with a bang. Here are some ways you can develop this narrative while you’re on break.

Do some writing.

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Writing is important because it allows you to contemplate possible questions and responses long before you arrive at an interview. Reflect on questions like these (and, yes, actually write down the answers):

  • How do I relate to other people?
  • What do I love to do even when it’s difficult?
  • What kind of relationship do I prefer to have with a supervisor?
  • What are my strengths?
  • What do I struggle with? Why?
  • How would a parent or relative describe me? How would a good friend describe me? If there is one, what causes the discrepancy in those characterizations?
  • How do I respond to criticism/feedback?

Working through these thoughts on paper ahead of time will make it much easier to articulate yourself to another person.

If you’ve got a specific job application lined up, also ask yourself, “Which of my experiences will enhance my likelihood of success in this position?” and “Why am I qualified to do this job?” In this case, writing prompts you to research an organization to see how you might fit there.

Ask family and friends to role play with you.

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Writing is useful, but it’s not the same as actually saying words out loud. After all, you need to speak clearly and think of responses on the fly, whether you’re meeting someone new in a coffee shop or calling a prospective employer on the phone. Having family and friends to play the role of an “interviewer” is a low-pressure (and probably entertaining) way to prepare. They can help you practice thinking on your feet and they likely won’t be afraid to point out bad habits like fidgeting or speaking too quickly (that’s also something you can ask them to look for before you start).

Edit the last cover letter you wrote.

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It can be useful to review a cover letter that you’ve submitted previously and figure out how you would strengthen it based on new experiences or improved writing skills (thanks, Whitman). Plus, you’ll have a head start on your next job application.

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