Could you summarize your entire life in just three minutes? It's not the easiest question to answer, but it's one that Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky has said he likes to ask job candidates during interviews.
This question, a version of the "tell me about yourself" interview classic, provides an opportunity to highlight your achievements, both personal and professional. Preparing a proper response, according to some career experts, can help an employer see you for who you are: a highly accomplished individual who'd excel in the role.
Chesky has said as much. "I'm trying to figure out the formative decisions and experiences that influenced who you are as a person," he explained in a 2014 New York Times interview.
As applicants recap their life within this constrained time period, Chesky listens out for their biggest achievements to date.
"I'm trying to understand the two or three most remarkable things you've ever done in your life," said Chesky. "Because if you've never done anything remarkable in your life until this point, you probably never will."
When answering this question, make sure you're giving a holistic picture of who you are, because the employer is "listening to what you're focusing on," says interview coach Carole Martin.
While you want to touch on your professional achievements, she tells CNBC Make It, you also want to share some of your personal milestones. Companies understand that employees have passions outside of the office and they value applicants who appear personable, genuine and authentic.
Employers are not only sussing out whether you'll be effective in a given role, says Martin. They're also determining your likability and whether you'll be a good cultural fit at the company.
Avoid focusing solely on work because this offers a skewed picture of who you are and comes across as insincere, says Martin. You don't want to seem like you're pandering to what you think the hiring manager wants to hear.
If you don't feel comfortable sharing deeply personal achievements, such as marriage or children, you can discuss your hobbies. Maybe you paint on the side and have won awards for your artistry. Or perhaps, you play soccer after work and your team has won back-to-back championships. "Sports is a great commonality," notes Martin.
More broadly, your response should demonstrate that you have the attributes your hiring manager seeks in a prospective employee. In Chesky's case, he's said he's seeking a candidate who's a dreamer and a big thinker.
"We're looking for people who see the world as it could be rather than as it is," he told the Times. "They are kids at heart — not in terms of maturity, but in terms of curiosity."
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