Responding to “Tell me about yourself”

In most interviews, the first question is some variant of “Tell me about yourself.” This question is an opportunity to make a great first impression. There are 4 elements to great responses. Here’s the synthesis:

(1) Start with a mission/purpose statement. In a sentence, explain what matters to you. It always makes for a powerful start. If you manage to reinforce it in the rest of your story, we go from powerful to potent.

(2) Pick 3 milestones and explain the why + the relevant skill/learning . You don’t need to talk about every step in your career. Pick 3 that matter – this could be why you went to college, took a particular job, or even worked on a particular volunteer project. Explain why you chose to do what you did and what you learned. Ensure every skill/learning maps to a skill that is critical in this role. If all goes well, the interviewer will have no doubt about the relevance of your experiences and skills.

(3) As you approach the end, make it clear why you’re looking for a move. Great self introductions don’t require a “why are you interviewing now/for this role?” follow up question.

(4) Take no more than 2.5 to 3 mins. Anything more and your interviewer begins to wonder about your ability to communicate concisely. :-)

It takes a lot of practice to get to a self-introduction that has these elements without looking forced.

But, first impressions matter. So, it is practice that pays off.

The games we play

We all play games. Some of these are games of wealth. Others are games of status. We play these games in different ways. For different rewards.

We can’t avoid these games. We can’t avoid people who play very differently from our preferred way either. And, we often spend time others who play different games altogether.

All we can do is be intentional about choosing the games we play and choosing who we play them with.

There are few things worse than winning games we never wanted to win. With people we never wanted to play with.

After the iPad launch

“I got about eight hundred email messages in the last twenty-four hours. Most of them are complaining. There’s no USB cord! There’s no this, no that. Some of them are like, ‘F— you, how can you do that?’ I don’t usually write people back, but I replied, ‘Your parents would be so proud of how you turned out.’ And some don’t like the iPad name, and on and on. I kind of got depressed today. It knocks you back a bit.” | Steve Jobs after the iPad launch

This made me chuckle. Such a fascinating excerpt in retrospect.

Gifts of perspective

I got word of two deaths this week.

The first was of a one-time neighbor who was killed by a speeding car. He was 29.

The other is of a schoolmate who helped me a lot as I was graduating high school and hoping to go to university in Singapore. He was one year ahead and was in school where I wanted to go. Sadly, he was diagnosed with a challenging mental illness and withdrew from society over the years.

We didn’t have the closest relationship at the time – but, it was warm and cordial. I remain grateful to him for all his help. It made a meaningful difference in my life. I hope he’s found peace.

I think of these events as a gift of perspective from the universe.

There’s nothing quite like a reminder of our mortality to shift our perspective.

Good strategy – 10x, 1x, and 0.1x

Shreyas Doshi, a product advisor, shared this post on good strategy recently.

Good strategy is about how we will be 10X better.

More correct:
Good strategy is about where we will choose to be 10X better (differentiate), where we will be 1X (meet table stakes), where we will be 0.1X (below table stakes), and the rationale for these trade-offs.

It resonated.

Using spreadsheets for a round-the-room

In virtual discussions with groups larger than 8-10 people, it is almost always a bad idea to go around the room – i.e., to hear from each person – when discussing a topic. Many group members inevitably (and understandably) zone off – either to do something else or to think of what they want to say.

An alternative approach that works significantly better is to use a shared spreadsheet to facilitate the discussion. Give each person a cell/row and some time to to write out their point-of-view. Then, give everyone else a chance to read each other’s point-of-view and comment.

As this approach is more engaging and information dense, the discussion that follows is richer.

Two agents, same problem

We recently took the same customer service problem to two different agents in the same company.

One took us through a path filled with problems.

Just when we were about to give up and look for an alternate route, we spoke to another who found a way to solve the problem within minutes.

I’m sure there is a lot of rigorous process to ensure good customer service.

But, no amount of process can help bridge the gap between folks who are problem minded and folks who are solution minded.