Freelance Writer, Blogger, and Musician
So, there you are waiting to be interviewed for a job really want. You get called in. You shake hands confidently looking the interviewer straight in the eye. Then he or she lays the bomb: “Tell me about yourself”.
How do you answer? Do you tell him or her your life story? Do you go into depth about your job experience? Do you reveal personal information?
The way you handle this question can be crucial when it comes to landing the job. So how do you answer the infamous “Tell me about yourself” interview question? Read on to find out.
Why do Employers Pose the Tell Me About Yourself Interview Question?
To provide the best answer to the tell me about yourself interview question, it’s important to understand why the interviewer is asking the question.
Usually, this question will be asked as an ice breaker. It will ease you and the interviewer into the interview by providing a quick summary of your background, skills and experience.
The tell us about yourself question usually opens an interview, and if you get flustered, it could throw you off for the duration of the meeting. It is for this reason that you will want to get yourself prepared, and review sample answers.
Remember that the way you answer this question will set the tone for the next few questions that your interviewer will ask you. Therefore, the answer you provide should open doors that will move you forward in a positive direction.
How to Plan the Tell Me About Yourself Answer
Consider the Past, Present, and Future
Lily Zhang is the Manager of Graduate Professional Development at MIT Media Lab and a writer for Muse. She recommends an effective formula that focuses on your past, present, and future. Here’s how these three components may play out in your tell me about yourself interview question answer.
- Present: Talk about where you are now professionally making sure to highlight recent accomplishments.
- Past: Mention past experiences that have brought you to where you are now. Include any skills and developments relevant to the job you’re applying to.
- Future: Next, go into what you are looking to do next and how the job fits into your future plans.
These elements can be presented in no particular order. For instance, you may start by talking about the past and moving on to the present and future or the other way around. As long as what you’re saying is organized and cohesive, you can make it work.
However, if you save ‘the future’ part for last, it will make a smoother transition for what comes next.
Make Your Answer Appropriate for the Company and Position
You don’t want your answer to the “Tell me about yourself” interview question to be completely focused on you. Your answers should be about how your interests and experiences benefit the company. This will take some research and some soul searching.
Before the interview, prepare for the tell us about yourself question by researching the company and the position you are applying for. Then determine your relevant experience and what you can bring to the table. Be sure to integrate these aspects into your sample answer.
Of course, not every person will fit seamlessly into the company they are applying for. For example, you may be interviewing for a position at an electrical company when your background is in cosmetics. If this is the case, you will have to be creative when it comes to connecting the dots.
Even though the product lines you worked with may be different, you can mention how your experience in customer service makes you an exceptional choice. You can also discuss how well you fit into the company culture.
Stick to the Professional Aspects
When it comes to how you introduce yourself in an interview, you may be tempted to spice things up by throwing in a few personal details. However, it’s always best to keep things professional.
Leave out the fact that you’re a mom or that your sister really likes the products the company sells. You can always bring those things up later in the interview. Stick to your skills and experience up front as a strong selling point.
Don’t Be Afraid to Be Passionate
There are times when you might want to work something personal into the interview if you feel it will show you in the best light. For example, if you are applying for a job at a video game company, you may want to mention that you’ve always been passionate about gaming.
You may also want to bring out causes you are passionate about. If you are applying for a company that is focused on environmental friendliness, you can mention that you feel strongly about saving the planet. Adding a few details about what inspires you may set you apart from the other interviewees.
Get to the Point
You never want to ramble on too much during your interview. There are no specific rules when it comes to how long you want to take when answering this question. Some say you should keep it under 30 seconds, others say you shouldn’t take more than a minute or two.
You also want to stay away from reiterating information that is in your resume, especially if the interviewer has it in front of them. While you will probably end up touching on some points that are in your resume, you should avoid sounding like you are doing a line by line reading of what has been used in your application.
Keep in mind that after about two minutes of speaking, you will start to lose steam and the person listening to you may struggle to stay focused.
It’s also important to understand that the interviewer will be paying attention to the way you are speaking to determine how well you communicate in professional settings. Being succinct in what you are saying will work in your favor.
Before you go into an interview, it’s a good idea to practice answering commonly asked questions, and the “tell me about yourself” interview question is no exception.
For best results, try answering questions out loud while recording yourself on your phone’s voice memos. Wait about an hour, then play back your answer paying attention to your delivery and credibility.
Another option is to role play. Ask a friend or relative to come by so you can go through a tell me about yourself sample session to simulate the live experience. Ask them for some critiques ,so you can determine ways to improve. If you don’t have anyone you can call, it never hurts to practice in the mirror.
And while you want to practice well and often, you don’t want to get to a point where you are memorizing your answer. If you go that route, you might sound unnatural and robotic, which could end up working against you.
Know Who You are Talking To
You may get the “Tell me about yourself” interview question at various stages in the application process. For instance, a screener may ask you this question on the phone. A recruiter may ask it during a preliminary interview process, or your prospective boss may ask it as you get closer to closing the deal. Therefore, answer should vary depending on who’s hearing it.
For example, if you are talking to a recruiter, you may want to provide an answer that is broad in scope. If you are speaking to a prospective boss, get more specific and technical.
Stay Away from Any Potential Negativity
In mentioning your experience, you may touch on a job you once had. Let’s face it, not all jobs end well. But during the tell us about yourself part of your interview, it’s best not to mention any potentially negative subject matter.
In fact, at this point in the interview, it’s best to focus on yourself and your experience and stay away from any explanations of why you moved on from a certain job. It’s likely you will get asked those questions later on in the meeting when you are feeling more comfortable.
But even when you are asked about a former employer, you should never badmouth them. Always do your best to stay positive.
Remember, this is Your Chance to Make a Great First Impression
The tell me about yourself interview question is usually posed early on. As such, it will be your chance to make a great first impression. Answer the question confidently and succinctly. Look the interviewer in the eye when delivering the answer.
Pair this with a strong handshake and good posture, and you will get off to a great start.
Mention Character Traits or Small Success Stories that Set You Apart
After interviewing a good number of applicants, the interviewer will probably feel like they’ve heard it all. One interview will blend into another and it will be difficult to make yours stand out. That’s why you want to give them something unique when you give your tell me about yourself answer.
Think of accomplishments that stand out such as getting your first work published when you were in elementary school or a major achievement, such as contributing to the doubling of your past employer’s income. This is sure to get them paying attention.
“Tell Me About Yourself” Example Answers
Here are some tell me about yourself examples that you can use for inspiration.
Hiring Manager 👩💼: “So… Tell me about yourself.”
👨🏽💼 (You): “I currently work as a bookkeeper at the Jones firm where I handle multiple high-level accounts. Before that, I worked in the accounting department of EastWest. While I found that work rewarding, I feel this company will give me an opportunity to branch out in the financial field which is why I’m excited about the prospect of starting with the Dooley team.”
Hiring Manager 👩🏽💼: “It is so nice to meet you. Before we get this interview started, tell me a little bit about yourself.”
👩🏼💼 (You): “I’ve always been passionate about writing and communications. I worked for my school newspaper in college and, after graduating, I landed a job as a social media manager at the Joyce Company. I launched many successful campaigns helping them build their brand and increasing conversions. At this point, I feel like my experience has made me qualified to take on product marketing and I’m eager to jump into that role.”
Hiring Manager 👨🏼💼: “Thanks for coming in for the interview today. I was really impressed with your resume and background. I would love to know a little more about you, so tell me about yourself.”
👨🏽💼 (You): “As a teenager, I began working in camps as a counselor. That’s when I discovered my passion for working with children. In college, I majored in child psychology and eventually landed a job as a social worker. Although I found that rewarding, I believe I’m ready to take on a role that’s essential in the development of our youth. I feel like the position of counselor at your school would be a natural next step that would be beneficial for everyone involved.”
Job interviews are stressful, and questions asking you to introduce yourself can really throw you off your game. The tips in this article will help you provide clear and succinct answers to one of the toughest job interview questions. Remember, you are more than your resume, so personalize your answer, and practice, practice, practice.