In both interviews and one-on-one networking meetings, you want to have a good answer to “Tell Me About Yourself.”
Even if you are never asked the question, you want to find a way to work this into your presentation. This is how you draw
for the other person the picture you want of what you bring to the table.
Instead of the other person focusing a lot of their attention on trying to
draw their own picture, you’ve put your own stake in the ground first.
One way to present it that I have found to be quite successful is the “HERO Story” approach. Here is my template for crafting a powerful HERO Story:
Just don’t make the mistake of memorizing a story that
comes out exactly the same every time you tell it. As soon as ANY answer is
the “Best” answer, it ceases to even be a “good” answer, because it starts
to sound rehearsed and phony.
I often advise people to come up with the
best answer they can, and then to tear up the script. Having your story (or
any answer) come out a little bit different every time you tell it keeps it
fresh and real.
I came across a good discussion of how to handle a bad reference in a job-search-related blog.
It highlights a very key point when seeking critique in any situation - don’t get defensive. As soon as you start to try to explain why something isn’t a problem, you shut down the input you might have received. And in this case, where there is already (apparently) a relationship issue, you can actually make the situation worse.
The approach they describe shows you to be a mature professional, and even if it doesn’t change the negative perception of PAST performance, it can help that former boss to see you in a new light.
I wrote a related piece some time back on the more general issue of seeking critique:
And for the blog entry on handling a bad reference: