The date and time have been set for your very important discussion about a key opportunity. You really want this job and have thoroughly prepared for the interview. You’re ready for every question – except one. The interviewer comes into your session late and is not prepared. She has not even looked at your resume. So what does your hassled interviewer ask to buy time and get oriented?

“OK so tell me about yourself.” Is she really interested in all of your backgrounds? Of course not. She has a few things she wants to ask, but since she has no idea who you are she needs context. Thus she asks the simplest, but most botched question in the annals of interviewing history.

“Well, um,” you say I graduated from high school in Peoria Illinois at the top of my class.” Your interviewer is still struggling to find her footing and asks what is on your mind, so you continue, and continue and continue. No, No, No! We all like to talk about ourselves, but don’t do this. The trick is always to throw control of the interview back into the interviewer’s court.

Here’s what you do. First, summarize your background in 1 minute. “ After my Oncology Fellowship from Johns Hopkins, I started work in the industry. I have extensive experience in a number of key areas over 10-year tenure at two different companies. Clinical Development is my passion. Along the way, I have led teams and managed people, quarterbacked 3 different drug development processes resulting in one successful filing and approval. I have gained hands-on regulatory experience meeting with FDA on numerous occasions and worked closely with Safety, Operations, Translational Medicine, and made numerous high-profile presentations to senior management.”

“Could I tell you more about any one of these?”

(We are throwing the interview back to the interviewer who now has enough information to ask the intelligent questions in her mind.) Nothing infuriates an interviewer more than having to break into your diatribe and find some starting point. Remember too, that if you talk too much – which very often happens -you lose. The interview is over before you know it; interviewer questions have not been asked and just like that you are out of contention.

Tim Ruef is President and CEO of Ruef & Associates, a retained executive search firm specializing in pharmaceutical R&D.