Admittedly an interview can be a nerve-racking experience. It is normal for even the more confident among us to crumble under the weight of difficult questions in what can be a high-stress situation. Especially this one: the dreaded,
“Tell me about yourself.”
A lot of people are unsure of how to answer this question. Here’s how NOT to answer:
- With a recitation of your resume. This can turn into a robotic uninteresting monologue.
- Too modestly, with a humble or vague introduction that fails to clearly communicate your strongest qualifications for the job. Get comfortable with “selling” yourself. Today, the competition for any good job is fierce.
- With information about your personal life and hobbies.
- With pointless rambling or asking, “What do you want to know?” Don’t overthink. Asking for too much clarification only makes you look hesitant and confused.
The first step in knowing how to correctly and impressively answer the question is to know what they are really asking. The question may take several different forms but ultimately what they mean is:
“Tell me about yourself as a professional.”
The next step is to recognise why the question is asked and what it is they are trying to determine from your answer. Note that they are equally interested in how you answer as they are in what you say. The interviewer wants:
- To know what kinds of skills, competencies and behavioural traits you think are important for the job.
- To know the kinds of things about you that are not on your resume
- To know if you are a right fit for the company and how you can provide value
- To see if you are aware of what the position requires
- To see if you know what the company does, its values and needs
- To know if you place priority on the company’s needs or your own
- To know what kind of thinker and worker you are
- To see if you can answer an unstructured question on the fly and think on your feet without becoming flustered or unfocused or asking for clarification
- To see if you are articulate, confident and prepared
To avoid the pitfalls of a flubbed answer it is important that you are prepared for this ever-popular interview question.
Consider your answer to be your 1-2 minute elevator pitch – the sales pitch to sell yourself to the employer. Your response will set the tone for the rest of the interview.
The Perfect 3-Part Answer
- Your professional persona – begin with who you are as a professional, how long you’ve been working in the role/industry and for whom. It’s not a bad idea to name drop (without divulging confidential info, just impressive, well -known companies). Give the interviewer a taste of the good stuff right away.
- What makes you stand out (2-4 points). Here’s where your achievements and past success stories come into play. Use the examples to illustrate the skills and value you’ll bring to the position. Here you will want to tailor your answer to the job and the company. This will require some homework that involves matching your achievements/skills/behavioural traits to the key words in the job description.
- Why you’re going to be a good fit. It’s here that you’ll want to stress that the position is in line with your plans and career goals but your answer should also reflect that you are aware of the company’s needs and values.