If you recently applied for your dream job and got an invitation to the interview, you need to prepare yourself to answer all the interview questions that will be thrown at you by the interviewer. One of the most common questions that you should prepare for is: Tell me about yourself. In this article, you will learn how to answer “tell me about yourself” in an interview.
Why Do Interviewers Ask the Question: Tell Me About Yourself?
Although your resume and cover letter say everything about yourself, don’t be offended when your interviewer asks you to tell them about yourself in the interview.
Most interviewers will ask you this question as a way of testing your communication skills and attitude. It also allows you to inform your interviewer of the most important aspects of your life, including your education and previous employment.
It is also a perfect opportunity for you to let the interviewer know about anything else that is not included in your CV or cover letter. Unfortunately, most candidates don’t treat this question with the seriousness it deserves, assuming that it is just meant to be an icebreaker to help them relax.
But this is a very important question that your interviewer will use to determine whether you are the right person for the job.
When an interviewer asks you this open-ended question, they want you to offer them insights into your goals and priorities so that they can have a better understanding of who you really are. They also want to see how confident you are and how you might present yourself to customers and colleagues if you get the job.
So, knowing how to answer this question correctly will give you a perfect opportunity to highlight the skills and experience that separate you from other candidates.
Simple Formula for Answering This Question
According to Lily Zhang, manager of Graduate Student Professional Development at the MIT Media Lab, the easiest and most effective formula for this question is to talk about your present, past, and future. When you are talking about your present, mention your current role, its scope, and your recent accomplishments.
Then talk about your past by letting your interviewer know how you got your current role or talk about your experiences that are relevant to the position or the company you are interviewing for.
When you are talking about your future, it is important to let the interviewer know what you are planning to do next and why you want to work for their organization. The interviewer also wants to know why you think you are the right person for the job.
The good thing is that you can tweak this formula to make it suit your situation and a particular story that portrays your strengths.
For example, you can choose to start with your past and then get into your present and finish with your future. Whichever method you choose to tell your story, make sure it ultimately ties to the job or company you are interviewing for. Here are some samples of correct answers to this question.
• “Well, I’m currently an account executive at Smith, where I handle our top-performing client. Before that, I worked at an agency where I was on three different major national healthcare brands. And while I really enjoyed the work that I did, I’d love the chance to dig in much deeper with one specific healthcare company, which is why I’m so excited about this opportunity with Metro Health Center.”
• “I’ve been in the marketing industry for over five years, primarily working in account and project management roles. I most recently worked as a senior PM for a large tech company managing large marketing campaigns and overseeing other project managers. And now I’m looking to expand my experience across different industries, particularly fintech, which is why I’m so interested in joining an agency like yours.”
• “Sure! So I’ve always enjoyed writing and public speaking, even going back to high school. This led me to pursue writing-related passions, for example, in college, where I was an editor for our school newspaper. In addition to writing, I got to learn how to manage a team and the writing process.”
“After college, I took a job at Acme as a social media manager, writing copy and social content for the company blog, but I raised my hand to work on the communications plan for a product launch which is where I discovered my interest in product marketing.”
“After switching to a product marketing role and managing the two most successful new product launches last year, I realized I’m excited to take on a new role. I’ve learned I work best on products that I love and use, and given that I’m a big user of your company’s products, I jumped at the chance to apply when I saw the open posting.”
7 Tips for Answering the Question “Tell Me About Yourself”
Now that you already understand the significance of this question, you need to arm yourself with the right answer. Here are some useful tips to help you get the answer right.
1. Your Answer Should Be Tailored to the Job and Company
As indicated above, your answer to this question should be tied to the position and company you are interviewing for. To do this, you need to do extensive research on the company and the job before you go for the interview.
For instance, you need to comb through the job description, learn about the company, and come up with an effective way to describe yourself clearly and explain to the interviewer what you hope to bring to the company with the role.
In some instances, you should use individual keywords to give the impression that you’ve done enough research on the company and are a good fit. For instance, if the company refers to itself as a tech company or a startup, you need to incorporate keywords that are related to the specific industry to make your answer relevant.
2. Be Professional
Every interviewer wants to know that the person they are bringing on board is a professional who understands the industry and the job they are interviewing for. The way you can prove that you are a professional is by answering simple and open-ended questions like this one professionally.
Although in some countries you are required to share some personal details when you are answering this question, in the United States you are supposed to keep it professional.
This means that you shouldn’t waste time talking about your hobbies or family, except when you are asked to share such details or you know something very precise about the organization that would tie in with your personal details.
3. Be Passionate
While it is important to remain professional when answering this question, you shouldn’t shy away from showing how passionate you are about the job and the company. If you are comfortable telling your story in a passionate way, you will be able to engage your interviewer.
Even if you do not share a lot of details about yourself, it is important to infuse your answer with some passion, especially if you hope to stand out from the rest and be memorable.
Employment specialists believe that if you are really connected to your mission and where you want to go next in your career aligns with the company, then you have to bring it in by incorporating a few sentences about why you are passionate about the job.
4. Be Succinct
Never make the mistake of regurgitating what you’ve already included in your curriculum vitae and cover letter. Also, don’t recite every single aspect of your career like you are presenting a dissertation on your resume because you will bore your interviewer to death.
Apart from impressing your interviewer, you also need to answer the question in a way that shows how you will be speaking in meetings with your co-workers, bosses, and customers.
Although there isn’t a scientific way to know how long you should take to answer this or any other interview question, it is important to be brief and straight to the point. Most recruitment coaches will advise you to keep your answer to 30 seconds maximum.
But some will recommend you to take a minute or two. The truth is that the longer you talk in an interview, the higher your chances of giving too many details, some of which are unnecessary.
It is important to practice your answer several times before you go to the interview. This helps you to think through the exact words to use to impress your interviewer. It also allows you to master the right tone and body language to use when answering the question in front of your interviewer.
You can even record yourself practicing so that you can identify simple mistakes in your answer and rectify them before the actual interview. It’s even better if you can practice with another person.
They will listen to you and give you real-time feedback. Practicing before the interview will give you confidence because you already know what to say and how to say it to impress your interviewer.
6. Know Your Interviewer
Although it is a bit difficult to know who your interviewers will be before the actual interview, you should take your time to research the company and its interview process. That way, you will have a rough idea of the people who do the interviews in the organization. Knowing the person you will be talking to is important because you can frame your answers in a way that applies to them.
For example, the way you talk to an ordinary recruiter who isn’t involved in the hard skills of the team is not the same way you will talk to an A-level executive.
7. Stay Positive
Don’t focus on the negative side of your story because it will send the wrong message. For example, it is not right to mention how you were laid off or how you couldn’t get along with your former boss and colleagues. Just focus on the positive aspects of your career and life and leave the other details for another time or day.
Also, you should never badmouth your previous employer in an interview. What do you think will be going through your interviewer’s mind if the first thing you talk about is how awful your former boss was or how the new job will help you escape the misery caused by your former employer’s micromanaging? It is a big turnoff.
3 Things to Avoid When Answering the Question “Tell Me About Yourself”
As indicated above, this is an important question that should be handled professionally and with the kind of respect it deserves. Here are three things you should avoid when answering this question.
1. Do Not Repeat What Is in Your Resume
When your interviewer asks you this question, they want to see if you are creative enough not to reiterate what you’ve already indicated in your resume. So, try not to fall into this trap. If you just regurgitate what is in your resume, your answer will sound scripted and weird.
You also have to make sure that the answer you give provides insightful details that showcase your great communication skills and character.
2. Do Not Be Too Personal
Always keep the conversation professional and relevant to the position you are interviewing for. Sharing too many personal details will make your answer irrelevant. The main focus of the interview is to show how and why you are a good fit for the job. So, make your answer brief and straight to the point without sharing a lot of personal details.
3. Do Not Give a Long Speech
Since the interviewer is interviewing a large number of candidates, they want to hear well-developed and clear answers. Therefore, don’t waste your interviewer’s time with a long-winded answer. As mentioned above, your answer should not take more than a minute.