Answering tough aviation interview questions: Tell me about yourself

There are certain questions that pop up in pretty much every job interview.  Some questions are easier to answer than others, but one that throws lots of aviation job candidates off their tracks is “Tell me about yourself”.  On the face of it, this is neither a particularly offensive nor challenging question; so why is it sometimes such a tough nut to crack?  In this blog post we’ll look at why this question is a tough one and also what you can do to make sure you respond in the best possible way.

The importance of not being shy

Most of us know ourselves so well that we tend not to dwell too much on our personality traits as we go about our day-to-day lives.  What’s more, most people are conditioned from an early age to be modest when it comes to blowing their own trumpet, so doing this is a hard call.   But to answer the question “Tell me about yourself”, you need to identify the personality traits that you want to sell to your prospective employer, get some words around them to describe them in relation to the job description and get comfortable with saying those words out loud.

Use someone else’s words

In many jobs these days you’ll have gone through regular profiling, psychometric testing or temperament assessments.  While it is sometimes difficult in the workplace to see the value of these types of tests, they can be really helpful when you come to respond to the question “Tell me about yourself”.  If you’ve never done such a test, there are various systems on the market that will help you to identify the right words to put around your personality.

Common names you’ll see coming up if you search for this type of test are Jung and Kiersey as well as Briggs and Myers.  Some of the words that they use to describe people are: creator, innovator, guardian, artisan and extrovert as well as thinker.  Having (reliable) results from this type of assessment allows you to de-personalise your description of yourself, and many people find this comforting.  When using words that have been attributed to your traits by a recognised testing system, you often feel less inhibited to speak about them.

Whether you decide to use this sort of test, or do it your own way, you need to identify your traits clearly, paying respect to a healthy balance between plus points and downsides.  Showing your downsides in the right way will not be perceived as a negative and in fact will give you the opportunity to demonstrate that you are aware of your weaknesses and are in control of doing something about them. 

Give evidence or examples

Once you have decided on the labels you are happy to use to describe your traits, you need to look for evidence in your work whereby these things have had a positive impact on your performance.  If you are mentioning weaknesses, it’s useful to focus on what you are doing to turn those weaknesses into strengths.  And finally, when you have formulated your list of labels and attributed evidence or examples to back them up, you need to relate them to the job description in hand.

A good example

Here is an example of someone who wanted to focus their response to this question around the traits: versatile, conscientious, and energetic:

 “In my role as Customer Service Team Leader, I am acutely aware that when customers face a problem; they want a solution straight away.  I am recognised in the workplace as someone who looks challenges straight in the eye and finds sometimes innovative solutions, but always with the goals of the company in mind.  I go out of my way to make sure that problems are dealt with timeously, impressively and with the company and the client’s best interests at heart.  Recently I was faced with a passenger whose baggage had gone astray.  A few calls to the baggage handling team and 20 minutes later I had repatriated the passenger and his bag.” 

If you’re preparing for an interview, it’s well worth giving this question some thought.

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