Tell Me About Yourself

Just like any other skill, the secret to acing an interview is practice. The more you do it, the better you get. Unfortunately, nobody really likes to be interviewed over and over. Most applicants aim for hitting the bulls-eye (getting the job) on the first try, even though its unrealistic. Even getting just one job offer usually entails going through more than one interview. Its therefore important to do it right.

That said, it’s not wise to just show up for your interviews and hope for the best. What you should do is practice so that you can be emotionally and mentally ready for whatever questions that may be thrown at you. The good news is that interviewers usually ask the same questions over and over, and therefore, you have an idea what to expect in your interview. One of the all-time favorite opener is “tell me about yourself.”

Develop Your “Tell Me About Yourself” Response

This all-too common opening question is also the worst possible questions anyone can ask. At first glance, it should be easy. After all, who knows you better than yourself? And haven’t you been through this line of questioning in every first date you have ever been? Nonetheless, this query can be fear-inducing, mainly because you have within your power to turn yourself into The One or The Idiot.

At the same time, this question is too broad that it becomes overwhelming to answer. Where do you begin? What should you include? How long should your pitch be? Since you know interviewers are bound to ask this, take the time to reflect on your answer.

Points to Ponder

Consider the following bits of information before deciding what you want to share about yourself:
– Where you are originally from and if you have moved since then, how you came to be where you are
– A summary of previous employers
– Type of work you want to do
– Educational credentials
– Hobbies or interests
– What other people say are your strengths and a story to prove your point
– Something interesting or unusual about you
– Why you are interested in the job you are applying

Then, write a few sentences on each topic. To put order to your thoughts, use note cards for each of the topics above. Once you’re finished, study which ones you want to include and the order in which you want to say them. Put them on the table and turn them around to see which works for you. Keep it short, a few minutes should suffice so that the interviewer does not doze off in the middle of your speech. When you think you have the perfect formula, practice them until you can deliver it in your sleep.

Tailor Your Response

Every interview is unique and therefore, you should just not spout the same answers again and again. The exercise above is meant to make you think about yourself and be prepared to answer this oft-repeated question. During the interview, you can divide your response into 2 parts:

Part 1 – This part is simple. Tell them your name, the position you are currently holding, where you work, why you love the challenges in your work, and some of your strengths. Stay more factual in this part and keep it brief.

Once that is out of the way, you then turn around and engage the interviewer by asking – ” but what do you want to know about me that is relevant to what the company needs?”
Part 2 – Listen to the answer given to you. As the question is so broad, asking the interviewer will put focus on the direction of the conversation and shine the light on where it is going. This is why you should go through the exercise above because it is in this part where you have to think on your feet. You can draw your answers from your reflections.

Related Questions

When that question is asked, you can count on being asked about your experience and qualification. You can expect questions like:

– “What exactly are your duties in your current position?”
-” What are your most important qualifications?”
– “What kind of experience have you garnered over the years?”
– “What are your strong points?”

All of these can be answered almost the same way. Remember, what you should do is focus on the skills you have and not your experiences. It’s not what you have done, but who you are – this is the rallying point of your sales pitch. In other words, sell your skills, not your experience.

Why?

As you know every situation is unique. In the event that you get the job, the challenges that you faced won’t usually be duplicated in your new work. What is important, therefore, is that you have the skill to navigate through these challenges. If you highlight your skills, the interviewer will know what exactly you can do for the company and whether or not this is what he is looking for. You see, the unspoken question in “tell me about yourself” is “what skills do you have that my company needs?” This is what you should answer.

Answer with Achievement
Aside from highlighting your skills, you should wrap up this question by stating your achievements. These are not necessarily trophies or awards, but more of an evidence of the skills that you just mentioned above. Define them in terms of how the company benefited from it. And do so using the language of money. For example, you can say that “because of my management of the division, our revenue increased by 30%”. Money is the language of business. Whatever business they are in, or where ever they may be doing business, their main interest is to earn money. By doing so, you have answered a broad and vague question with a very specific response that highlights your skills and achievement.

Final Word

Do not be afraid of this seemingly all-encompassing question. Use this instead, as an opportunity to sell yourself. When you enter the door, you should be armed with details and specifics. Sure its a broad question, but that is not a license to deliver broad answers. Play it by ear. If the interviewer is showing a keen interest in your replies, don’t be shy to discuss your achievements. Now is not the time for modesty. But most importantly, always state the truth only, and do not ever “borrow” someone’s achievements.

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