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Make the most of softball interview questions

(MoneyWatch) COMMENTARY One of the very first things you're typically asked in a job interview is to "tell me a little about yourself." Don't fall into the trap of thinking of this as a softball or warm-up question designed to ease you into the interview.

Sure, some interviewers might pose the question to help you loosen up, but if you waste too much time telling the hiring manager where, say, you grew up, you've squandered a golden opportunity to score interview points. Indeed, it might be one of the most important questions you're asked.

The Personal Branding Blog has a specific set of recommendations for how to deal with this starter question. In particular, you should formulate a three-part answer to this question:

1. Give a one-sentence statement that summarizes your career history. Be brief -- just paint a broad picture of your experiences.

2. Give a short highlight of a key career accomplishment. This is not the time to talk about all of your experiences or accomplishments; pick a good one and explain it in a sentence or two.

3. Give a short summary of where you would like to take your career next. And this is critical: It must be relevant to the position you are seeking.

This might be a different way to answer this classic interview opener than you have previously used, but it can make all the difference. Not only does it provide an opportunity early in the interview for you to tell your career story and to stay in control of the narrative, but it demonstrates that you are focused, professional, and sharp. 

For more details, be sure to read the complete post at the Personal Branding Blog.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user shaz wildcat