Get Hired Week 2: Hiring Hero Jim Fay answers a classic interview question

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“Tell me about yourself?”

Student Responses:

1) I was born and raised in Brazil, and moved to the U.S. about four years ago after spending time in Mexico, where my parents are currently living. Originally, I thought about pursuing a degree in civil engineering, but decided to become an industrial engineer instead because I believe it gives more opportunities to explore different fields.

2) I like to describe myself as an enthusiastic, entrepreneurial, extroverted guy. I spend my time learning new languages, deepening my knowledge of industrial engineering, and working on developing my latest new product idea.

3) In my spare time, I like to build things. While in high school and drones started to become popular, I decided I was going to build my own. I bought a 3D printer and used my dad’s Solidworks® software to model a drone and prototype it. I built prototypes and crashed them until I got it right.

4) If you were to ask my previous bosses, I think they would say that I have a strong work ethic, I am results focused, I pay attention to details. I can give you contact information so you can ask more.

5) I am a senior at Iowa State University studying Mechanical Engineering. Becoming an engineer has always been my dream. I have always had a drive to build things, troubleshoot, and solve problems.
6) I am a senior in Mechanical Engineering. I intend to use my technical knowledge and creative thinking skills to make the world a better place, and make myself and my employer a lot of money. Specifically, I want to make the world sustainable.

7) I’m a senior in Mechanical Engineering who isn’t after a typical engineering job. I heard about Sales Engineering and thought that sounds perfect for me. I enjoy going out and working with people, and finding out what they need, so sales would suit me well.

8) I am a senior graduating May 2020 with a bachelors in Industrial Engineering. I grew up in Le Mars, Iowa. I participate in Entrepreneurial Product Development Engineering Club and enjoy trying to create new products. Outside of school, I love to work on hands-on projects, whether it is replacing struts on my car, or remodeling my parents’ kitchen.

9) I am a senior in Biosystems Engineering and I am looking for a job when I graduate. I am passionate about the environment and hope to start a career in Environmental Engineering. My past experience includes research on waste water treatment technology and engineering design. I take a high interest in water systems and I want to contribute to society by designing clean water systems and flood prevention strategies.

10) I am a senior in Mechanical Engineering. I was born and raised in Kalamazoo, Michigan, which is two hours west of Detroit and two hours east of Chicago. I have been part of several clubs at ISU and I have had three intern positions that I have used to improve the skills I have learned in classes. My hobbies include fishing, networking, hunting, and running. 

11) I am a small town, western Iowa man. I am working to become a mechanical engineer. Growing up, I did not know what I wanted to do. I went to DMACC for two years. After one year, I decided I wanted to be an engineer. Engineers are the problem-solvers of the world. Engineers developed wind turbines, and figured out how to use corn to make ethanol to fuel vehicles. All of this excites me.

12) I am a mechanical engineer. I love creating, imagining, and designing. I have a knack for creativity and inventing. I have great technical skills and hands-on experience. I am not afraid to get my hands dirty, and I work great in teams. I can lead, and I can help others succeed. 

13) I am a software engineering major at ISU. I enjoy programming because I enjoy the process of mastering things over time. I love to reflect on my skills and do my best to improve.

Hiring Hero – Jim Fay Responds:
I love to climb. This past winter I was the climb leader on a winter ascent of Mt Rainier in Washington. The elevation of Mt. Rainier is 14,411 and it is the most heavily glaciated peak in the Lower 48 States. On the day we did our push to the summit, we were up at midnight. After a breakfast of Grapenuts hydrated with hot Earl Grey tea, we roped up and left our snow caves in two four-person rope teams with headlamps, ice axes, and crampons.  It was 5º, calm and the Milky Way looked like it was painted across the sky. 4,000 vertical feet later at the summit, it was -20º with 70 mph wind. 

Mountaineering requires a ton of route planning, gear planing, “what if” planning, training, and teamwork. The climb was successful, no one got hurt, and I made sure everyone had the opportunity to lead multiple pitches of the climb. Our next climb with be one of the peaks in the Andes of South America.

Hiring Hero – Jim Fay’s Advice:
The “Tell me about yourself” question is one you know you will get asked, so it is one you can prepare for. Your objective when answering this question is to say something that will differentiate you from everyone else, make you memorable, and demonstrate several characteristics that you know employers want. Technical skills are relatively easy for employers to assess by looking at your courses and grades. The biggest unknowns are your soft skills like: communication, your ability to work with people, your ability to lead and manage, your tenacity and drive to get things done. 

So, use “Tell me something about yourself,” to tell a story that demonstrates as many of these things as you can.  Because it is a real story about your life, be excited about telling it. Make it a story that involves doing things with other people. Give it detail.

Notice how my answer demonstrates leadership, management, planning, attention to detail, managing risk, team work, and respect. This, in addition to being a story that is interesting, differentiating, and memorable.