Even though it’s one of the most common interview questions, “it almost always the most difficult question/statement to respond to. While it might seem like an easy win but responding to this invitation to talk about you in the context of a job interview can feel stressful and complicated. Why? Because it can be perceived as general and open-ended You might be thinking: “How am I supposed to pick what to share out of my entire life story right now?
Here are a 5 strategies to help you master your response to such a daunting question:
Define what you do as it relates to the job, think about three to five past experiences that are relevant to the job at hand and try to quantify in terms of time, money or people. Then list three to five strengths you have that are pertinent to this job (experiences, traits, skills, etc.). All of this adds up to the message you want the interviewer to know about you when you leave. To keep you on track, here are a few questions to ask as you brainstorm ways to respond and structure your answer:
- What qualities make you a great fit for this position?
- Why are you interested in the role?
- Why are you interested in the company or the industry?
- What are the positive traits or characteristics you possess that will serve you well in this role?
- Is there something unique about your background that makes you stand out from other applicants?
- Develop an Elevator Pitch
The best way of knowing how to answer, “tell me about yourself,” is to make sure you succinctly and clearly explain how you’re suited for this particular job and — just as important — why you want it. So before you start crafting your selling points, spend some time reviewing the job description in the recruitment ad for the position and researching the company. That way you’ll have a good understanding of what the hiring manager is looking for as far as skills and experience.
Next, prepare a short script that highlights your post relevant abilities, strengths and areas of expertise. Follow that with the reasons you’re applying for the job, focusing on career-related motivations such as the desire to build your experience and take on added responsibilities. Conclude with a brief statement explaining why working for this specific company appeals to you.
Practice with your elevator pitch until you feel confident about what you want to emphasize in your statement. Your pitch should help you stay on track, but you shouldn’t memorize it—you don’t want to sound like a broadcast news announcer or a robot. You want to sound natural, like a real person that people would like to have in the next cubicle or talk to at the happy hour. Even if you’re not asked this type of question to begin the interview, this preparation will help you focus on what you have to offer. You will also find that you can use the information in this exercise to assist you in answering other questions. The more you can talk about your product—you!—the better chance you will have at selling it.
As we’ve mentioned, this is one of the most common interview questions. Therefore, interviewers have heard this answered time and time again. Try to think of something that will hook the interviewer. For example, saying something like, “I’ve been building computers since the age of 8,” when applying for a developer role is likely to make an interviewer’s ears perk up.
- Dos for answering the interview question “Tell me about yourself”
- Connect personal strengths to supporting examples.
- Keep your response to two minutes or less.
- Focus on details and outcomes you can quantify.
- Avoid summarizing your resume word for word.
- Speak to what sets you apart from other candidates.
- Mention past experiences and proven successes.
- Align your current job responsibilities to the role.
- Avoid mentioning personal information related to your marital status, children, political or religious views.
- Highlight your personality.
- Avoid rushing into deeper conversations about the role and company.
- Connect your skills to the job description.
- Briefly mention hobbies, intellectual development and community involvement.
- Write down an example answer and practice.
- Don’ts for answering “Tell me about yourself” in an interview
- Mention highly personal information such as marital status, children, political or religious affiliations, etc. These can be sensitive topics that might work against you as a candidate, not to mention such details should not be factors for the employer in determining your ability to perform the job.
- List multiple, vague strengths without supporting examples. Instead, you may want to choose two or three qualities about yourself. Support each with short, polished stories that can be supported by your work experience.
- Memorize your response. While it’s good to practice and memorize your key points, you don’t want to memorize your answer word-for-word as it has the potential to come across as robotic and unnatural.
- Summarize your resume word for word. Instead, discuss high points that are relevant to the position.
- Rush into conversations regarding what you’re looking for in the role or how the company can benefit you—save such topics for the final stages of the interview process when they are “sold” on you as a candidate and you have more leverage.
- Unless it is an absolute need, don’t disclose that you are a person with a disability. That is your right!
Answering this question should be the one question, you know you can answer with ease. Be concise. Don’t take up too much time with your response. You don’t have to tell the hiring manager every single thing that you think makes you a great candidate. Just give a few important details that will spark their interest in learning more about you, and you’ll get the interview off to a strong start.