HOW TO PERFECT YOUR ANSWER TO THE JOB INTERVIEW QUESTION: “TELL ME ABOUT YOURSELF?”
“Tell me about yourself” is a loaded question that many interviewers will use to kick off the job interview. This question can be asked for a number of reasons from being hurried and wanting the explanation of who you are to a test to see how well you communicate. Whatever the reason it may be asked – your answer can make or break your interview. Here is what you need to know in order to nail the job interview question “Tell me about yourself” each and every time:
1. KEEP IT PROFESSIONAL
The point of a job interview is to determine whether the candidate is a good fit for the organization and the particular role. This means that the person interviewing you is also trying to make a decision about whether they would like to work with you based on your personality and work style. Consider the following when trying to convey yourself in a likeable professional manner.
- Do not cover any personal details. The potential employer and colleague want to know about you AS A PROFESSIONAL. Stay on point about who you are as a professional no matter how casual or informal the interview may feel.
- Start with your resume. It is ok to walk back through your resume in this answer. Don’t repeat what the person has already read. Instead, focus on telling the story about why you made the changes (or didn’t) throughout your professional experience.
- Express your interest in this role and company. Always close your answer with an express articulation of why you applied to this job with this company. This will make it clear to the person interviewing you that you really are interested in the role and they will know why you are sitting in front of them.
2. STAY RELEVANT
You are sitting in that chair because the company/interviewer wants to know if you are a good fit for a particular role. This means that you need to consistently sell yourself as a good fit for the position. You can and should do this in every single answer to any interview question – including “Tell me about yourself.” To prepare a relevant answer make sure to:
- Read the job description. Read it again before walking in to the interview to understand exactly what the company says it wants someone to do and what the requirements for the position are.
- Think about relevant experience. Pull relevant examples from your resume or experience and make sure to communicate it to the interviewer in your answer to “Tell me about yourself.”
- Focus on your fit. Incorporate the relevant soft skills in your answer to the question. You can find these in the job description but also on the company careers page or in its mission statement. Be clear in articulating these words to the person while covering your past experience in the answer to “Tell me about yourself.”
3. BRIEF BUT COMPLETE
The person interviewing you probably wants to know more about you and they can read a great deal from your answer to the question “Tell me about yourself.” At the same time, they do not want your complete life story and are probably thinking about countless other things while you are answering this question. So, here is how to craft an answer that is complete yet to the point:
- Read your audience. Make eye contact with the person that asked the question. May seem simple, but it will also tell you quite a bit about how interested they may be in the particular details that you share. Use this knowledge when deciding what or how much to share about a particular experience or example on your resume.
- Keep it to 2-3 minutes. Tell me about yourself is simply 1 interview question in a list of many. Don’t let it jeopardize the time you have to sell yourself as the right candidate for the job. Really, an uninterrupted answer to the “Tell me about yourself” should not go past 3 minutes. After that, the person listening will get bored or worse annoyed – no matter how interested they may pretend to be. So, get to the point and let the other details get covered in other questions.
- Time yourself. Timing your answer to the question “Tell me about yourself” is the only way to know how long your answer is. This will enable you to ensure that the answer is complete without droning on about details that are not of interest to the interviewer.
4. ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR KNOWLEDGE
You have probably had at least 2 conversations with someone at the company before you walk in to the interview. This doesn’t even include the conversations you may have had with people in your network at the company. The person interviewing you probably knows that you have had these conversations, but you can’t presume that the person knows all of the details that was covered. So, acknowledge your knowledge about the role when answering the question “tell me about yourself.” Keep in mind the following when doing this:
- Reference your resume. The interviewer should have your resume in front of them and you can (and should) reference it directly when answering the “Tell me about yourself” question. Ways to do this effectively include “as you can see from my resume” or “on the second page of my resume you will find”
- Drop names appropriately. Specifically reference the recruiter that you spoke with or your connection when appropriate in your answer to the dreaded “Tell me about yourself” question.” This could be in the form of when you worked with the person, what the recruiter told you, or a piece of information that you picked up in online research.
- Recognize their knowledge. Be professional and acknowledge that the person may already know a few things about you or who you have talked to when answering their question. Make sure when doing so that you don’t presume they know it and that you politely reference their potential knowledge. This could be done in a number of ways like “As Sandy may have mentioned,” or “You may have seen the article in the X newspaper.”
- Stay authentic. Never force an answer and always stay honest in answering any interview question. It is ok to acknowledge your limitations, but stay positive – particularly when answering the question “Tell me about yourself.” Be yourself and be clear in answering the question directly.
Answering the question “Tell me about yourself” does not have to be intimidating. Practice, practice, practice your answer to this question before walking in to any interview. Make sure that you are prepared but that the answer does not sound or feel rehearsed. Most importantly – prepare by practicing your answer outloud. It may feel awkward, but the only way to know how you sound when answering the job interview question (or any) is to actually say it for people to hear it.
Don’t want to go it alone? The Contingent Plan career experts are skilled in interviewing and have helped countless people prepare for their big interview. They help on short notice and have customized questions to help you prepare for your interview. Contact us today to get your interview preparation scheduled today!