When you are asked the most common -- and perhaps the toughest -- interview question, "Tell me about yourself," your answer can make or break you as a candidate. Usually job seekers will respond with their "30-second commercial," and then elaborate on their background.
Many people do poorly in their job search because they are too often focused on what they want in a job, including preferred industry, type of position, location, income, benefits, and work environment. Their "30-second commercial" is centered on this premise. The commercial describes the job seeker's career history and what they are looking for. Too often, this is in direct contrast to what employers are looking for.
There are two dominant reasons why job seekers are successful in the job search. The first is focusing on the needs of the organization. The second is focusing on the needs of the people within that organization. Let's examine how to focus on the needs of the people within organizations. This will help you prepare more powerful responses to that all-important question, "Tell me about yourself."
AOL Jobs recently spoke to Jane Roquelplot, certified professional behavioral analyst and owner of JaneCo's Sensible Solutions, to learn more about how job seekers can respond to the needs of the interviewer by learning about communication styles.
The four communication styles
Most social psychologists recognize that there are four basic temperaments. One widely accepted concept of labeling the four basic styles is known as the DISC method. The DISC is easy to understand, learn, remember, and apply. Let's examine what each initial in DISC stands for.
The D stands for the Driving style and measures how people respond to problems and challenges.
The I stands for the Influential style and measures how people influence others to their point of view.
The S stands for the Steady/Stable style and measures the intensity levels regarding a person's behavior toward the pace of the environment.
The C stands for Compliance and measures how people respond to rules and procedures set by others and their need for information.
Usually, each of us exhibits more intense characteristics unique to one of the styles. However, we also possess characteristics to a lesser degree in the other styles, which requires more in-depth knowledge and application. For our purposes of quickly identifying and applying the basic information, we'll be dealing with just the core, most intense, characteristics.
Characteristics of each communication style
Here are some characteristics that are most commonly associated with each of the styles:
Positive traits: persistent, independent, decision-maker, effective, strong-willed
Potential negative traits: aggressive, strict, intense, relentless, rigid
Positive traits: enthusiastic, persuasive, outgoing, positive, communicator
Potential negative traits: ego-centered, emotional, exploitative, opinionated, reacting
STEADY / STABLE:
Positive traits: cooperative, dependable, warm, listener, negotiator
Potential negative traits: undisciplined, dependent, submissive, cautious, conforming
COMPLIANT / ANALYTICAL:
Positive traits: precise, methodical, organized, rational, detail-oriented
Potential negative traits: critical, formal, uncertain, judgmental, picky
Determining the communication style of others
Let's take some examples from the business world. While there are always exceptions, generally speaking the styles fit the example.
D -- Corporate CEO: They are intelligent, intense, focused, and relentless. They thrive on the thrill of the challenge and the internal motivation to succeed. Money is only a measure of success; it is not the driving factor. They are results/performance oriented. They have compassion for the truly disadvantaged, but absolutely no patience or tolerance for the lazy or whiners. They drive prestige cars, not because the car attracts attention, but because it was a wise investment. They want to know why we had a party; what were the benefits of the party, and did we invite the banker?
I -- Sales manager: They are very outgoing and enthusiastic, with a high energy level. They are also great idea generators, but may not have the ability to see the idea through to completion. They are usually very opinionated and egotistical, and often money motivated. They can be good communicators. They prefer to direct and control rather then ask and listen. They drive red convertibles with great stereos -- to heck with the gas mileage. They come up with the idea for a company party, but never help clean up: They are on their way to another party.
S -- Human resources manager: They are very people-focused. They are dependable, loyal and easygoing; very compassionate. They will give you the shirt off their backs and the last nickel in their pockets. They are good listeners and valued team players, who don't "rock the boat." They are usually conformists and followers -- rarely leaders. They avoid conflict and are not the best decision-makers. They drive four-door sedans or mini-vans to take the kids to sporting events. They usually clean up after the party is over.
C -- Financial manager (or programmers, engineers, and accountants): hey like systems and procedures. They are slow to make decisions because they will analyze things to death -- but their decisions are usually very sound. They prefer working independently and are usually not very good in team environments, but they are also dependable. They buy cars with good resale value and great gas mileage. They are conservative dressers. At the party, they ask, "Why was so much money spent on Gourmet Blend when we could have purchased Maxwell House?" They come to the party with their laptops.
Matching communication styles during an interview
Now that you have some insight into your style and the style of others, let's look at how this information might be valuable during an interview.
Let's say you are interviewing with the CEO, the sales manager, the human resource manager, and the finance manager. The first question each of them will ask you is: "Tell me about yourself." How should you respond? Remember the second success factor in a job search: focus on the needs of the people in the organization. Here are just a few examples of how to respond to that question:
"Tell me about yourself?"
Response to CEO: "I have achieved success in my career because I'm consistently focused on the bottom line. I have always sought out innovative solutions to challenging problems in order to maximize profitability. Regardless of the task or challenge, I create benchmarks of performance, and hold myself to these standards of excellence. I have never sought to maintain the 'status quo.' An organization that does not change and grow will die. I would enjoy working with you to help define new market opportunities in order to achieve your organization's goals."
Response to sales manager: "Throughout my career I have always adhered to the principle that everyone in the organization must be sales-focused. My department is always trained in customer service, providing outstanding support to the sales team and to our customers. Without sales, the rest of us would not have a job. I look forward to helping you drive sales in any way possible."
Response to human resource manager: "My career has been characterized by my ability to work well with diverse teams. I seek out opportunities to involve others in the decision-making process. This collaboration and communication is what has enabled me to achieve success in my department. I believe that people are the most valuable resource of any organization."
Response to finance manager: "I have been successful in my career by making well-thought-out decisions based on careful analysis of all relevant factors. I approach problems with logic and sound reasoning. I would enjoy working with you in developing the appropriate systems and procedures to make our two departments function efficiently together."
In each instance, respond to the "needs of the individual." It is almost guaranteed that, when you respond appropriately to the diverse needs of the different managers, you will become the standard by which all of the other candidates will be measured.
Be challenged to learn about yourself and your leadership style, learn about the styles of others, and learn how to think on your feet when responding to questions. Whether you are seeking a job or you are gainfully employed, by understanding the needs of others you will become a more valuable person, employee, manager and leader.
Next: Interview Questions
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