3 Minute Read

I would venture a guess that the single most asked question in the month of October (other than “Trick or Treat?” of course) is: “Why don’t you tell me a little bit about yourself?” Last week I attended my annual ritual kick-off of events on campus meeting students and getting to know the incoming class at Indiana University. As usual, I am impressed with the maturity, preparedness and sophistication of our millennial leaders. But in the the rush of hand-shaking and resume reviews, I started pondering the question that inevitably launches all interviews and how to best respond to such a routine inquiry.

Now, there are many ways to attack the question, but for me some of the best responses I have heard have followed this pattern: Past → Present → Future.

Let me give you an example. Meet Lisa: an incoming masters student with a 3.6 GPA who just finished her internship at BigCo. Lisa was involved in several student organizations (including VP of philanthropy in her sorority), she is a Teaching Assistant for a class and is interested in a career IT consulting.

Let’s start with the “what not to do” (because that’s always way more fun):


So, Lisa: it’s great to meet you. I have a current copy of your resume. Why you tell me a little bit about yourself?


Sure thing. Well, I am VP of philanthropy in my sorority. I have always enjoyed giving back so that seemed like a natural fit. I am interested in IT consulting because I really liked my technology classes. I just wrapped up my internship at BigCo where I worked on several large technology transformation initiatives. I got a chance to get my hands dirty in analytics and really enjoyed the work. Now I am here, interviewing for a job, figuring out what I want to do next. Oh, I am also the TA for a class and work 16 hours per week. I like it. It’s fun.

Sure, it may be accurate but it’s a bit too stream-of-consciousness for my taste. Instead, let’s see what happens when Lisa uses the Past → Present → Future model.


So, Lisa: it’s great to meet you. I have a current copy of your resume. Why you tell me a little bit about yourself?


Tell your story… (PAST)
Sure thing. I have always been interested in data. It’s amazing what you can learn from all the data a company has available; it’s a gold mine. This passion led me to major in analytics in undergrad and is the focus of my MSIS degree. This past summer I got a chance to help build a data warehouse for BigCo where we were mining customer data for trends and buying patterns. We found some amazing correlations between repeat customers and specific sales territories that is projected to generate $35 million in additional sales opportunities.

I am also very involved in my sorority as the VP of philanthropy where I led my house of 150 women raise $50,000 for ALS research. It was an amazing experience.

Talk about what you are doing now… (PRESENT)
This semester I am aligning my coursework with my future goals in analytics. I am taking a number of courses on SQL, SPSS and managing big data. I am also learning about IT GRC and a number of other broader IT topics all to align to my future ambition in IT consulting. I was also extended a TA position for a Sophomore level computer class where I am working 16 hours per week. It’s allowing me to build my consulting skills and help students learn a complex topic.

Predict what’s next… (FUTURE)
When I think about what’s next for me, I would love to pursue IT consulting. I got to experience a taste of consulting this past summer and the idea of solving problems with clients excites me. I’d love to continue to get deeper in analytics but I am certainly open to other aspects of IT as well. I have done some research on your company and believe my passion for problem solving, desire to help people and analytical skills would be a great fit.

Not bad, eh?

The Past → Present → Future model provides a nice framework in which to discuss your experiences, your current focus and what you want to do next. It seems intuitive but you wouldn’t believe the number of stream-of-consciousness responses I hear on a regular basis.

Now, I don’t care if you work past → future or future → past or you find a new structure that is even better! The key is to make sure you tell a story and that it has a structure to it. And practice PRACTICE PRACTICE! Your interview should not be the first time you recite the story of YOU.

Good luck to those interviewing in the near future. I’d love to hear your success stories (and/or “face-palm” moments).