Well I had my first phone interview in a long time this morning. Overall it went great…once I got through the “tell me about yourself” question.

Through listening to all of the interview series and preparing as instructed I was ramped up to knock the TMAY question out of the park. The problem came when the interviewer asked it in a more specific way. She cut right to the chase about why I wanted to go to the particular company in that particular city. Basically “tell me how you came to the decision to come here”.

For the first instant, I wanted to go through all of my goals along the way growing up and how I set out to accomplish them but also wanted to give her the BLUF answer. Too much excitement paired with trying to make a quick intro to the answer left me flustered. I felt like I tripped out of the starting gates. I finally, after gaining some composure, had to ask if I could start my answer all over. Something I really didn’t want to do but I was sounding worse trying to right the train.

After starting over, the rest of the interview went very well and I felt like I formed my answers in the proper MT fashion.

Towards the end of the interview I apologized again for stuttering through the start of the conversation and briefly explained what happened. I tried to shed a little light on the fact that I am a normal person that just got a little nervous and flustered. I think I proved myself in the rest of the interview thankfully so the beginning didn’t ruin it.

I definitely don’t want that to happen again but I did learn a valuable lesson from it. Make sure that you can answer the “tell me about yourself” (or any question for that matter) from any point in the prepared answer. I also want to come up with good transitional phrases that will let me convey the goals and accomplishments of my answer in the framework that they give me for the question.

Thanks Mark and Mike, the MT Interview Series made an enormous impact already and this is just the beginning of the Interview process.


HMac's picture

Josh - great story.

Made me think: wouldn't it be prudent to expect a question along the lines of: "Why are you interested in this opportunity?"

It might be framed a number of different ways ("What attracted you to us?" "What about the job description is of most interest?" " Why are you applying this particular company in this particular city?" :wink:)

Structuring a great answer is straightforward enough, but it's probably a different answer than a TMAY question calls for.


jdg's picture


Thanks for the response. As soon as I got out of the interview I jotted down a series of questions that she asked me that I hadn't thought through as sufficiently as I wanted to.

The questions that you mentioned are on there. These are some of the others.

1) Why do you want to make this career change?
2) What do your ideal job/responsibilities look like?
3) What are major hurdles you see for yourself in making this transition of careers?
4) What are you favorite and least favorite things about your past jobs?
5) What type of culture / working situation are you looking for?

These are probably not as common but they came up on mine so I atleast want to put some thought into them for next time.


HMac's picture

I wouldn't discount the likelihood of running across those types of questions a lot of the time. M/M make the point that while behavioral interviewing is the far superior approach, lots and lots of interviewers still ask non-behavioral questions.

The list you supplied are great examples of questions we still ought to be prepared for...

Hell, yesterday in an interview with an HR recruiter, I was asked to [i]"Tell me the difference between leadership....and management."[/i] :roll:

I was still able to work in a lot of behavior-based responses. It worked well enough that on the spot, the interviewer assured me that he'd recommend that the hiring manager meet with me.

So Josh: good fortune to us both...


derosier's picture
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One I got at my last interview (that I wasn't quite ready for):
"What did you learn in job X?"

{Background: out of college I took my first embedded programming job and had to move from northern CA, where I grew up, to Dallas TX, where the "dream" job was).

Lots of ways to answer the question, but hard to frame in a goals->achievement way, especially since I hadn't thought ahead and figured out how to deal with it.

kklogic's picture

Best of luck to both of you!

Hugh, why the rolled eyes at the management vs. leadership question? Because it's so elementary or because not behavioral? I actually think it's a fascinating interview question that would give you good insight about a candidate, to be honest with you. I saw Marcus Buckingham do a keynote on the topic at the DMA a few years back that was very thought provoking (I believe it was upon the release of First, Break All the Rules).

HMac's picture

Sorry kat: I was rolling my eyes because the question felt so "canned," so perfuntory. I'm pretty sure I crushed on the answer (I really try to make sure that I take every question really seriously, even if it's one I've answered a dozen times).

There was plenty of opportunity to provide behavioral examples in my response - and I did - but it just felt a little contrived.

That's all.


asteriskrntt1's picture

Hi Josh

Just my two cents - if you bonk on a question again, I wouldn't worry too much about it. Most people don't answer every question perfectly and good interviewers know it.

However, going back and explaining yourself over-emphasizes how nervous (and possibly unprepared) you were. I don't think that is the last thought you want to leave the interviewer with. Leave the interviewer with a strong close.


HMac's picture

*** makes a really good point. I think you just want to avoid the whole "I'd like to start over again" thing, because it draws more attention to your own sense that you think you're flubbing the answer. Who knows - the interviewer might have thought your were doing fine - or maybe wasn't even paying attention at that moment.

It's better to make a mental note, give yourself a little time to regroup, and circle back: "You know, I thought of one other thing regarding your question about XXX...."

And don't beat yourself up too much.

Let us know what happens. We're in your corner!


jdg's picture

Good thoughts *** and Hugh, I definitely want to leave the interviewer with a good memory not one of how I screwed up in the beginning.

As far as the interviewer thinking I was doing fine, there is no chance of that. I was completely tongue tied. I wasn't rambling in a way were I could right the ship. It's hard to describe. In the moment I think that the restart was the only way to salvage it. though I could be wrong.

I think that the rest of the interview showed how prepared I was so I am not worried about them thinking that. Good thing is that I learned a ton through the experience and talking through it with the MT crew. Thank you.

On a side note I got the call yesterday for the second phone interview that will be next Tuesday! This time though it will be with the managers of the position. So I will probably be able to go through my behavioral answers this time.

I will let you know how it goes

HMac's picture

Congratulations on making it to the next round!

Regarding the Interview Series, I personally got more value from the "Effective Phone Interview" episode than almost any other.

I'm sure you plan to review it :wink:

I've had one recent experience being interviewed by phone by multiple people at the same time (which I think is what you're facing next Tuesday). Make sure you know their names / use their names / learn their voices. Chances are there will be a "lead" interviewer, a "silent" interviewer, and some in-between. Don't forget about the quiet ones! For example, use their names when asking your questions.

They'll notice the difference and feel better about the interview just because you make the extra effort to include them.

Good luck!


jdg's picture

great tip about the silent interviewer!

I have been reviewing the phone interview podcast as well as the others. You should have seen my bed with all of my notes written out in big letters, talking on my wired phone, standing in my 4x4 box!


If my contact at the company doesn't send me the names of the interviewers in the confirmation my plan was to ask her for them.

HMac's picture

[quote="jdg"] You should have seen my bed with all of my notes written out in big letters, talking on my wired phone, standing in my 4x4 box![/quote]

My bed looked the same way - except I use three sides of the bed, and walk a bit outside Mark's 4X4 box. Works for me.

[quote]If my contact at the company doesn't send me the names of the interviewers in the confirmation my plan was to ask her for them.[/quote]

Get the addresses while you're at it - for the thank you notes.


jdg's picture

[quote="HMac"]Get the addresses while you're at it - for the thank you notes.[/quote]
-- BRILLIANT!! -- (Guiness Style)

asteriskrntt1's picture

LOL @ Guiness style!

Good luck