Tell Me About Yourself, Lady Catherine

Tip 5: Stay On-Topic

My mother used to say, “If you can’t think of something nice to say about someone, don’t say anything at all,” so Lady Catherine de Bourgh poses a particular challenge for me. On the surface, there appears to be little or nothing that can be said about her without violating my mother’s code of conduct. It is almost impossible to think of something nice about someone my father would have said suffers from an extreme case of “I” trouble and an acute bout of egomania.

However, in the interest of continuing on my Everything…Jane Austen theme, I thought long and hard about something nice to say about Lady Catherine de Bourgh.

It went a little something like this:

Josie: (to self) Think…think…THINK!!!

…crickets chirping in the background…

But, seriously, in the end, it really wasn’t impossible or even that difficult.

It’s All About You

I quickly realized that a person like her ladyship–a person who never seemed to tire of talking about herself–might help us with the ubiquitous and potentially confusing interview question…or statement…okay… invitation to “Tell me about yourself.”

Lady Catherine de Bourgh breathed life into the attitude “it’s all about me.” She lived it. She believed it. And while, this is ordinarily an annoying trait, the way she does it provides a clue on how we can talk about ourselves in a way that will be relevant to the topic on hand.

For example, when your potential employer invites you to tell him/her about yourself, you don’t want to over-share by talking about too many irrelevant personal things. However, you do want to mention a few well-chosen, noncontroversial interests, hobbies, or pursuits. And while you don’t want to over-sell your job qualifications yet (there will be other opportunities later in the interview to highlight those in full detail), you do want to tailor your comments to reflect why you are the best fit for the job.

This question would have posed no threat to Lady C, who was so aware of her pertinent strengths that she was able to imaginatively project them into a conversation into which she had no business trying to insert herself. “Because,” she said in so many words, “I am  so awesome, I’d even be awesome at things I don’t even know how to do!!!”

Notice how it played out in the book:

“What is that you are saying, Fitzwilliam? What is it you are talking of? What are you telling Miss Bennet? Let me hear what it is.”

“We are speaking of music, madam,” said he, when no longer able to avoid a reply.

“Of music! Then pray speak aloud. It is of all subjects my delight. I must have my share in the conversation if you are speaking of music. There are few people in England, I suppose, who have more true enjoyment of music than myself, or a better natural taste. If I had ever learnt, I should have been a great proficient. And so would Anne, if her health had allowed her to apply. I am confident that she would have performed delightfully. How does Georgiana get on, Darcy?”

A Word of Caution

In all seriousness, however, let’s face it, no one would take Lady Catherine’s self-proclamation seriously. So don’t follow her example to the letter. Instead, my suggestion is to let her phenomenally self-confident spirit buoy you and prepare you to handle one of those moments in the interview where your mind might potentially draw a big fat blank.

We’re trying to avoid this scene:

Potential employer: So, tell me about yourself?

You: Uh…um…I…

…crickets chirping in the background…

So, talk about yourself, but for heaven’s sake, stay on-topic!

Next: A final lesson…from another unlikely source…the ever-thankful Mr. Collins. Yes, he’s good for something besides a laugh.

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