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This is the best answer I ever received to ‘Tell me about yourself’—after 20 years of interviewing

By | Gary Burnison |

“Tell me about yourself” is a question you’re certain to be asked at any job interview.

As the CEO of the world’s largest executive search firm, I have conducted thousands of interviews over the past 20 years. The best — and most memorable — answer I have ever received to that question was: “I’ve climbed the highest mountains on every continent, including Everest.”

Of course, anyone who is unimpressed by the person who conquered the “Seven Summits” must have foolishly high standards. But the fact that this candidate achieved such an impressive accomplishment wasn’t the reason she stood out from all the rest.

Predictors of success

Too many people respond to “Tell me about yourself” by essentially giving a recital of their resume.

This candidate, however, shared something that showed who she really was beyond a piece of paper: a person who was adventurous, curious, goal-oriented and disciplined. More importantly, it was clear that she had the ability to apply lessons learned from past experiences to new challenges.

But that’s not all. When I then asked about the first thought that ran through her head upon reaching the summit of Mount Everest, she didn’t wax philosophical or go off about how she’d done something most of us can’t even contemplate.

Instead, she laughed and said, “How the heck am I going to get down?” This showed her ability to engage others with humor and humility.

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