I have been a recruiter and talent acquisition professional for a long time. When I sat down to think about just how long, well, let’s just say a mild form of depression set in. 2023 will mark 30 years that I have been interviewing candidates for positions ranging from administrative, accounting, skilled trades, engineering, hi-lo drivers and executive C-level positions. I have given seminars on interviewing techniques to groups ranging from 1 to over 1000 and have literally interviewed tens of thousands of people and I still do 1 on 1 career coaching ranging from newly minted grads to retirees looking for a part time gig. I don’t mention this to pat myself on the back or show you a glimpse of my resume. I tell you this because in 3 decades of interviewing and interviewing every generation from the baby boomers to the Gen Z’ers, 1 indisputable fact has proven true time and time again. There is 1 question in an interview that stumps and befuddles more people than any other.

Without a doubt the number 1 question I have been asked for help answering as a Career Coach has not been anything related to the questions mentioned above. The scariest question is this (and it really isn’t a question at all by the way):

“Tell me about yourself.”

What? Is this a trick? What do they really want to know? Are they serious? Are they trying to figure out how old I am? My political leanings? Wait…That wasn’t even a question!

Worst part of all? Usually, it is the first thing an interview says to the person being interviewed. The situation usually goes like this. Rustling papers, getting situated and the interviewer says,
“So Steve, as we are getting settled, why don’t you tell me a little bit about yourself.” And just like that, the interviewer has the advantage. Exactly like they intended. Why? Because the vast majority of people have a very difficult time telling people positive things about themselves. Not only do we not like to do it, but we have also been practically programed to not do it. “Don’t brag” or “Don’t toot your own horn” is taught from the earliest ages. Any parents in the house? Sound like a familiar message to our kids? Well, in our Tribe of Up, I am going to go on record to say that this is very, very wrong. We need to be able to recall past successes and smile. To remember our most significant accomplishments and relate them without blushing or looking down at our shoes. What we think of ourselves is exactly what others will think of us. So, I am going to give you a trick I have been using for decades to help people overcome this. If you struggle with coming up with your own platitudes, here are 3 questions to help you.

Who was the teacher that had the greatest impact on you when in school?

Who was the boss or supervisor who helped mentor you the most?

Who is your best friend?

What would these people say about you? How would they describe you? If you don’t have a lot of experience speaking favorably about yourself, let these people do it for you. “If you were to ask the best boss I ever had, he would tell you I am a problem solver, empathetic and hard-working. My best friend would tell you I’m loyal and a great listener. See where I’m going with this? Let them tell your story. Let them get you started on talking about you if you feel uncomfortable doing it. It’s ok to have a list of accomplishments. It’s great to remember and smile thinking of past successes. Don’t brag, but confidence comes from remembering the good. Don’t only let your brain hear your mouth say negative things about you. And if you need help, let your life’s heroes be there to help you 1 more time!

Steve Gwisdalla is a Dexter resident, Leader and Chief Shaman in the Tribe of Up, who specializes in all things people. If you or someone you know needs a Career Coach, reach out to him at

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