Early Career Candidate interviewing for an entry level job at a financial services firm
Tell me about yourself
Well, just to start off generally, I am a very energetic person who is a self-starter. I'm originally from Center City and I graduated from XYZ University with a degree in Economics. In addition to academics I was involved in several student organizations and played on the women's varsity volleyball team for 2 years. Our team was very good. We made it to the Division I Final Four my senior year.
I graduated from XYZ University with a bachelor or arts degree, with a major in Economics and a minor in Political Science. In addition to academics I have been passionate about making money since I was a kid. I used to go to the store and buy a pack of candy which I would then sell individually at a higher price. I would pocket the money and save it until I could buy more. Soon everyone was buying candy from me because I had the most variety. At school I was the founder and President of an investment club, whose mission was to help students understand the stock market and gain experience in portfolio management. We also organized special seminars, events to foster the exchange of knowledge and encourage networking opportunities for our members. Membership of the club doubled from 25 to 50 members in the first year.
This seemingly simple question can be one of the most complex interview questions to answer. Because it is so open-ended there are various responses that a candidate can give. Don`t let it rattle you: the important thing is to be prepared to relay the right information about yourself as it is related to the position.
In order to answer this questions properly, you need to do three things:
1) Do not spend significant time reciting your credentials – the interviewer has your resume in front of them. They know where you went to school. They know where you worked. You should only recite this information as context around a more substantive point.
2) Use the Seven Elements of a Good Story framework as a guideline for what type of information you should convey (see below for a more complete description of this framework). Whenever you are describing yourself or an experience, you should attempt to highlight a minimum of 3 of these 7 elements.
3) Personalize your answer by using specific examples – don’t just throw out words “competitive”, “energetic”, “hard worker”, “analytical” to describe yourself. Anyone can use those words. You must give specific examples of how those traits have manifest themselves through specific examples.
In the weak answer, the candidate throws out they she is “energetic” and a “self-starter”, but does not give any examples that illustrate those traits. The answer is basically a recitation of their education and professional experience; however, no attention is given to experiences which differentiate her. She does not utilize the 7 Elements framework at all, except in mentioning her team having gone to the Final Four (i.e. Pedigree).
The strong answer tells a real story that highlights the candidate's passion and interest in finance.. She gives examples of how she is a “self-starter” (e.g. buying and selling candy). She also speaks directly to many of the 7 Elements including Leadership (e.g. President of the Investment Club), Impact (e.g. membership in the club doubled under her leadership), Job Relevance (e.g. Investment Club) and Problem Solving / Critical Thinking (e.g. running her candy operation).
Overview of 7 Elements of a Good Story:
These are the things that most interviewers want to know about a candidates experience regardless of the position for which they are interviewing. They include:
1) Job relevance – how is this experience directly related to the skills required for this particular job
2) Problem solving – how have you illustrated your problem solving capabilities
3) Leadership – how have you demonstrated your ability to manage teams and projects
4) Communication – how have you demonstrated the ability to persuade and influence others through written or oral presentation
5) Pedigree – how strong are the brands of the people, organizations or tasks you have worked with
6) Expertise – how have you demonstrated that you have what it takes to develop an expertise in a particular discipline
7) Impact – what impact have you been able to make as a result of your actions.
Check out these additional examples of Personal Interview Questions: